10 People Who Survived the Impossible

42 Days Without Food
Looking surprisingly glamorous, Helen Klaben, one of the two who survived 49 days lost in the Canadian Yukon wilderness, is shown aboard the Pan Am jet that took her to Seattle after her rescue. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Helen Klaben, 21, wanted to travel from Fairbanks to Seattle, and decided to save some money by flying with an amateur pilot, 42-year-old Ralph Flores. It turned out to be a fateful choice, when Flores' plane crashed on Feb. 4, 1963, in a snowstorm in a remote part of the Canadian wilderness. The passenger and pilot suffered broken bones and other injuries, but they were alive.

Unfortunately, they had no survival equipment except for matches, and their food supply consisted of four cans of sardines, two cans of tuna, two cans of fruit cocktail and a bottle of vitamin pills. To deal with nighttime temperatures that dropped as low as 42 below zero (-41 Celsius), they fashioned a blanket from the plane's carpet, and stuffed clothes and spruce boughs into the cracks in the plane's cabin to insulate it. They used gasoline from the fuel tank to light a camp fire.

After a week, their food ran out, forcing them to survive on melted snow —"water for breakfast, water for lunch, and water for supper," as Klaben later explained to Life magazine. Fortunately, both passenger and pilot were overweight, and could survive off their body fat for another 42 days, until an aircraft finally spotted them [source: Hamblin and Jarvis].