It has recently come to the world’s attention that there are 1,600 people who have gone missing from America’s public lands and that that is NOT OK. Where are these people? Why did they go missing? Is it murderers? Aliens? Bigfoot? Fire ants?
Is it Mothman?
Well no-one knows for sure where these people are, and that is just the public lands of one country, although admittedly a big country like America is going to lose more people in its public lands than a smaller country with smaller public lands and wilderness – smaller countries also lose a fair share of people.
Some of those who go missing in the wilderness are never found. Some are found as bleached bones and ragged clothing some time later. And yet there are some who appear after all hope is lost.
What follows is a list of 15 people who were missing and managed to stay lost until past the time they were expected to be able to be found alive. Some were missing for years, some days, but all were found safe and (relatively) well, much to the surprise of their finders.
It seems like a lot of these stories come from Australia, but that is because Australia is huge, largely uninhabited, phone coverage is sketchy and lots of people get lost there.
The moral to the story, if there is one I suppose, is that if you are going out into the wilderness for even a short time make sure you have some survival skills and supplies, because they might be the difference between life and death out there in the wild.
15 Rita Chretien – Missing For 49 Days In Nevada
Al and Rita Chretien were headed to Las Vegas, when they decided to get off the beaten track and follow their GPS down a more interesting road. Unfortunately the new scenic route saw them stuck in the mud and unable to drive anywhere.
Unable to get out or call for help, they walked until Rita could walk no further, then returned to the van and Al set off alone.
Rita had some snacks, running water nearby, books and a warm van to sleep in. After what I would consider a holiday of 49 days she flagged down some ATV drivers and was rescued, almost too weak to stand up.
Al’s body was found several miles away, and Rita expressed ‘joy and relief’ that he died peacefully.
Rita had her Bible with her and says that her faith, as well as melted snow, kept her alive after many would have given up all hope.
14 Luke Shembrook – Autistic Boy Missing For 4 Nights At Lake Eildon, Australia
A lot of readers probably have the impression that Australia is a very hot place filled with crocodiles and Paul Hogan, but it is in fact also quite chilly in areas and filled with venomous snakes and spiders rather than crocodiles.
11 year old autistic boy Luke disappeared from his family’s campsite and simply wandered into the bush.
After spending four nights in the cold and inhospitable mountain region without any food or water, Luke was found sitting overlooking the lake where his family had camped. He was in good health and spirits and happy to be found, suffering only slight hyperthermia. Luke survived four nights unsheltered in the Australian bush, which many an adult would not be able to do.
And I have to say, having been to the exact spot at which he was found, he found a beautiful place to wait and be rescued.
13 Hiro Onoda – Hiding Out For 34 Years After The War
When the young ‘hippy’ adventurer, Norio Suzuki set out to find 'Lieutenant Onoda, a panda and the Abominable Snowman, in that order,’ he searched for days in the jungle before accidentally stumbling across the object of his interest in 1974.
Lt Onoda was what is known as a ‘Japanese Holdout’ – a member of the Japanese armed forces who refused to surrender to allied forces who had won WWII in 1945. Lt Onoda had been told to sabotage the allies and make things as difficult as possible, not to kill himself and not to surrender. He took it literally for 34 years.
It took a superior officer coming all the way from Japan to convince him to surrender – leaflets had been dropped in the mountains to explain that the war was over, but he had thought that this was simply a trick, and refused to leave his mountain hideaway.
12 Hugh Glass - Survived Six Weeks In The 1824 Wilderness Of South Dakota After Being Mauled By A Bear
They don’t make them like Hugh Glass anymore. Hugh Glass makes Chuck Norris a punchline.
Hugh was exploring the South Dakotan wilderness with a group of other mountainmen and explorers when he was mauled by a mama grizzly bear (who I imagine is much like a mama Facebook bear, but sweeter). He managed to kill the bear with some help from his companions, but was very wounded. Hugh was carried along by his party on a litter that they threw together with sticks, then decided that was too hard, and decided to leave two men with him to wait while he died and bury him.
Two men, Fitzgerald and Bridges, dug a grave for him but they then ran off, taking Glass’ rifle and equipment, claiming they were under attack from a hostile local tribe. They found the party and reported that Hugh Glass had died.
Of course he didn’t. He set his broken leg, wrapped himself in a bear hide to cover his bone deep wounds and set off crawling back to civilization. He made it to a river, made a raft and floated downstream to his starting point at Fort Kiowa.
