|Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 23, 2016 at 6:50 AM|
On this day (December 23) in 1972 sixteen survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 were rescued after spending 73 days in harsh frozen conditions at 11,800 feet in the Andes Mountain. Flight 571 had crashed in the Andes on October 23 with 45 crew and passengers (mostly a Rugby team and their friends and family). 18 people died in the initial crash and another 11 in an avalanche a few days later. The survivors did not have cold weather gear or food. They obtained water by placing snow on metal where the sun slowly melted it.
There was no food, either vegetation or animal life, at their altitude and after much soul searching, they decided to eat the bodies of their dead friends to survive. Efforts to explore their surroundings in search of help were frustrated by altitude sickness, snow blindness, dehydration, malnourishment and extreme cold. Many of the survivors had serious injuries such as broken legs and could not leave the crash site.
They determined that they had to send someone over the mountain or they would all die, so four of the survivors tried to make the trek. They almost froze to death at night but discovered the tail section of the plane and spent several days trying to power the radio with batteries they found there but their efforts failed.
To combat the freezing temperatures they jury rigged a sleeping bag and made a second effort to find help. Two of the survivors traveled for ten days before finally encountering humans who got word of the survivors to authorities who mounted a successful rescue operation.