10 Amazing Survival Stories That Turned Into Great Books
Life is an undeniable force. To be alive, to laugh, to love, and to feel love, these are the things that the human spirit thrives on and is what enables us to brave unbelievable hardships and endure unimaginable pain in order to hang on to every precious moment of it. Have you ever wondered what you would do if put into a situation of extreme survive or die decisions? These ten books are an amazing example of the indomitable human spirit and ten ordinary men who go to extraordinary lengths to survive. If you love to be inspired, read on and find out why you should get these wonderfully exhilarating books and learn what these brave people had to do to survive.
10. Aron Ralston – Between a Rock and a Hard Place
In a remote canyon in Utah, a young man becomes trapped when an eight hundred pound boulder shifts, trapping his arm behind its massive weight. With just enough food for two days and even less water, he struggles for five days trying to free his arm. Realizing he is about to die if something drastic isn’t done, he takes the only tool he has, a dull pocket knife, and cuts his arm off, using the weight of the boulder and leverage to break the bone. This is an amazing story of what one brave man will do to survive. Once he is free, he still has to climb down 65 feet of sheer rock face and walk miles to find help. This book is a true testament to courage.
9. Slavomir Rawicz – The Long Walk
The USSR denied that this escape ever happened and that Salvomir Rawicz was taken to a prison camp in Iran until his release. However, Salvomir Rawicz’s book clearly details his escape, along with six others from a Siberian Gulag. They walked over 4000 miles through the Gobi desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas, finally reaching British India during the winter of 1942. This story of bravery and determination is an amazing one. Another Polish WWII vet came forward in 2006 claiming that it was he, Witold Glinski, that affected this escape and not Rawicz. Either way, Rawicz account of the events is a graphic telling of the trials these brave freedom hunters endured. Only four survived the terrible trek.
8. Douglas Mawson – Mawson’s Will
Sir Douglas Mawson was a great Antarctic explorer and an avidly into petrology. He also enjoyed being a mineralogist and used this knowledge during his expeditions in Antarctica. During the Australian Antarctic Expedition, which he led, fate dealt him a bitter blow in the form of a disastrous experience that took the life of two of his closest friends and colleagues and nearly cost him own. If there were ever a true story of personal loss and will to live, this is it. Choosing an area of the Antarctic that had never been explored up to that date, Mawson chose a team and headed south of Australia. The weather seemed to be against them the moment they arrived, crippling their only plane and forcing them indoors (in their prefabricated structures) much of the time. A steady 50-60 MPH wind raged almost continually for much of the year with gusts up to two hundred miles per hour.
During a return to base camp trek from the coastline after a successful five weeks of a mapping campaign, the three-man team was crossing Ninnis Glacier, named after the team member that died there, when tragedy struck. Douglas Mawson was riding the dog sled with his weight properly distributed along with the supplies they carried. Xavier Mertz was skiing and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis was in front jogging alongside the second sled team with most of the food supplies and the best dogs. The team unknowingly crossed a snow-covered crevasse and Lt. Ninnis’ weight caused them to crash through. He fell to his death, taking the supplies and dog team with him. Mawson and Mertz could see a dead dog and an injured dog that landed on a ledge deep in the crevasse but Ninnis’ body was never recovered. They trekked back with the remaining dogs to retrieve a tent as all their camping supplies were on the dogsled that perished. Without supplies or food, they knew they had to get back to civilization or die.
They set out with all they had left which was not very much. They had a one-week supply of food but with no dog food, they soon had to feed some of the dogs to the others and eat the dogs themselves as well. In his journal, Mawson describes the dog meat as tough and stringy with no fat. He goes on to say how they would chop the meat into tiny pieces and add spice in order to be able to stomach it. They also ate the liver, especially Mertz, who was having trouble chewing the dog meat. What they did not realize is that dog liver is extremely high in vitamin A which is poison in large doses. The condition is called Hypervitaminosis, made worse by lack of other vitamin resources. Each dog yielded very little edible meat. The men’s physical condition became very poor. Since Metz ate so much of the livers, he became the sickest. They experienced dizziness and were nauseous. They began losing their hair and nails and were irritable. Both men became jaundiced with yellow skin and eyes but Mertz was worse and lost his will to live. Not believing he had frostbite, he bit the end off one of his fingers and became violent, raging around to the point of possible damaging their only tent. Mawson had to subdue his friend who then went into seizures and finally slipped into a coma and died on January 8th, 1913.
Mawson made the last 100 miles alone, nearly losing his life by falling through the snow into another crevasse. His sled was caught at the top and he used it to climb out, finishing the last leg without it. He reached base camp just a few hours after the ship sailed and a storm had moved in preventing its return so he had to remain at base camp with the six men who had stayed behind to search for him and the rest of the team. Mawson lived to the ripe old age of 76 years old. He was knighted and served on other expeditions as well as pursuing his academic goals. Truly, his experience epitomizes the will to survive against all odds.
7. James Riley – Skeletons on the Zahara
President Abraham Lincoln stated that Skeletons on the Sahara was one of the six books he had read in his lifetime that influenced him and the way he views slavery in any form. This is a powerful read. James Riley’s firsthand account of the tortures he and his crew endured at the hands of the Sahrawi natives in the Sahara desert is both horrific and compelling. Riley was the Captain of the American brig, The Commerce that shipwrecked on the Sahara coast. Stranded, they are captured by the native tribe and forced to drink their own urine to survive. When their bodies stop producing urine, they drink camel urine, as their captors were unwilling to share water with slaves. Four of them, Captain Riley among them are sold to a Muslim trader where they affect their freedom through a compelling twist that you will have to read to believe. Note: There is a documentary on The Discovery Channel that, while good, does not do this true story justice or give us the detailed and emotional element that you will only find in the book. I highly suggest this as a must read selection of survival and the will to live despite harsh and cruel circumstances.
6. Jon Krakauer – Into Thin Air
May 10th, 1996, four separate teams start an ascent up Mount Everest that will change the lives of almost everyone involved. A rogue storm hits the mountain taking everyone by surprise and claims eight lives while stranding several climbers. Jon Krakauer’s book differs from the movie; both entitled “Into Thin Air” by placing more a detailed emphasis on who deserves responsibility for the outcome of the day’s events. There are claims that the safety of the mostly unprofessional teams is put in jeopardy by the competitive nature of two rival climbing companies vying for the summit of the same mountain. This fascinating read is a must for those seeking the uncompromising spirit of man to survive against all odds and an unforgiving mountain.