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  • Writer's pictureSiheli Siyathra

Juliane Koepcke

The following is a true story.

Juliane Koepcke had just graduated from school when her mother decided to go to the Amazon to meet her father. Her father worked at a research station there. But most flights were booked because it was the holiday season. The only option was the LANSA airline, which already had a bad reputation due to two crashes. However, they booked the remaining two seats, not worried, considering the short duration of the flight.

The plane took off on December 24 1971. At first, it was a smooth flight, but soon the clouds got thicker. The turbulence got worse. Something was wrong. Eventually, the plane got caught in the middle of a fierce storm. Lightning struck the plane. The fuel tank got ignited and, within seconds, the plane’s wings were ripped off. The airliner went into a nosedive. Still strapped to her seat and wild with fear, Juliane went into a 10,000 feet free-fall. She heard the wind whistling in her ears and saw the forest spinning towards her.

She didn’t remember anything about the impact, but it’s most likely that the seat cushioned her fall. Miraculously, she survived. Juliane spent the first day slipping in and out of consciousness. When she finally managed to stay awake, she realized that she was alone in the jungle. As if surviving the air crash wasn’t enough, she had to stay alive in the forest.

Juliane’s collarbone was broken and she had several deep cuts. Despite the injuries, she started moving, determined to survive. She found a bag of candies at the crash site, which would be her only food for the next 10 days. As Juliane’s father was a biologist, she was familiar with the jungle. So, when she heard running water, she began to look for it, hoping to see civilization close by. Finding the stream was anything but easy. The Amazon rainforest was full of dangers. She had to take various difficult measures to stay safe.

It was the rainy season, so she had no fruit to pick. As she didn’t have a knife, she couldn’t cut out the palm hearts. But Juliane just kept walking, despite the heat and hunger. Despite the blistering heat during the daytime, she got extremely cold at night. Finally, after a few rough days, Juliane reached the river. There was no sign of anyone, which was depressing. But she knew she had to keep going. She swam downstream in the daytime and slept at night.

On the 10th day of her exhausting journey, she finally saw something that made her think she was hallucinating - a big boat. There was no one in the boat, but Juliane noticed a beaten-up path leading up the riverbank. Naturally, she followed it. Eventually, she came to a hut with a palm-leaf roof. She found a canister of gasoline and an outboard motor there.

Juliane spent the night in the hut, where she could finally get some real rest. When she woke up the next day, several men were standing over her, looking at her with concern. Juliane explained what had happened, and the men agreed to help her. Soon she was under medical care.

Unfortunately, Juliane was the only one to survive the crash. She’d lost her mother. But the story teaches us one thing: sheer force of will could overcome any problem we face in life.

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