Cutting off an arm

You’ve seen this one. 127 Hours brought it to life. Aron Ralston, hiking in Utah, becomes lodged between a rock and a hard place and is forced to amputate his own hand. “I didn’t want to do it,” Ralston later reflected. “But by the second day I was already figuring out how I could do it, so in the film you see that progression: trying to cut into the arm like a saw, finding the tourniquet, then the realisation that the knife was too dull to get through the bone.”


You’ve definitely heard about this one, even if you didn’t want to. Back in October 1972, and on Friday the 13th no less, a Uruguayan Air Force twin turboprop Fairchild FH-227D was flying over the Andes when it crashed into the mountains. The 16 survivors had no other choice but to feed on the flesh of the 12 fallen passengers to prevent starvation.

Bat meat

The Marathon des Sables is a six-day event held in the Sahara desert, but Mauro Prosperi managed to turn it into nine days in 1994 after he got lost in a sandstorm. Having run out of food and water, in a part of the world where you could really use some food and water, Prosperi was forced to survive off his own urine and bat meat. He was eventually found and taken to hospital.

Eating insects

In 1822, Hugh Glass got lost on a fur-trading expedition near Yellowstone River in South Dakota. Shortly after, a grizzly bear set about breaking his leg, ripping his scalp and puncturing his throat. Glass, hard as nails, ended up killing the bear. While recuperating, he survived off a diet of insects and roots, travelling 200 miles back to camp. In 2015, Leonardo DiCaprio played Glass in The Revenant.

Poo chisel

Caught in a nasty blizzard in 1926, Danish traveller Peter Freuchen had the genius if gross idea to defecate and freeze his excrement into the shape of a chisel in order to break his way through the ice. And it actually worked! After a three hour walk, Freuchen was back safe and sound, though he did have frostbite on three toes which he quickly chopped off with pliers and a hammer.

Leeches for lunch

Photo Taken In Finland, Simo

Ricky Megee’s April 2006 drive across a remote area of Australia went awry after he was drugged and robbed of his car by a hitchhiker. In the middle of nowhere, suffering from exposure and malnutrition, Megee had to eat frogs and leeches in order to survive the ordeal, which lasted 71 days! For water, he drank from a dam. Lucky for him, it was wet season. Megee finally reached a cattle station where he was treated.

Stripping off

While sailing over the Gulf of Man in 1995 aboard the USS American aircraft carrier, Marine Lance-Corporal Zachary Mayo was knocked into the ocean by a swinging metal door and subsequently stranded for the next 36 hours. Remembering a Navy skill called “drownproofing”, Mayo removed his trousers, tied a knot at the ankles and created a flotation device by quickly trapping air into them. He was discovered sunburnt but safe – and trouserless – by some Pakistani fishermen near the Makran coast.

Horse blanket

In 1984, Richard Dailey’s life hung in a hypothermic balance after he got lost in a blizzard in Idaho. Desperate to prevent an isolated, early death, Dailey ended up shooting a horse, scraping out its innards and hopping inside the carcass for some warmth. “Its guts came out all over your hands and wrists,” Dailey told The Washington Post. “You can’t imagine how good it felt. It immediately warmed you up.”

Tampons in bullet holes

Tampons have been used to treat wounds since their inception in the 18th century. It may sound crazy at first but given their everyday purpose, can you think of anything better to plug bullet holes if you’re at your wits’ end? In fact, just this year, Russian army recruits were advised to pack tampons in case they suffered gunshot wounds.

Mirror surgery

During WWII, Australian soldier Jock McLaren was captured and ended up in Singapore’s Changi Prison. After breaking out of prison, McLaren fled to the Philippine island of Mindanao, unfortunately for him under Japanese rule. To make matters worse, McLaren developed appendicitis. Using just a mirror, a pocketknife and some jungle fibres to stitch the wound, McLaren removed his own appendix without anaesthesia.