She Fell 10,000 Feet And Survived 11 Days in the Amazon Rainforest

She was exhausted, but she needed to keep
moving. Her head throbbed with hunger. Every part of her body ached; she was covered
in mosquito bites and had second degree sunburns. Her wristwatch stopped long ago, but she tried
to estimate how many days it had been since she had fallen from the sky. At twilight she heard voices and thought that
she was imagining things again. But then three men walked out of the rainforest
and were stunned to see her. “I’m a girl who was in the LANSA crash,”
she told them. “My name is Juliane.” Born to German zoologist parents Maria and
Hans-Wilhelm on October 10, 1954, Juliane Koepcke had an interesting childhood. Her parents worked for the Museum of Natural
History in Lima, Peru. When Juliane was 14, her parents decided to
leave the city and set up Panguana Ecological Research Station in the Amazon rainforest. For the next 2 years, Juliane was homeschooled
and accompanied her parents on research trips into the jungle where she learned plant, animal
and insect identification and various survival techniques along the way. Educational authorities disapproved and Juliane
was forced to return to Lima to finish high school. In December of 1971, Maria came to the city
to collect 17 year old Juliane, the plan being to visit her father for Christmas. Although her mother wanted to leave sooner
on the 20th, Juliane had a school dance on December 22nd and a graduation ceremony on
the 23rd. After pleas from Juliane, her mom agreed to
fly out on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, all the flights were booked,
aside from one with Lineas Aéreas Nacionales Sociedad Anonima–LANSA. The airline had a poor safety record and Hans-Wilhelm
had previously urged Maria to avoid flying with the company, but Juliane’s mother thought
they’d be fine. Just before noon on December 24, LANSA domestic
passenger flight 508 departed Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport bound for Iquitos,
Peru, with a scheduled stop at Pucallpa, Peru. The first half of the 70 minute, 304 mile
flight to Pucallpa was normal. Then the Lockheed L-188A Electra turboprop
aircraft which was traveling at about 21,000 ft (6,400 m) flew into a thunderstorm. A later investigation determined that the
crew, feeling pressure to meet the holiday schedule decided to continue the flight, despite
the treacherous weather ahead. As the plane dipped and heaved due to turbulence,
luggage and Christmas presents fell from the overhead lockers. Scared passengers screamed and wept. Suddenly there was a bright flash as a lightning
strike ignited the fuel tank in the right wing, blowing a hole into the plane. Juliane remembers Maria saying “That is the
end, it’s all over.” Those were the last words she ever heard her
mother speak. The plane disintegrated about 2 miles (3.2
kilometres) above the ground. Juliane, still strapped into her airplane
seat, spun head over heels, the wind whistling in her ears. She lost consciousness only to regain it and
lose it again as she freefell to the ground. Sometime later, Juliane came to in the rainforest;
wet, muddy and alone. She huddled under her airplane seat fading
in and out of consciousness for the next 19 or so hours–throughout the rest of the day
and the night. The next morning, Juliane took stock of herself. Her neck, shoulder and ankle hurt; she had
a large gash on her arm and her right eye was swollen shut. She wore a very short, sleeveless mini-dress
and one white sandal. Aside from the swelling, she was near-sighted
and had lost her glasses. However, her watch still worked and she knew
it was around 9 am. Maria’s airplane seat had landed next to
her daughter’s–but it was empty. Dizzy, Juliane crawled on all fours and searched
the area around her crash site. She marked trees to keep her bearings and
called for her mother. Hearing nothing except the sounds of the rainforest,
she felt scared and helpless. After some time, Juliane forced herself to
stand. At first she was wobbly, but gradually grew
steady on her feet. Thirsty, she drank raindrops off of leaves. She heard planes overhead searching for the
wreck, but due to the dense tree canopy couldn’t see them. She realized that she needed to get somewhere
wide open where she could be seen by rescuers. Juliane headed off into the rainforest. As she walked, she tested the area in front
of her by throwing her remaining shoe ahead, then moving forward to pick it up, and tossing
it again. Snakes could be camouflaged as dry leaves
and she didn’t want to step on one or any other creature. The only sign of the crash Juliane found was
a bag of candy which she promptly ate, saving a few pieces for later. The trek was rough going, with uneven terrain;
she frequently had to climb over or squeeze under huge logs that blocked her way. Eventually, Juliane found a small creek and
followed it, having been taught that following water leads to rivers which often means civilization
and people. Over the next day or so, Juliane stumbled
through the rainforest, following the water as it slowly grew from a trickle to a stream. Other than candy and water, she didn’t have
anything else to eat. Since was the rainy season, there was no fruit
for her to pick. She didn’t have any tools to help her cut
trees, catch fish or cook roots. Also, she was aware that many of the plants
that grew in the jungle were poisonous. The days were sweltering, humid and it frequently
rained. At night the temperature dropped. Juliane cowered under bushes, curled up, shivering
in her mini dress. She was constantly attacked by insects, especially
mosquitoes. Flies laid eggs in the wound on Juliane’s
arm. She squeezed it, but wasn’t able to get
them out. She worried that she’d lose her arm. As she walked downstream, Juliane saw more
evidence of the plane crash. She heard the call of a King Vulture and suspected
that there were dead bodies nearby. Eventually she came across a row of seats
