50 Fascinating Real-Life Survival Stories

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26Odin the Dog

In 2017, a dog named Odin refused to leave his flock of goats behind during the California Tubbs Fire as his owners fled to safety. Days later, the owners came back to their property to find Odin survived and managed to keep all the goats alive.


27. A Mexican man named Wenseslao Moguel was sentenced to death by firing squad for taking part in the Mexican Revolution. He was shot 9 times and took one final shot to the head to ensure his death. Moguel survived the ordeal and passed away at the age of 85.


28. Artimus Pyle, the drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd survived a plane crash. He then walked to a nearby house to ask for help, only to be shot by the homeowner. The homeowner saw a bloody long-haired man and shot him. Pyle survived that as well and made a full recovery.


29. In 2014, a 3-year-old girl named Karina Chikitova survived 11 days in the Siberian wilderness with only her dog for company. She ate wild berries and drank from a river, curling up next to her dog for warmth. She was saved when her dog went back to her village and guided rescuers to her.


30. In 1965, six boys from Tonga skipped school and stole a boat. After a storm and 8 days adrift, they survived alone on a small rocky island for 15 months. They stayed friends and worked together to survive and stay fit. After their rescue, they were jailed (shortly) for stealing the boat.


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31Willie Jones

On July 10th, 1980, then-52-year-old Willie Jones got heatstroke, which resulted in him having a body temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. After spending 24 days in the hospital, he survived. He has since then held the Guinness World Record for highest recorded body temperature.


32. Thor Christiansen was a serial killer who was only caught because his fifth would-be victim, Lydia Preston, survived a shot to the head. She recognized him months later in a bar and reported him to the police. Law enforcement then linked him with four other then-unsolved murders that had a similar MO.


33. During his time as Polish Press Agency’s African correspondent Ryszard Kapuściński covered information from 50 countries, lived through 27 revolutions and coups, was jailed 40 times, and survived four death sentences.


34. Peter Siebold is the only person to have survived a deadly spaceship disaster. He is their Director of Flight Operations at Scaled Composites, an American aerospace company. In 2014, Siebold and his copilot were piloting VSS Enterprise when the spacecraft came apart mid-air and killed his copilot. Peter Siebold survived a fall from 50,000 ft, 30,000 of which was in freefall, at a speed of Mach 1.


35. In 1816, 147 shipwrecked French crew of Méduse were stuck adrift on a makeshift raft when their captain cut the rope towing them. It took only 3 days for them to resort to cannibalism and only 15 survived to be rescued after 13 days. The aristocrat captain hadn’t sailed in 20 years and it was 100% avoidable.


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36Ovitz Family

The Ovitz family was not only the largest family of dwarfs ever recorded but also the largest family (12 people ranging from a 15-month-old baby to a 58-year-old woman) to enter Auschwitz and survive intact.


37. A skydiver named Joan Murray survived an 80 mph skydiving fall thanks to landing on a mound of fire ants, whose bites gave her a rush of adrenaline that kept her heart beating.


38. When HMS Guardian struck an iceberg in 1789, the ship’s captain decided to stay on it with 62 people. About 259 left the ship on lifeboats. The captain was able to save the ship and sail back to land. It took 9 weeks, but everyone on the ship made it. Of the 259 that left, only 15 survived.


39. A 34-year-old French veterinary surgeon named Jean-Pascal Danneels was a passenger on an airliner that crashed into the Atlantic and disintegrated more than a mile offshore from Côte d'Ivoire. He survived the impact, swam for four hours in darkness to the shore, and lived.


40. Rod Ansell became the inspiration for the character of Crocodile Dundee after he famously survived for 56 days stranded in the Australian bush in 1977 when his boat sank leaving him with no water and few supplies. In 1999, he was killed in a shootout by policemen.


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41Adam Mattocks

Adam Mattocks is the only aviator to bail out of a B-52 cockpit without an ejector seat and survive. His B-52, carrying two 3.8-megaton H-bombs, crashed in North Carolina in 1961. Upon reaching an Air Force base to explain his story, Mattocks, an African-American, was arrested for stealing a parachute.


42. Alexander Selkirk was a Royal Navy officer who became a source of inspiration for the fictional character Robinson Crusoe. He once survived 4 years on an island where every night he was attacked by rats. He solved this problem by domesticating feral cats. One day he fell off a cliff hunting goat and landed on his prey, sparing him a broken back.


43. In 1945, Albert Stevens was a victim of an experiment and survived the highest known accumulated radiation dose in any human. He was injected 131kBq of plutonium without his knowledge or consent. This is equivalent to 64 Sv (Sieverts) over 21 years.


44. In 2020, 9 members of the same family in China died after eating stale corn-based noodles, which gave them bongkrekic acid poisoning. Three kids of the family however survived just because they refused to eat the noodles.


45. A 17th Century man named John “Half-Hanged” Smith evaded hanging 3 times. Once when he was hanged, he survived after hanging in the noose for 15 minutes.


46Michel Bertrand

A French chemist named Michel Bertrand drank 5 grams of arsenic trioxide (a very poisonous substance) mixed with activated charcoal, just to demonstrate the adsorptive properties of activated charcoal. He survived.


47. The first American soldier to land on the beach during the invasion of Normandy was Leonard “Max” Schroeder. Though he was shot twice, he not only survived but lived to be 90 years old.


48. Ali Maow Maalin was the last human known to be naturally infected by the smallpox virus. He survived the infection, only to later die of Malaria while helping to quash the resurgence of polio in Somalia.


49. The Bermuda coat of arms depicts a sinking ship. The ship Sea Venture, carrying some 150 colonists bound for Virginia, was shipwrecked on shoals off Bermuda during a hurricane in 1609. The crew survived and chose to stay on the island, becoming the first English settlers of Bermuda.


50. Confederate soldier Willis Meadows survived a shot to the eye at the battle of Vicksburg. 58 years later, he randomly almost choked to death in his own home until he coughed up a 1-ounce bullet. It was the same one that lodged into his head years earlier.

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