11 Beck Weathers – Missing Above The Death Zone On Mount Everest
Texan Beck Weathers was climbing Everest in a party of nine, including a professional guide, in 1996, when his guide unexpectedly died, leaving him waiting at 27,000 feet.
Now there is a whole lot I could write about Everest, and how people just fall over and die and are stepped over because you can't help them AND reach the summit, and how many Sherpas die because rich Westerners need to go to the highest peak in the world, and how much rubbish there is on the mountain – but I won’t because people can make their own choices.
Anyway, Weathers started to descend with another guide when a storm disoriented the whole party. A guide came back to rescue Weathers and three companions, but by that point Weathers had wandered off because people don’t make good choices up that high.
More guides came to check on him and another man and believed Weathers to be near death and 'unsaveable', so they left him to die.
Weathers had a nap and woke up, making it to camp under his own steam, badly frostbitten. He was put in a tent by himself and again not expected to survive, but he survived another night and walked down to a lower camp to be medevaced by helicopter.
He lost one arm, the fingers on the other, most of both feet and his nose.
10 Shannon Fraser – Missing For 17 Days In Far North Queensland
Shannon Fraser survived 17 days in the tropical wilderness of Far North Queensland eating insects and fish, and finding water to drink. She was so badly sunburned when she was found by farmer Brad Finch, that her skin was bleeding. She was found in exactly the spot she went missing from.
When discovered, after 800 hours of searching, Shannon was naked and swapped in a plastic fertilizer bag.
Shannon had gone swimming in a water hole with her fiancé and a friend, and the last they had seen of her was her running into the bush and disappearing after a fight. She got hopelessly lost, and wandered the bush naked for the next 17 days.
Shannon lost 16 kgs and all of her clothes somehow, with her brother Dylan telling press “Its Biggest Loser meets Bear Grylls”, because brothers are jerks.
Shannon has apparently made up with her fiancé.
9 Andrew Gaskell - Missing For 14 Days In A Malaysian National Park
Some people disappear into the wilderness and are lost and it is a surprise, others disappear into the wilderness and no one is overly surprised because they have made a series of stupid choices.
Australian Andrew Gaskell set off on a spirit walk into an unfamiliar, mountainous landscape with no mobile phone coverage. He chose not to take a guide to show him through the Park, with its huge limestone cave systems and dense jungle.
The only surprising thing about him being lost was that he did not die. After heading off without the mandatory guide, he managed to eat ferns and drink river water to stay alive. He was bitten by insects and covered in leeches. His toenails became infected. He was close to death.
Andrew publicly apologized for all the trouble he caused, and hopefully will follow the rules and regulations next time he wants to go exploring and TAKE A GUIDE
8 Yossi Ghinsberg – Missing For 21 Days In The Amazon Jungle, Bolivia
Yossi Ghinsberg is an Israeli motivational speaker (among other things) who disappeared into the Amazon jungle in 1980 with three companions, looking for lost Amazonian gold.
It sounds like a movie, and in fact the movie Jungle is coming out soon, starring Daniel Radcliffe, if you want to see more of Yossi Ghinsberg.
After following a mysterious Austrian geologist through remote village after village, on foot and by boat, it became clear that their guide was really a criminal searching for gold for his own nefarious purposes, and was not really a geologist.
The group broke up and Ghinsberg survived on his own rotting from fungi and being eaten alive by ants. He wandered delirious, and was eventually found by one of his earlier companions and an indigenous tribe that had taken him in.
The other two companions (including the fake geologist) were never found, and Yossi spent the next three months in hospital.
7 Madeline Connelly – Missing For Six Days In Montana With Her Dog Mogi
Madeline was visiting family in Montana when she parked her car by the side of the road and went for a walk in the Great Bear Wilderness, which is a name that IMMEDIATELY PUTS ME OFF HIKING THERE.
And I am an Australian who is like “oh, a snake, I shall step over him.”
All she had with her was her clothing (just a sweater for warmth), her dog and his leash, and her car keys.
When she was found she wanted to hike the 5 miles back to her car but she was airlifted instead. Luckily she had been able to find water for herself and Mogi, who had been followed by bears and had to weather nights in the wilderness after snowfall.
Madeline is just fine now and back in her native Chicago, and Mogi, who has experienced the best walks ever, is always kinda hoping they get lost again.
