It was obvious from the very beginning that Hugh Glass’ journey with a company of fur trappers through the American wilderness in 1823 (now immortalized in The Revenant) would be treacherous. First, Native American attacks pushed the men from their path along the Missouri River. Seventeen lives had already been claimed by these ambushes, which also left Glass with a gunshot wound in the leg, and there was no telling when another attack was coming.
Then, while Glass was recovering from these attacks, he was mauled by a grizzly bear who ripped out a piece of his shoulder, tore at his throat, and mangled his foot. By the time his party had managed to reach him and help him kill the bear, they decided that he was a dead man.
With winter fast approaching, the team couldn’t afford to stay behind, instead deciding to cut a deal. Two of the party members were paid the hefty sum of $80 to stay with Glass until he died and to give him a proper burial. However, when five days had passed and Glass was still alive, the pair decided to strip him of all his belongings and leave him for dead.
After Glass regained consciousness, he had to tend to a broken leg, cuts that went down to the bone, and rotting flesh, the latter of which he treated by rolling in maggots, allowing them to eat the dead tissue. Then, he set about finding the men who left him behind.
He crawled, rafted, and walked through hundreds of miles of dangerous terrain, actually receiving some help from Native Americans along the way. And when he finally found the men who abandoned him, he forgave them and spared their lives, before promptly signing up for several more dangerous expeditions.
Survival Stories: Anna Bågenholm
We see it all the time in cartoons and science fiction movies: a character is locked inside a cryogenic chamber or freezer only to be thawed out later, completely unharmed. While it may seem outlandish, there are a handful of occurrences in which people have indeed been frozen, only to emerge alive.
In 1999, while on a skiing trip in Narvik, Norway, Dr. Anna Bågenholm, a Swedish radiologist, fell into a frozen stream, trapped beneath nearly eight inches of ice with only her skis visible above the surface. While her friends contacted help and did their best to free her, Bågenholm managed to find an air pocket and keep breathing for 40 whole minutes before the onset of circulatory arrest.
Neither ropes nor snow shovels could free her, until finally, after 80 minutes in the freezing water, a sharp-edged gardening shovel broke the ice and saved the day. By the time the rescuers had pulled Bågenholm out, her heart had stopped beating and her body temperature had fallen to 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a record low at the time.
Undaunted by this severe case of hypothermia, doctors connected the woman to a bypass machine, helping to recirculate and gradually warm her blood over the course of nine hours until her heart began to beat.
Bågenholm’s mere survival should be seen as a miracle in and of itself, but her story goes one step further. Not only was she able to survive the ordeal, but she did not suffer any brain damage (as the water’s freezing temperature had decreased her brain’s need for oxygen) and, with only some nerve damage and limited use of her hands, she continues to ski to this day.