During World War II, this 20-year-old Chinese man from Hong Kong enlisted on a British merchant ship. In 1942, a Nazi U-Boot torpedoed his unit in the Atlantic. The ship went down in two minutes. Thanks to a life vest, Poon Lim survived. He found a life raft, but unfortunately its supplies quickly ran out. The unlucky bastard tried to catch fish and birds. He even constructed an impromptu fishing rod, MacGyver-style. However, there was nothing he could do about the storms. His ordeal lasted 133 days. No survivors had ever survived at sea for that long. Fortunately, the outcast was spotted and rescued by local fishermen off the coast of Brazil.
He was a tenacious trapper from the era when the Wild West was first being conquered. In 1823, 43-year-old Glass, along with some other roughnecks, went on a journey to the pristine territory of today’s South Dakota. Unfortunately, a female bear attacked him in the woods. After the struggle, Glass was semi-conscious and bloodied, rib bones peeling out from under his wounded flesh. His companions decided that he was done for and buried him in a shallow grave. When Glass came round, he dug himself out of the grave and, feeding on anything he could find, began to seek help and revenge on his companions. He covered over 200 miles before reaching a fort where he was able to recover and forget all about vengeance. If this all sounds a little familiar, you might remember a certain Leonardo DiCaprio portraying Glass in 2015’s The Revenant.
In 2003, this American climber went into the mountains in Utah. In one of the canyons, a falling boulder crushed his right forearm. Ralston couldn’t break free. The secluded area meant that he could not count on attracting anyone’s help. It seemed that he was doomed to death of hunger and thirst. Fortunately, he was carrying a multifunctional pocketknife. With it, he began to laboriously... cut off his arm (again, a story that graced the silver screen in 2010’s 127 Hours). When he succeeded, Ralston left the mountains using the last of his strength and luckily found help. He still enjoys hiking.
In 1978, an incredible thing happened to this 36-year-old Soviet physicist. While he was working on a particle accelerator, the equipment malfunctioned and his head was pierced by a proton beam that destroyed his facial skin, skull and brain tissue. Doctors expected the worst, because it seemed that Bugorski had been hit with a lethal dose of radiation. And yet he recovered. He continued his scientific work and even completed a doctorate, although he did experience some neurological problems. Unfortunately, his disability wasn’t recognized – the Soviet authorities kept the incident secret.
Unless you are a dinosaur, it is rare for death to come from space. On 30th November 1954, Ann Hodges from Sylacauga, Alabama, almost shared their fate. It was around 3pm and the woman was napping on the sofa when a nine-pound meteor shard suddenly fell on her house. It pierced the roof and fell into the room where she was sleeping. Luckily it didn’t hit her, but the radio. It bounced off the appliance and only then hit Ann. She had a large bruise on her hips, but otherwise she was OK. The immense media buzz cost her more health.
This 29-year-old Japanese man was unlucky to be on a business trip in Hiroshima when on 6th August 1945, an American nuclear bomb fell on the city. Yamaguchi was burned, but luckily he survived. Immediately, he returned to his hometown... Nagasaki. There, on 9th August he experienced another nuclear explosion. And again, he managed to survive the tragedy. Afterwards he tried to lead a normal life and did not brag about his luck. The media became interested in his case only after some years. Despite his recurring health problems, he lived happily ever after. He died at the age of 94 of stomach cancer.
This 22-year-old was a flight attendant on board a plane of JAT Yugoslav Airlines, flying from Stockholm to Belgrade on 26th January 1972. When the plane was near the border of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, an explosion occurred at an altitude of over 10,000m. It was likely caused by a bomb on board the plane. Of the 28 people aboard the DC-9, no-one survived, except Vesna Vulović. She was found in the wreck, crushed by corpses and food carts. She had trauma to the skull, broken legs and ribs, three crushed vertebrae and a broken pelvis. But she survived the fall and lived for another 44 years.
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Figiel
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