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Sometimes you have to do unbelievably awful things to make it through.

Four horrible things people did to survive


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:35 PM - When Susan O'Brien, the lady in the video above, was rescued after being stuck in a New Zealand park for 24 hours, her survival methods raised a few eyebrows.

Despite being gone for less than a day, she resorted to drinking her own breast milk to keep her strength up, which sounds a bit drastic to us, given how little time she was lost.

Still, that's nothing compared to what other people have been forced to do to make it through weeks or months of the wilderness.

Here are four stories of people who had to do horrendous things to survive.

Ricky Megee

We’ll start with the tamest survival tale, although 'tame' is relative. 

Australian Ricky Megee woke up one day in 2006, right in the middle of nowhere in the country’s Northern Territory, beneath a plastic tarp with some rocks strewn on top. Aside from shorts and a t-shirt, he was completely alone, with no food or water.

Outback.JPG
"Outback" by Gabriele Delhey - photo taken by Gabriele Delhey. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Already this sounds like a movie plot, and Australian police had trouble believing the story. Megee himself told ABC Radio he was driving down the highway when he became dazed. But years later, he released a book saying he’d picked up three hitchhikers who said they’d run out of gas, who then attacked and drugged him.

What isn’t in doubt: Megee survived 71 days in the Australian Outback with no supplies before being found by passing workers.

He barely subsisted on scant rainwater before managing to find an abandoned dam. We can’t vouch for the water quality, but it was enough to keep him going, and it was a draw for all manner of edible creatures.

Unfortunately for Megee: They were all gross.

"I ate the leeches raw, straight out of the dam, grasshoppers I just ate them," Megee said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "But the only thing I really sort of had to cook was the frogs which (I) slipped onto a bit of wire and ... let the sun dry them out a fair bit until they were a bit crispy and then just ate them."

We guess anything seems palatable after a few weeks without a decent meal (Have a look at these six castaways who survived on only the fickle bounty of the sea), though it seems even Megee had his limits, gastronomically.

"The cockroach was disgusting," Megee told an interviewer with The National in the UAE in 2009. "I didn't even really eat it. I put it in my mouth, bit down and spat is back out again. The taste stayed in my mouth for two days. The little frogs were pretty tasty, though."

Still, although the buffet was bountiful, it was barely enough. In the ten weeks before his rescue, the six-foot-three man lost so much weight he was down to around 90 pounds.

As far as wilderness diets go, however, Megee’s story pales in comparison to the other survivors on this list.

Marco Lavoie

Quebec outdoorsman Marco Lavoie had some hard choices to make when a canoe trip in northern Quebec went badly wrong.

He was traversing the difficult Nottaway River in the summer of 2013 when a bear raided his camp, ate his food and damaged his boat. Lavoie was left with just a few supplies and his dog, a German Shepherd.

Three months later, at the end of October, rescuers found him, 90 pounds lighter and so weak he could barely speak or eat. His dog was nowhere to be seen, and it wasn’t until he was in hospital that the truth emerged: He’d struck his beloved pet on the head with a rock, and eaten it.

The media coverage is a little unclear as to when this happened. QMI Agency quotes a source who said it happened in July, a few days after the attack, while the National Post says the bear attack happened in August, and Lavoie only killed his dog in September. The Post also says by then he had been wounded in a fall, and was low on ammunition.

Regardless of the circumstances, on the surface it was a violation of a cultural taboo, and people reacted with outrage at what Lavoie had done to his best friend.

At the same time, he was in a VERY remote area, with no idea of knowing when rescue would come. As it was, even after eating his pet, he was still on the brink of death when he was finally found, and most survival experts quoted in media reports said he did what he had to do to survive.

"You have to be desperate, but there's no shame in (eating the dog)," Andre Francois Bourbeau told QMI. "He had to use reason."

The 1972 Andes Plane Crash

Lavoie’s choice doesn’t come close to the one faced by the passengers of a Uruguayan Air Force plane that went down in the Andes in October 1972.

Most of the 45 people aboard were members of a Uruguayan rugby team, with their families, but after 72 days, only 16 had survived, and even then they were only found and rescued because two of their number trekked through the mountains to find help.

But the amazing tale of courage and determination took a dark turn in the days after the rescue: At a press conference, responding to rumours in the press, the survivors admitted they had turned to cannibalism to survive.

In their desperation, they had eaten part of the bodies of some of their number who either died in the initial crash, or in an avalanche that followed. 

It's not unknown for people in hopeless situations to resort to the gristly practice (including, according to one theory, members of the Franklin Expedition). But still, if eating a dog violated a cultural taboo, the team’s cannibalism totally shattered it.

Still, in the years that followed, it looks like most people understood how dire the situation was, with the survivors not dressed for a freezing mountaintop and exposed to horrendous conditions for weeks.

There’s a memorial at the crash site now, and the survivors themselves mostly went on to lead full lives (one even ran for president in Uruguay), and most returned to went to Chile in 2012, the crash’s 40th anniversary, to finally play that match they were headed to back in 1972.

Crash site.JPG
"Crash site" by BoomerKC - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Aron Ralston

The last time you saw Aron Ralston, in the picture below, he was being played by James Franco. 

Aron Ralston on Capitol Peak Winter 2003.JPG
"Aron Ralston on Capitol Peak Winter 2003" by Aron Ralston - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

If your survival story ends up as a Hollywood blockbuster (the 2010 film 127 hours), chances are it’s a substantial one, and Ralston qualifies: After a climbing accident left him stranded with no hope of rescue, he was forced to amputate his own hand to escape.

Though an experienced outdoorsman, Ralston himself readily admits he made key mistakes in the leadup to his ordeal in a Utah canyon. Not only did he go out on his own, he crucially didn’t tell anyone where he was going, or what timeframe to expect him back.

When a boulder shifted, trapping his hand beneath an 800 pound weight, he held out for several days before deciding to do the inevitable, amputating his hand with a blunt multitool (he had to break the bones at the wrist to allow him to actually sever it).

He later told National Geographic that while he “felt every bit of it,” he was so engrossed in the endeavour he had to stop and remember to secure his arm with a tourniquet before severing the artery. Then he abseiled to safety and went to get help.

Now when he goes adventuring, he uses a prosthesis in place of his missing hand (and, presumably, he now at least leaves a note when he goes out).

SOURCES: Sydney Morning Herald | The National | Strathmore Standard | National Post | BBC | The Guardian | Metro UK | National Geographic

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