6 Real Life Tales of Survival Better Than Anything Hollywood Could Come Up With


While lost at sea in the Caribbean for 12 days, a 31-year-old mother named Faustina Mercedes was able to keep 16 people alive, including herself and her sister, using her own breast milk.

Never before has this poster been more useful.

The best Hollywood could come up with: Open Water 2: Adrift, which contained a significantly less amount of breastfeeding.

Well, at least on screen.


The entire squad from Saving Private Ryan was actually a Catholic priest named Francis L. Sampson, who successfully rescued Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Nilan of the 101st paratroopers.

We’re guessing Tom Sizemore represented the part of Francis Sampson that was a junkie.

True to script, Sergeant Nilan’s mother was told she lost three of her sons in one week. However, in a fortunate twist of fate, it was eventually revealed that one of the them was only captured.

The best Hollywood could come up with: Saving Private Ryan. However, we are willing to entertain the theory that Capt. Miller’s squad was really just a bunch of voices going through Sampson’s head the entire film.


In 1820, this ill-fated whaling ship pissed off a sperm whale to the point that the whale attacked the Essex and eventually sank the ship. Its crew of 21 men fled on three whaleboats only to spend a horrific 95 days in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And yes, there would be blood. And bones. And the survivors lived off them all since they were eventually reduced to cannibalism.

The best Hollywood could come up with: Moby-Dick, since the loss of the Essex inspired it. Also, we have to go with Jaws on this one since we’re pretty sure Quint is related to someone who survived the attack.


The Siege of Leningrad remains one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history as well as one of the most brutal chapters of WWII. It took 872 days for the Soviets to lift the siege from the Germans, at which point “people caught birds and rats, stole food from dying children, ate corpses, and committed murder to get hold of ration cards.”  Roving gangs of cannibals prayed on people for survival, and horrific stories emerged from the city throughout the siege.

Just like this, only for real.

Nevertheless, there was one way out of the blockade: a frozen lake that soon after became known as “the Road of Life.”  Although operational only in the winter, more than 600,000 civilians were evacuated from the city along this road in the first year alone.

The city of Leningrad was eventually named a “Hero-City” in 1945, and the Road of Life has since been commemorated as a World Heritage Site.

The best Hollywood could come up with: The Road and Enemy at the Gates. Picture those two films fighting to the death to eat the other and you’ll have an idea what it was like.

2. 72 HOURS

A 75-year-old WWII veteran named Coolidge Winesett once spent three days suspended above a pit of shit after the floor to his outhouse broke under him. In his own words: “I compare it to the Bible’s Hell “due to the endless wave of “maggots, snakes, spiders, [and] rats” he was forced to fight off the entire time.

Your own personal gateway to hell.

The best Hollywood could come up with: The entire run of Fear Factor fails in comparison to this goddamn war. Seriously, if this guy’s story had been around 2,000 years ago, it would have probably wound up in the Bible.


On November 23, 1942, the British merchant ship SS Ben Lomondaboard was torpedoed 750 miles off the coast of Brazil by a German U-boat. A Chinese steward named Poon Lim was able to jump overboard before the ship’s boilers exploded like something out of an action movie. However, this was just the first half of Poon Lim’s story. The second half is the record 133 days Poon Lim spent on an inflatable lifeboat until he eventually won his war with Neptune.

Apparently, he had plenty of hair gel to stay alive.

The best Hollywood could come up with: Cast Away, and unlike Tom Hanks, Poon Lim was naked for most of this debacle.

Yup, fact is more awesome than fiction, people. In real life, Cast Away would have been rated R for “constant penis.”


Jacopo della Quercia is on Twitter.Follow him

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