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Literary Openings, Gadgets and News in Nigeria | Duketundesblog: We ate our Friends body to survive for 10 weeks, after plane Crash in the Andes

Monday, 22 February 2016

We ate our Friends body to survive for 10 weeks, after plane Crash in the Andes

This is a story that looks like something out of a horror movie, but it's very real, though it is a long piece but i bet you will not want to miss this for anything...It's the story of the survivors of a plane that crashed in the Andes, who had to eat the bodies of their dead friends in order to survive. One of the survivors wrote this haunting and deeply moving book detailing their 10 weeks near death experience and journey to find help:

Behind us, the fuselage grew smaller and smaller in the distance. Our friends watched from the wreckage of the plane as the two of us began climbing the mountain wall. I turned round occasionally to look at them until they were shadowy pinpricks, tiny black ants moving along a snowy white canvas. 
No wonder the rescue planes hadn’t seen us. With the white fuselage camouflaged against the snow, we were totally invisible. Finally, I could no longer see our friends, and I felt a rush of anxiety as the umbilical cord that kept us attached to them was severed.
There were only 16 of us left now, out of the original 45 who’d been on board when the plane plunged out of the sky two months before. Would we ever see them again? I doubted it. 
Roberto Canessa after the crash in 1972 (L) and Now (R).

We’d said goodbye with the first rays of dawn as we set out on our life-or-death mission. We wore several jumpers and pairs of trousers. We’d lost so much weight that we could easily wear them all at once. 
On my back was a makeshift sleeping bag constructed from the insulation fibres in the plane’s tailpiece. I also carried a rugby sock stuffed with our food: strips of frozen human flesh we’d cut, amid much torment and soul-searching, from the bodies of our friends who’d died. 
My friend Nando and I walked in our rugby boots, using cushions from the plane as snowshoes, and we each carried a length of rope and a metal stick. In truth, we had no idea what we needed. Neither of us had any climbing experience whatsoever. 
The mountain wall was nearly vertical, and the air was so thin that every few yards we found ourselves gasping for breath. As night swiftly devoured twilight, we could suddenly see nothing ahead. We didn’t know whether we were stepping on to firm ground or about to fall into a ravine. 
The Survivors huddled together in the fuselage of the plane the night before they were rescued.

‘What am I doing here?’ I shouted. ‘Where in God’s name am I?’ 
Our sweat-soaked clothes began to freeze as the temperature plummeted. The wind seemed bent on whipping us into oblivion. It looked as though we were going to die on our first night away from the plane. 
But as always happens to me, despair made me fight harder. To stumble into a canyon was preferable to giving up and awaiting a frozen death. 
At last, when all seemed lost, we came across a clear, windswept area beneath a stony outcrop near the edge of an abyss, where we could lie down and wait out the terrible night. 
Deadliest Accident in Aviation History 'The Tenerife Collision' CLICK HERE to read 
One false move could send us over the edge. But if the two of us huddled together and lay very still, we hoped against hope that we might just survive till morning. 
By the third day, Nando and I were approaching the summit. Only then would we be able to look around us and assess the challenge that lay ahead. 
How often we’d visualised in our minds’ eye the verdant valleys that we fondly believed lay on the other side of the mountain: quaint villages, happy herdsmen, abundant food.
It was Nando who got there first. ‘What can you see?’ I asked, as I clambered to join him. 
He was staring silently into the distance. As I joined him, I could see why. Before us lay an infinite number of gigantic snowy peaks disappearing to the horizon. 
East, west, north, south, there was nothing but ice and snow and mountains. We’re dead, I thought. My despair was absolute. 
Then Nando pointed. I followed the direction of his finger to the west, in the direction of Chile. 

