Tales of Survival in Extreme Experiences

By Chris Wawra

Sir Edmund Hilary wanted to be the first to reach the top of Mt. Everest, and now the destination is so popular you have to negotiate traffic on the way up. John Muir walked over 300 miles from San Francisco to Yosemite and even spent nights sleeping in trees, fair weather and foul.

Red-Bull-Stratos-Felix-Baumgartne

The human spirit is known for its resilience and the ability to overcome even the greatest of obstacles. Challenge and discovery are built into our DNA and, ultimately, every individual decides what is and isn’t possible to achieve.

While some would argue everything worthwhile on the planet has been discovered, there are still more than a few daring souls out there to prove them wrong. Here are five amazing stories of people who, willingly or not, have transcended the known limits of human capabilities.

16 Months at Sea

The story of the castaway who survived 16 months at sea has captivated the world for the past week. Jose Salvador Alvarenga claims to have survived his extended tour by drinking rainwater and eating a combination of fish, turtles, and birds. While some people doubt his story due to his unexpectedly pudgy appearance, Alvarenga is not the first to survive a long trip in the Pacific. In 2006, a group of three Mexican men survived a nine-month tour under similar circumstances.

The Man Who Fell From Space

Were you there to watch Felix Baumgartner’s extreme high-altitude jump? If you haven’t seen it yet or if you just want to revisit the epic freefall, GoPro has released new footage of the jump, and boy, is it scary. It took Baumgartner about two and a half hours to get to his jump altitude and his 34 second freefall reached a speed of over 800 miles an hour and broke the sound barrier.

The Girl Who Survived a 3,000 Foot Drop

If you got goosebumps watching the footage from Baumgartner’s jump, this story will definitely make you cringe. Makenzie Wethington, 16, was looking for a thrill when she signed up for a skydiving jump, but she experienced a skydiver’s worst nightmare—a parachute malfunction. The skydiving instructors tried to explain how Wethington could correct the problem, but the parachute never deployed. About 3,000 feet later Makenzie hit the ground, injuring her liver and breaking her pelvis, lower spine, a shoulder blade and several ribs. Miraculously, Makenzie survived her half-mile plummet and is expected to recover.

Swimming Naked in Frozen Waters for Science

You know that breathless feeling you get when you try to get into cold water? Imagine going skinny-dipping in the Arctic ocean! A Russian diver did just that in order to facilitate interactions with Beluga whales. While the sub-zero waters would kill a normal person within a few minutes, Natalie Avseenko was able to use her knowledge of yoga and meditation to stay underwater for over 10 minutes.

33 Miners Survive 2 Months Underground

In August 2010 a mine collapsed in Chile, trapping a team of miners underneath the cold, hard rock with few supplies and a limited amount of air. It took over two weeks and seven failed attempts to finally reach the miners and discover they were alive, surviving on crackers, tuna, and camaraderie. Once the missing miners were found to be alive, it still took months to work out a plan to extract them. Eventually, the miners were taken out one at a time and reunited with their families after receiving medical treatment.

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