6 Ricky Megee – Missing 70 Days In The Australian Outback
This is a weird one.
According to his own story, Megee was driving along the Buntine highway near the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory when his car broke down.
Then he remembered nothing until he was woken by hungry dingoes pawing at him.
He has suggested that he was drugged by a hitchhiker, but what happened to the hitchhiker?
Megee lost half his body weight, camping near a dam and eating frogs and lizards. Luckily frogs and water were in abundance in the wet season, and the temperature was pleasant.
A skeletal Megee turned up at the isolated Birrindudu station, much to the shock of the locals.
Megee’s car was never found. Perhaps the mystery hitchhiker holds both the car keys and the key to the mystery.
Megee has since written a book about his ordeal called Left for Dead.
5 Reg Foggardy – Missing For 6 Days In The West Australian Goldfields
Reg Foggardy is a tough-as-nails Australian grandfather who disappeared into the Australian outback. He had been camel hunting with his brother, and after a day with little luck and even less camels he had returned back to camp to rest for the night.
Unexpectedly a camel appeared and Reg, who had just taken off all his hunting gear, gave chase with just a gun, wearing only a pair of shorts, a shirt and flip flops.
Reg shot the camel, but got lost in the process, and with no knife could not even use the camel’s body to survive.
Reg hid from the hot sun under trees and ate ants to survive – and as a diabetic, this is what would have saved him.
After six days he was found, just as he had laid down to die.
He still wants to go back and find his gun.
4 Juliane Koepcke – Missing For 9 Days In The Peruvian Wilderness After A Plane Crash
Juliane was only 17 years old when she became the sole survivor of LANSA Flight 508, which broke up in the air when it was struck by lightning.
She fell 3 km down, strapped to her seat, her fall broken by the rain forest canopy and her seat.
Juliane followed advice that she could remember from her father and followed a stream downstream until she found a boat. Juliane then poured gasoline onto her arm, which was infested with maggots, and successfully removed 35 of them. I can't even. She had broken her collarbone in her fall.
Juliane waited at the boat and was found by its owners, woodcutters who were working in the forest.
Juliane’s mother sadly died in the plane crash, but she was reunited with her father and wrote a book about her ordeal, called I Fell From The Sky, a statement which she is one of the few people who can absolutely truthfully say.
3 Robert Bogucki – Missing For 43 Days In The Great Sandy Desert Of Western Australia
The last anyone saw of Robert as he cycled away from the Sandfire Roadhouse in Western Australia was his back wheel. He intended to cycle solo across the Great Sandy Desert.
Bogucki was found by a Channel Nine helicopter 43 days later, and had survived by eating plants and flowers and drinking water that he found or dug for.
Even though Robert recovered just fine, Channel Nine got in some hot water for taking Robert to hospital in their chopper rather than waiting for medical personnel or notifying the search parties that were looking for him. I guess there is nothing like an exclusive scoop to a news channel.
As there were five people and four helicopter seats present at the rescue, one journalist was left behind briefly with some water until another helicopter got him. It was a very exciting day for Channel Nine.
2 Ada Blackjack – Missing For 2 Years On A Remote Russian Island
Ada, an Inupiat woman, was hired by Canadian explorers Stefansson and Crawford to be cook and seamstress on an expedition to the now Russian Wrangel Islands, and claim them for Canada.
In 1921 five expeditioners were left on the island, but due to running low on food, three left in search of help and Ada Blackjack stayed to care for a sick man. The man soon died, and she was left there alone for two years, fending off polar bears and eating seals that she hunted.
Being a woman of colour, Ada was blamed for the death of the man she tried to nurse back to health, until she convinced his family that she had done everything she could do.
Despite her survival alone on the island, she died in poverty in 1983, and sadly is barely remembered.
1 Bill Lawrence – Missing In The Meeman-Shelby Forest Of Tennessee For 5 Days
Bill got separated from his hunting buddies after making his first kill of the day. Luckily it was not cold in the snake filled woods, because after walking around all day, Bill was hopelessly lost, having only some bug repellent, a dead squirrel and some water. Frustratingly, Bill could hear helicopters looking for him but they could not see him.
He caught rainwater in his water bottles and ate grubs to stay alive, being taunted by nearby helicopters for days, even making a flag from a shirt and a gun to signal to them – but they never saw.
Finally he came to a sealed road and flagged down a couple of motorcyclists, who took him to the search team looking for him, who drove him to hospital.