with three dead people still strapped in. The passengers had a head-first impact and
hit the ground so hard that they were buried almost two feet into the dirt. Juliane was horrified. Judging by their clothing, 2 of the victims
were men. To make sure that the woman was not her mother,
Juliane took a stick and knocked a shoe off of the female corpse. Since the toes were painted, she knew it could
not have been Maria, since her mother never used nail polish. On December 28, Juliane’s watch finally
stopped. After that she tried to count off the days,
but suffered from confusion. On the 5th or 6th day of her journey, Juliane
heard a sound that gave her hope. It was the call of a hoatzin, a subtropical
bird that nests solely near open stretches of water. Figuring that people would be settled by the
water, Juliane followed the sound, picking up her pace. Finally Juliane made her way to the bank of
a large river…but there were no humans or settlement in sight. Periodically, she had heard the sound of planes
in the distance, but less and less as the days passed. She despaired, believing that the searchers
had given up, having rescued all the passengers except for her. The densely overgrown riverbanks made it hard
for Juliane to continue on land. She began to carefully wade through shallow
water, keeping a lookout for stingrays. Because it was slow going, Juliane decided
to swim in the middle of the river, knowing that stingrays won’t venture into deep water. However, she still had piranhas and caimans
to worry about. At night, she huddled on the riverbank, restlessly
dozing, her various injuries pulsating with pain, her cuts and scrapes infected. .
Days ago, Juliane had eaten the last piece of her candy. Now, she drank river water to keep her stomach
full. One morning, she felt a sharp pain in her
back. When she gingerly explored the area, her hand
came away bloody. The sun has severely burned her back as she
swam. An exhausted and starving Juliane was plagued
with hallucinations of civilization, sometimes she saw the roof of a house or heard chickens
clucking. She endlessly fantasized about food. Each day it got harder to get into the cold
water and swim. On the tenth day of Juliane’s arduous journey,
she constantly encountered logs as she drifted downriver. She weakly climbed over them, using the last
of her strength, trying not to injure herself further. After an exhausting day, Juliane swam to shore
where she dozed off on a gravel bank. Minutes later, she awoke to an amazing sight:
a boat. Juliane wanted to leave, but she didn’t
want to steal the boat. Instead, she took a small path that led up
the bank from the river. Because she was so weak, it took her hours
to make it up the hill to a tiny hut with a palm leaf roof. At the hut, Juliane found a litre of gasoline. She poured some on her wounds, remembering
having seen her father do the same to cure a dog of worms. The gasoline stung, but drew out a mass of
maggots that were infecting her arm. A second path led from the hut into the rainforest. Juliane waited, but no one showed up, so she
spent the night at the shack. The ground was too hard, so she went back
to the water and laid down in the sand. The next day, Juliane walked up to the hut
again because it was pouring rain. There were frogs everywhere and Juliane tried
to catch one to eat. Thankfully, she was too slow, which was good
because the frogs ended up being poisonous. Juliane stayed at the shelter, telling herself
that she’d rest one more day before moving on. Near evening she heard voices and thought
it was her imagination. But then three lumberjacks came out of the
forest. They froze in shock when they saw her. Juliane recalls that they thought she was
a kind of water goddess called a Yemanjá – a figure from local legend who is a hybrid
of a water dolphin and a blonde, white-skinned woman. In Spanish, Juliane explained what happened. The woodcutters treated her wounds and gave
her food. The next morning, they loaded her into a canoe
for a seven hour ride downriver to a lumber station. From there, a local pilot flew her to a hospital
in Pucallpa. Juliane learned that her collarbone was actually
broken, she had a torn ACL and partially fractured shin.The day after arriving at the hospital,
Juliane was reunited with her father. She described their emotional reunion as “a
moment without words”. Juliane was interviewed by the air force and
police. With her directions, search parties located
the crash site and the bodies of the victims. In total, LANSA Flight 508 crash killed 91
people: 6 crew members and 85 of its 86 passengers. It was discovered that as many as 14 passengers
including Juliane’s mother Maria survived the crash, but perished due to their injuries
before they could be found. Juliane was hailed as ‘the miracle girl’
in the Peruvian press. She received hundreds of letters from people
all over the world touched by her tale of survival. She and her father moved to Germany, where
Juliane made a full recovery. Though plagued by nightmares, grief over her
mother’s death and haunted by survivor’s guilt, Juliane excelled at college, studying
zoology like her parents and got a Phd. In 2000, famed director Werner Herzog made
a documentary about Juliane’s ordeal. He actually located the crash site and filmed
Juliane retracing some of her steps. In 2011, Juliane published an autobiography. Today Juliane, now in her 60’s is a librarian
at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Germany and frequently visits Panguana,
the Peruvian research facility started by her parents. Juliane displayed amazing courage, grit and
a strong determination to survive. Do you think that you could survive being
lost in the rainforest? For how long? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
Do These Things To Survive If You Get Stranded On an Island! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!”

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