Just for a minute, imagine being a castaway. Imagine being lost at sea or stranded on an island with no one knowing where you are so there’s no one coming to save you. Imagine having to use your survival skills just to make it from one day to the next. Imagine fervently hoping that one day, hopefully in the very near future, a ship or a boat or something will come by and rescue you from your fate. Scary, isn’t it?
That’s the reality some unlucky people have had to face. In one way or another, they got stuck on a boat or stuck on a raft or stuck on an uninhabited island, and they had no idea how they were going to survive. Some were lucky as they were rescued. But there were others who weren’t so lucky, who couldn’t survive where they were, and eventually died.
There are a lot of castaway stories that are so grueling, so terrifying, so chilling, that you almost can’t believe them to be true. The things people had to do to survive may blow your mind.
If you’ve seen Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, then you know all about his character’s castaway story. But there are other castaway stories, real-life ones, that make what Tom Hanks’ character went through look like just a vacation on some island. If you want to hear more, then check out this list of 15 chilling real-life castaway stories that put Tom Hanks to shame.ye
15. Jesus Vidana Lopez, Salvador Ordonez, And Lucio Rendon
Fishing expeditions can sometimes be a little scary. Five fishermen left the port of San Blas in Mexico on a fishing expedition in October 2005. Fierce winds and currents pushed their boat off course westwards, and the group was thought to be lost at sea in the Pacific. The fishermen tried flagging down ships as they passed by but went unnoticed. The men took to eating raw fish and seabirds while they floated around aimlessly for about 5,000 miles. It wasn’t until ten months later that three of the fisherman, Jesus Vidana Lopez, 27, Salvador Ordonez, 37, and Lucio Rendon, 27, showed up in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, on a Taiwanese traveler who rescued them from their boat. Unfortunately, the other two fishermen died while lost at sea. Upon their return to Mexico, the three men were hailed as heroes.
14. Juana Maria
No one knows what Juana Maria’s real name was. It was the name given to her by missionaries and not much is known about her life as a castaway. Juana Maria was a Native American woman from the Nicoleño tribe. In 1835, Russian otter killers attacked San Nicolas Island where the tribe was living and killed many of the tribespeople. Sometime later, missionaries arrived on the island and took the remaining survivors back with them to the San Gabriel Mission in California. However, Juana Maria was left behind. It wasn’t until 18 years later that a sea otter hunter discovered her living in a hut made out of whale bones. Juana Maria had been living on a diet that consisted of dried seal blubber. The sea otter hunter took Juana Maria back with him to the Santa Barbara Mission to live with him and his wife, but Juana Maria died seven weeks later from dysentery.
13. Marguerite De La Rocque
Marguerite de La Rocque had some pretty tragic experiences. French explorer Jacques Cartier led an excursion to Newfoundland, a Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, in 1542. Marguerite de La Rocque, a 19-year-old French noblewoman, and her uncle were among the expedition party. Sometime during the journey, Marguerite’s uncle discovered she was sleeping with another man and he kicked them both off the ship. He deserted them on what was known as the “Isle of Demons” (now known as Harrington Island), an island in Quebec. While it’s not known how long Marguerite lived on the island, her stay was long enough for her to get pregnant, have a baby, and watch her lover and her baby die. She got through by hunting game and hiding in a cave until she was saved by fishermen and taken back to France.
12. Chunosuke Matsuyama
Searching for pirate treasure can be an incredibly risky venture. Japanese seaman Chunosuke Matsuyama set on a voyage with 43 companions to uncover buried treasure on an island in the Pacific. A storm halted them in the middle of their trip and blew them into a coral reef, causing Matsuyama and company to seek refuge on an island close by. The sailors couldn’t find food or fresh water anywhere and had to live off of mostly crabs and coconuts. Eventually, they began dying off due to dehydration and starvation. Before he died, Matsuyama wrote down the story of his party’s shipwreck onto thin pieces of wood from a coconut tree, stuck them into a bottle, and threw it into the ocean. In 1935, about 151 years later, the bottle was discovered by a Japanese seaweed collector. The bottle was washed up in the village of Hiraturemura, Matsuyama’s home.
