Tru Life Story : I HAVE TO STAY ALIVE
On 23th December, 1971, a seventeen-year-old-girl named Juliane Koepcke and her mother were passengers in Lockheed Electra airplane, which was making the flight between Lima (the capital of Peru) and the small town of Pucallpa. They were on the way to joint her father, Professor Koepcke, who was head of the zoological department at Lima University. He was carrying out research work in the jungle.
Juliane had spent a good deal of time in the jungle. Her father had taught her about the dangers of this unfriendly world, and the things one must do to stay alive in it.
Flight should have taken an hour. But after they had been in the air for thirty minutes, the airplane ran into trouble. This was accompanied by heavy rain and flashes of lightning. Juliane’s last memory was of the wing catching fire. After that , she became unconscious and never felt the crash.
When she became conscious again, she felt that she was lying under seat, out in the open air. She had bruises on her head, a broken bone in her neck and a bad cut on one of her feet. Of her mother, the other ninety passengers and the plane’s crew, there was no sign.
She felt too weak to get to her feet and soon she went to sleep again.
When she woke up in the morning, she realized that her mother had probably been killed. As she wrote afterwards in her diary : “Now my father has probably lost his wife, but he must no lose his daughter, too. I have to stay alive.”
She was somewhere in the jungle, but she had no idea where. All that she could do was to obey the oldest law in such a situation: find a river and follow it.
In the region, there are streams which flow into rivers, rivers which joint up with bigger rivers; everything, at last, ends up in the Amazon.
Her only clothing was the mini-dress which she had worn on aeroplane. For food, she had some cake and a bag of sweets. But, on closer inspection, the cake turned out to be inedible.
For ten days she walked. She had found a stream and this led her to a river. Sometimes she swam in the river, sometimes she travelled along the bank. The only signs of life she could see were the vultures, which were feeding off the bodies of her fellow passengers.
The jungle is giant drum of poison in which everything seems to be murder weapon. There is the sun, which burns your skin, fruit and berries, which look delicious, but can make you ill or even kill you when you eat them, poisonous snakes mosquitoes, giant green flies which can frighten you away, alligators, piranha fish which have sharp teeth and will eat a man alive, deadly giant spiders which suck human blood, and other equally deadly insects.
Luckily, Juliane never felt hungry and she was able to make the sweets last for a long time. When she felt thirsty there was the river, through swimming in it meant throwing herself into disaster. The open wound to in her foot was an invitation to the piranhas.
In pain, never seeming to reach the greater world where people lived. Juliane walked on slowly and heavily. She lost all awareness of the passage of hours and days. At night she slept fearfully in the open conscious all the while of strange sounds of a jungle which never sleeps.
After ten days she was in a state very close to despair. She was just about to lie down for the night when she saw a wooden hut. Nearby, there was a boat. But there were no people.
She spent the night in the hut and after she had rested she wondered what to do next…Would anyone ever come there again? Should she wait or should she try to struggle on?
Later that day, three young men arrived. They were jungle people who used to travel from one place to another, making their living by cutting down the trees, and floating them down the river to Pucallpa.
At first they couldn’t believe her story. It was impossible they said. Nobody could have suffered so much and still be live. But they were kind. They washed her cuts and injuries, gave her a meal and at last took her down the river in their boat to a village. From there, a light aircraft flown by a woman pilot named Jerry Cobb took her to the hospital at Pucallpa.
Even if you ignore the dangers of the jungle and the amazing strength of spirit which made the girl determined to move on, and her ability to walk through very dense jungle with only a bag of sweets to eat.—even if one ignores all these things, the changes of survival for Juliane were still very small.
For example, she could never have reached the village without assistance. She had to depend on those three young men. But if she had not decided to stop at the particular place on the river bank, she would almost certainly have passed their hut without seeing it. Furthermore the young men only came there about once every three weeks. If she had arrived one day later for instance, she would have missed them.
Juliane Koepcke had to live for her father’s sake. Determination such as this only occurs once or twice in any generation.