There, hardly visible to the naked eye, were twin peaks that appeared not to be covered with snow. They were incredibly far away. But they were our only hope. 
‘Can you imagine how beautiful all this would be if we weren’t doomed?’ said Nando. 
That night, we huddled together in our improvised sleeping bag, not just for warmth, but to fight back the terror of the unknown. We both knew we were likely to die. But we’d give death a run for its money first. 
The next morning, little by little, we began our descent. During some stretches we slid down the mountain nearly sitting down; at other times, we clung face-first to the cliff, careful not to let our backpacks tip us back. We watched out for each other, always on the alert. 
By nightfall we were exhausted and battered. My outer jeans were worn through with holes; it was as well I had two more pairs on. Every part of my stone-ground body was in agony. 
The only way I got through those first days away from the plane was by setting myself short-term goals. It could be nothing more than reaching that next boulder, that next cliff, that next rock formation.  
There were so many possible ways to die, it was better to focus on the remote possibility that we’d survive. Keep your head down. Keep walking. 
Sometimes I thought I heard a plane. Nando swore he didn’t. Only later would we find out that an aircraft chartered by our parents had, indeed, been out looking for us, scouring the mountainsides. 
On day seven we began withdrawing into ourselves. Our minds and bodies were starting to fail. My skin had taken on a greenish tinge, and my toes were turning black from hypothermia. 
I dreamed of my girlfriend Lauri in Montevideo. She would have to find another boyfriend. But how would my mother move on? 
The night before, just before falling asleep, Nando and I had told each other in whispers about all the hopes for the future we’d had in our other life. I was never as close to any friend as I was to Nando during our trek — and nor would I ever be. 
Life in the mountains had its own rhythm, its own routine, its own set of savage rules, and we became part of it. For us, the day ended at 4pm when the sun disappeared behind the western mountains. 
But on that seventh day, as the temperature dropped and we set up our camp, something felt different. I looked at my watch. It was 4.15 pm and the sun was still shining. 
A few minutes later I checked again. It had been more than 30 minutes since the sun should have disappeared behind the mountains, just as it always had. But not tonight. 
‘Nando, how is the sun still lighting up the valley?’ We looked upwards. 
‘If the sun isn’t being blocked, that must mean we’re almost out of the mountains!’ I shouted. ‘Over there, where the sun is still shining through — that’s the way out!’
That night, total darkness did not fall until until 7.12 pm. 
Waking the following morning from a restless sleep, I realised that while my body was still exhausted, my mind felt clearer. ‘There’s far more oxygen here,’ I said to Nando in surprise. 
Travelling further downwards that day, the snow began giving way to rocky terrain and loose gravel. Then, finally, miraculously, it disappeared. 
The only white we could see now was up high in the distance. The place where we stood was arid and desolate, where probably no man had ever set foot before. But to me, it felt like the gates of paradise. 
An hour later, the most wonderful thing of all: six feet ahead of me I saw a lizard, staring right at me. I was entranced, mesmerised. The origins of life were beginning to emerge in their most primitive forms. 
That night, we found the first twigs we had seen for months and lit a fire with a lighter we’d carried in our backpack. We laid out the sleeping bag not over ice, but on a pillowy cushion of vegetation. It was the first time since October 13 that we’d not slept at the mercy of the mountain. 
The next day the signs of civilisation began to multiply. A horseshoe. A rusty tin can. A stream that became a rushing river. A clump of trees, and next to them two cows.
Later, we saw trees felled by axes. Boot prints were all around. 
‘We’re going to make it, aren’t we?’ Nando said at last, with an expression resembling a smile — something I hadn’t seen on his face for many weeks. We had arrived in civilisation. 
Nando had the idea of climbing a tree and dropping a rock on the head of one the cattle so we could eat. I said it would be better to slit their tendons, like the early cowboys did.
In the middle of this absurd conversation I looked over Nando’s shoulder. There, on the other side of the river, was the silhouette of a man in a hat riding a horse. 
We started yelling, but our screams were drowned out by the roaring river, that was far too dangerous to cross. 
The rider took a few more steps, then stopped and looked round. 
I watched as Nando jumped up and down, shouting ‘Plane!’ and flapping his arms up and down before dropping to his knees and folding his hands in desperate supplication. Goodness knows what we looked like — dangerous wild men, probably, rather than the survivors of a plane crash.

