25 Amazing Stories Of Survival Against All Odds

Posted by , Updated on June 20, 2024

From deep within the Amazon to out on the open oceans these are 25 amazing stories of survival against all odds.



Juliane Koepcke

craziest survival stories

She was the sole survivor of LANSA flight 508 that came apart mid-air over the Peruvian rainforest after being struck by lightning. Juliane fell thousands of feet still strapped into her chair but her fall was cushioned by the jungle canopy and she survived with only a broken collarbone. Luckily there was a stream nearby and after following it for 9 days she was rescued by loggers.


Nando Parrado and Crew

craziest survival stories

After a Uruguayan rugby team crashed high into the Andes Mountains the survivors resorted to cannibalism. One of the survivors, Nando Parrado, managed to devise a way to climb over the 17,000 foot peak that had the group trapped on a glacier. They then marched 10 days until being rescued.


Steven Callahan

craziest survival stories

Setting sail from the Canary Islands towards the Caribbean in a small sailboat, Steven’s boat sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and he was left adrift for 76 days. He eventually made landfall in the Bahamas.


John Colter

craziest survival stories

An American trapper, he was captured by Blackfeet Indians in 1808. After stripping him naked and telling him to run, Colter realized that he was the object of a “human hunt”. He managed to elude and even kill some of his pursuers while making his way towards Fort Raymond nearly 200 miles away.


Ernest Shackleton’s Expedition Team

craziest survival stories

When Sir Ernest Shackleton was on his way to cross Antarctica on foot, his ship got stuck in the ice and with no outside help they remained stranded for 22 months. For the first year the crew lived inside the ship but after the ice destroyed it they moved out onto the ice. Ernest eventually made the decision to sail 800 miles in a lifeboat to South Georgia island where there was a small whaling operation.


Aron Ralston

craziest survival stories

Aron’s story was highly publicized in 2003 when he had to cut off his right arm in order to free himself from between a boulder and a rock wall. He had been hiking in Utah when the boulder shifted and pinned his arm.


Pierre Viaud

craziest survival stories

In 1766 Pierre Viaud was aboard a French merchant ship that wrecked in a storm off the coast of Florida. He struggled to find food and shelter in the Florida swamps and even killed his own slave so that the slave wouldn’t have to die of starvation. Eventually though, he was rescued.


Debbie Kiley

craziest survival stories

In October 1982 Deborah and four others set out in a yacht from Maine to Florida. After high sees off the coast of North Carolina destroyed the boat they were left adrift in shark filled waters. One of them swam off and was never seen again and another was eaten by sharks directly beneath the raft. Only Deborah and another crew member survived.


The Gremlin Special Passengers

craziest survival stories

On May 13, 1945 a US military plane nicknamed the Gremlin Special crashed into a mountain in Dutch New Guinea. Three of the passengers survived only to find themselves surrounded by a tribe of known cannibals. Lucky for them the tribe mostly only ate enemy tribesman. The trio was eventually rescued.


The Whaleship Essex Crew

craziest survival stories

After being rammed and sunk by a sperm whale the 21 sailors from the Essex were set adrift. Resorting to cannibalism and drinking urine they eventually made it to a deserted island with few resources. They separated to find help and some returned to the ocean in their boats. Only 8 survived.


Jan Baalsrud

craziest survival stories

In March 1943, Jan and a group of expatriate commandos arrived in Nazi occupied Norway from England. Their goal was to aid in the resistance. After the mission fell apart Jan was pursued through the Norwegian tundra with almost no clothes and a bullet wound. He eventually found a friendly arctic village that helped him escape back to England.


Abby Sunderland

craziest survival stories

While attempting to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, the mast of Abby’s 40 foot yacht snapped about 2000 miles from land in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She was rescued by fisherman two days after raising a distress signal.


Hugh Glass

craziest survival stories

After being mauled by a bear during a fur trapping expedition in Missouri the expedition leader asked some men to stay back with Hugh until he died and then bury him. The men, however, left while he was still alive and reported him as dead. When Hugh regained consciousness he crawled to the Missouri River and then made his way to Fort Knox on a raft. Along the way natives helped him by sewing bear skins over his festering wounds.


Beck Weathers

craziest survival stories

Documenting the deadliest season in the history of climbing Mt. Everest, the best seller Into Thin Air tells the story of Beck Weathers who miraculously survived losing consciousness in the death zone. After spending 18 hours in the subzero temperatures he regained his senses and stumbled back to camp. His face was badly disfigured and he lost both hands.


The Donner Party

craziest survival stories

This group of American pioneers was trying to make it to California when a series of mishaps forced them to spend the winter of 1846 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some members of the party resorted to cannibalism to survive and in the end 48 of the original 87 members made it.


Lt. David Steeves

craziest survival stories

When he was supposed to fly from California to Alabama Lieutenant David Steeves never arrived. A search turned up nothing and he was declared dead. Two weeks later, however, he came walking out of the Sierra Nevada mountains after ejecting when something blew up in the jet.


Balloon Crash

craziest survival stories

In the winter of 1920 three US navy lieutenants crashed a hydrogen balloon deep in the Canadian wilderness. They hiked for a week until they finally reached a trading post on Hudson Bay.


Yossi Ghinsberg

craziest survival stories

In 1982 Yossi and three friends got lost in the Bolivian Amazon. The party broke into pairs and two were never seen again. Yossi and his friend built a raft to float down river but got separated in the rapids. His friend was rescued and Yossi was found 19 days later watering the river bank.


Hiroo Onoda

craziest survival stories

A former Japanese intelligence officer who fought in World War II, Hiroo did not surrender until 1974. In fact, he spent almost thirty years holding out in the jungles of the Philippines because he refused to believe the war had ended.


Captain James Riley

craziest survival stories

In 1815 American Captain James Riley and his crew were shipwrecked on the coast of North Africa. They were captured and sold into slavery which led to an insane journey through the heart of the Sahara desert. Eventually they were freed by a sympathetic British merchant.


Lewis and Clark Expedition

craziest survival stories

Dispatched by Thomas Jefferson to explore the West, the expedition was robbed, injured, and nearly starved to death numerous times. Without the help of friendly native tribes or their translator, Sacajawea, they would have surely died.


The Robertson Family

craziest survival stories

Two hundred miles off the Galapagos Islands a pod of killer whales rammed and destroyed the Robertson family’s ship. The parents, three children, and a friend were adrift for 36 days until being rescued by a Japanese fishing trawler.


John McCain

craziest survival stories

After his plane crashed during the Vietnam War, Lieutenant John McCain was captured and tortured repeatedly for nearly 5 years until he was finally released. He even turned down an early release offer on one occasion saying that unless every other prisoner that came after him was released he wouldn’t leave.


Steve Fossett

craziest survival stories

Two-thirds of the way to successfully circumnavigating the globe solo in a helium balloon, Steve tried to fly over a storm above the Coral Sea. At 30,000 feet hail shredded his balloon and his passenger capsule started falling toward the ocean. Amazingly, he survived and was rescued 10 hours later.


Slavomir Rawicz

craziest survival stories

After being sentenced to 25 years in a Siberian gulag, this Polish officer along with 6 others escaped the camp in Yakutsk and marched 4,000 miles on foot across the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi desert, through Tibet and over the Himalayas to British India.