11. Leendert Hasenbosch
When you’re out at sea, try not to get marooned. Leendert Hasenbosch was a Dutch employee of the Dutch East India Company who was left stranded in 1725 on Ascension Island, an isolated island in the South Atlantic, as punishment for sodomy. Thanks to a diary he kept, we know all about his stay on the isle. He started out with some extra clothing, a tent, seeds, writing materials, books, and a month’s supply of water. But when Hasenbosch’s water supply ran out, he was forced to ingest turtle blood and his own urine since he couldn’t find any freshwater. British sailors found his empty tent and his diary in January 1721. It’s likely that Hasenbosch died after six months of living on the island, which is especially tragic since there are two sources of freshwater on the island that he was never aware of.
10. Jose Salvador Alvarenga
Some doubt the authenticity of Jose Salvador Alvarenga’s story, but for the most part, it appears to be true. In December of 2012, the fisherman left Mexico with a teenage companion, Ezequiel Cordoba, on a one-day shark fishing trip. But the small fishing boat got caught up in a storm that left the fishermen drifting in the open waters. According to Alvarenga, Cordoba died four weeks later because he couldn’t bring himself to drink turtle blood and eat raw fish. Alvarenga drifted around for twelve more months until he was discovered in early 2014 on an atoll in the Marshall Islands. He was subsequently reunited with his family in El Salvador but unfortunately, suffers from health issues as a result of his harsh journey. He refuted allegations that he cannibalized Cordoba’s body to survive.
9. Philip Ashton
Like Jose Salvador Alvarenga, some doubted the truth to Philip Ashton’s castaway story, especially because the book he wrote about his experiences was written in the style of Robinson Crusoe. His story went like this: Ashton was captured by pirates while he was fishing off the coast of Shelburne, Nova Scotia in June 1722. He managed to escape and hide from them in the jungle of Roatan Island in Honduras until the pirates lost interest in recovering him. Ashton had nothing and so he started eating fruit to survive. Eventually, he encountered another castaway on the island and they quickly became friends. Three days after meeting Ashton, the man went out to look for food but never returned. He left behind a trove of tobacco, gunpowder and knives, which Ashton used to kill tortoises for him to eat. Shortly after that, he was rescued by a ship from New England passing by.
8. Ernest Shackleton
Some might have called Ernest Shackleton crazy for trying to complete the daunting task of crossing Antarctica. In 1914, Shackleton’s expedition set forth on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, but during the journey, the ship became trapped in ice. For ten months, the ship drifted about until pressure from the ice destroyed and sunk the ship. Shackleton and company were stranded on ice floes for five months. They eventually sailed to Elephant Island but there was no hope for rescue there. Shackleton and five men went to go search for help. They endured a 17-day 800-mile journey through some of the worst seas to Georgia Island and an equally grueling trek across 26 miles of mountains and glaciers to reach the whaling station to call for help in August 1916. With aid from the Chilean government and its Navy, Shackleton came back to rescue the rest of his company. Luckily, no one died.
7. Fernão Lopes
Fernão Lopes was less of a castaway and more of a self-imposed exile. Lopes was a Portuguese soldier who spurned his home country and sided with the Muslims during a conflict in India. Lopes was captured by his former countrymen and they punished him by chopping off his ears, his nose, and his right hand. He hid away in a ship sailing for Portugal in 1516 and snuck away when the ship stopped at the uninhabited island of St. Helena, hiding in the forest. Lopes lived on the island in his deformed state in self-imposed exile, becoming a legend among Portuguese mariners and gaining the epithet, “Hermit of St. Helena.” He was eventually convinced to sail to Europe where he received a pardon from the King of Portugal and the Pope. Despite being offered a position in a monastery, Lopes chose to return to St. Helena, where he lived until he died circa 1545.