Night-time was once again threatening. The man was weighing us, measuring us. Then he signalled to us with his hands and shouted a word we heard clearly over the roar of the water: ‘Tomorrow!’ 
Just before sunrise the next day, we saw the flicker of flames from the other side of the river. There was the man who’d first seen us. 
The man took paper and a pencil out of his pocket, tied them to a rock and threw it across the river. ‘I’ve sent a man on his way over to you,’ it read. ‘Tell me what you want.’
Nando scratched out a reply on the other side of the paper. ‘We were in a plane crash on the mountains,’ he wrote. ‘We’ve been walking for ten days. There are 14 other survivors on the plane. We have no food. We’re weak.’ 
Then he threw the stone back to the other shore. 
The man read the note carefully, then gestured with his hands as if to say: ‘I understand.’
Two hours later, a man rode up to us with two spare horses. He told us his name was Armando and that he’d been sent by Sergio Catalan, the man we’d first seen, who had set off straight away for the nearest police post — an eight-hour ride away. 
Following Armando on horseback, we watched the scenery change. We came upon a bright green meadow irrigated by ditches. Was this Heaven on Earth, I wondered? Could we be sure that we didn’t die on one of those icy nights in the mountains? 
Two small cabins poked up from the prairie. They were simple and beautiful, with thatched roofs surrounded by roses in full bloom. 
The horse stopped by a table upon which was placed a fresh farm cheese. ‘May I have a piece?’ I asked. 
I got down from the horse and brought the cheese to my mouth. I took one bite, then another and another, without swallowing the first. Nando did the same as the farmer watched in disbelief. Around six in the evening, Sergio Catalan and around a dozen police officers arrived. I looked into his eyes and thought: ‘This is the man who saved us.’ It was the start of a lifelong bond. 
‘Impossible!’ the sergeant said when we told him our story. 
But we were emphatic. There was no time to lose: our friends were dying. 
The helicopter commanders looked at each other, then said if they were going to try it — and it was a dangerous mission — one of us would have to go with them to point the way. 
In the end, Nando went. I was exhausted, and he wanted to go. 
That day, because of bad weather, only six of our friends returned to the land of the living. The other eight would be rescued the following day. All of them had survived in our absence. 
No wonder our story came to be known in our homeland of Uruguay as El Milagro. The miracle. 
Before I got on the helicopter to hospital and my old life, I shook hands with Armando and Sergio Catalan. When I thanked them, they looked at me with utter surprise, as if there was nothing to thank them for. These men, the guardians of paradise: Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth. 
One of the hardest things about returning to civilisation was facing the reality of what we’d done to survive: eating the bodies of our closest friends and team mates. When I finally got home to Uruguay, I went door-to-door to the homes of my friends who didn’t make it to tell their families what we had lived through, and why we’d had to do what we did to survive. 
I didn’t fool myself into thinking they might understand, because they hadn’t lived through what we had. But I wanted them to hear from someone who’d actually been there how it had been, and to give each family keepsakes from their loved one that we’d carefully collected: watches, passports, valuables. 
When I visited Gustavo and Raquel Nicolich, whose son had been badly injured and had died in the avalanche that struck the plane wreckage weeks after the crash, I saw how they reached up from the depths of their despair to help us, the survivors, try to heal our emotional and psychological wounds. 
How could we ever forget their dying son’s letter to his girlfriend back home, explaining the sacrifices that had been made on the mountain and how he was happy to offer up his body if he didn’t survive? 
‘I concluded that the bodies were there because God willed it that way,’ he’d written, of those who had died before him. ‘And since the soul is the only thing that matters, after all, I have no reservations about offering up my body, should that day arrive, so that I might help someone else live.’ 

We had huge support from the families of our friends. 
Two months after the disaster, I returned to medical school. In my anatomy class, I had to dissect a human cadaver like the ones I’d lived with on the mountain, and I could feel everyone in the room looking at me out of the corner of their eye, wondering what was going through my mind. I don’t know how I managed to keep it together that day. 
The following month, when I felt stronger, I started playing rugby again. It was a crucible of emotions playing alongside not only the other survivors but also with the ghosts of the team mates who remained in the mountains. 
Several of us, including Antonio ‘Tintin’ Vizintin and me, went on to play rugby for the Uruguayan national side. All of us still meet every year, on the anniversary of our rescue, bound by ties as deep as human beings can know. 
Our hero is Sergio Catalan, who has many times joined our gatherings. I make regular trips to visit him in Chile. Seeing him always renews my commitment to life. 
I have tried to live in a way that would make the sacrifice of those who died count; in a way worthy of the price they had to pay. 
Those who lost their lives had transferred their legacy, their progeny, on to us. 
That’s why, when I returned to the mountain with my daughter, Lala, I said these words to my friends at the memorial site: ‘Just as I promised you, I made the most I possibly could out of my life. And I wanted you to meet the fruits of your sacrifice.’

****Adapted from I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in The Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Dr Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci****

Source: DailyMail.


  1. This is so horrific! Eating the body of a dead friend to survive? Danm!!!

    Alabekee's Blog

  2. Oh my good heavens. I can't imagine this. How did they bring themselves to do it, eat human flesh, their friends for that matter. So so disgusting. Am happy they survived though.


  3. Thank you for this post. We can bet that every time you hear about a plane having crashed, you shudder. Many people have fear of flights and height, and flying on a plane takes its toll on them. They get panicky very quickly and shake or behave uncontrollably. See more http://survival-mastery.com/basics/how-to-survive-a-plane-crash.html

    1. Thanks for visiting @Jonsmith Jonsmith...and i loved your post of surving in case of a plane crash


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