6. The Ross Sea Party
It was probably a little ambitious for polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, to think he could cross Antarctica like that. While Shackleton’s team would journey across Antarctica, the Ross Sea Party would dock on the other side of the continent and leave stashes of food and fuel for the last leg of Shackleton’s expedition. Starting in January 1915, the Ross Sea Party began trekking across the landmass, leaving supplies behind every 60 miles. In May, the group’s ship was ripped from its moorings and blown out to sea by fierce winds. Even though they were stranded with scarce resources, the party continued their mission of leaving supply depots for the other team. They lost three men in the process. The rest of the party was forced to stay in a hut until they were saved in January 1917. It was then that they learned that Shackleton’s team lost their ship and never began their journey.
5. Steven Callahan
Ever seen Life of Pi? If you have, meet the consultant for the film—Sailor Steven Callahan. He had great success when it came to sailing the waters. In 1977, he successfully journeyed across the Atlantic, but he couldn’t return, thanks to a storm and ferocious waves that knocked him off course. For 76 days, Callahan kept himself alive by eating live fish and drinking rainwater. Callahan just drifted along, acting as an “aquatic caveman” as his survival skills were put to the ultimate test. Eventually, Callahan would make his way back to the US. His amazing story was what made Life of Pi director, Ang Lee, consult him so his experiences could bring depth and authenticity to the movie.
4. Ada Blackjack
Ada Blackjack was dubbed as the “female Robinson Crusoe” for her castaway story. She was an Iñupiat Inuit who joined four other settlers on an expedition across the Chukchi Sea to Russia’s Wrangel Island in a bid to claim the island as Canada’s by Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. The group left on September 16, 1921, and things were terrible from the start. Not only were conditions terrible but rations quickly ran out. All attempts to kill game failed. Three of the settlers, minus Blackjack and a sick man, left the camp in January 1923 to search for food but were never seen again. The sick explorer taught Blackjack how to hunt since he couldn’t do it himself. However, he died in April 1923. Blackjack used her hunting skills to survive until she was rescued by an old colleague of Stefansson.
3. Alexander Selkirk
Alexander Selkirk was the real-life Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk was on a ship called the St. George in October 1704, when it stopped west of Chile at the archipelago of Juan Fernandez. Selkirk remarked on the vessel’s shoddy appearance, saying he rather be left behind on Juan Fernandez than continue sailing on something like that. The captain granted him his wish, leaving the Scottish man alone on the island with some clothing, a Bible, a musket, tobacco, and some tools. Selkirk spent his days reading his Bible, feasting on feral goats and wild turnips, and building a couple huts, sure that a ship would eventually come to rescue him. Two Spanish ships came by but Selkirk didn’t trust them. Four years and four months after Selkirk arrived on Juan Fernandez, a friendly ship showed up and Selkirk was rescued. The island he lived on has since been renamed Robinson Crusoe.
2. The Robertson Family
This was a family vacation that went very, very wrong. It was in 1971 when the Robertson family sailed around the world on their yacht. They left England and everything was smooth-sailing until 18 months into the trip. The family was 200 miles from the Galápagos Islands when the yacht was struck by a pod of killer whales and was wrecked in minutes. The family made their way to a leaky raft and then to their dinghy, after the raft deflated 17 days later. The mother, who was a nurse, used a technique to keep the family hydrated with rainwater collected in the boat. She also kept the family fed on turtle blood, but since turtle blood is poisonous if taken orally, the family had to use enemas made from tubes from the rungs of a ladder. The Robertsons were eventually rescued by a Japanese crew who spotted their distress signal in July 1972.
1. Jan Pelgrom And Wouter Loos
People can truly turn into monsters at a moment’s notice. In 1629, the Dutch East India Company ship, Batavia, was shipwrecked off the coast of Western Australia. However, most of the 322 people on board managed to make it to the Abrolhos Islands. A fanatic named Jeronimus Cornelius, led a mutiny and started methodically murdering, r*ping, and torturing women, men, and children. 125 people were killed and their bodies were deposited into mass graves. When help arrived, Cornelius and his men were forced to sign a confession, had their hands removed, and were hanged. Two of the youngest mutineers, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos, were punished by being marooned on the Australian mainland. After being given some provisions, they were instructed to probe around the island and try and make contact with the Aborigines. They were also instructed to look out for a vessel who would come and take them away after two years, but Pelgrom and Loos were never seen again.
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