1. Hugh Glass
While scouting for game in Grand River in 1823, Hugh Glass ran into a grizzly-bear mom who attacked him to defend her two cubs.
Unable to reach his rifle as they wrestled on the ground, Glass was able to escape from her death grip and stab her with his knife while she shredded his face, chest, arm, and back with her claws. His wounds were so gruesome that his fellow trappers simply placed a bear hide over him as a funeral shroud and left him for dead so they could get out of the hostile territory and away from the Native Americans who had recently killed half of their crew. With pretty much anyone else, the whole horrendous story would have ended there.
But not Hugh Glass. When Glass eventually regained consciousness, he set his own leg, wrapped himself in his bear hide shroud, and started crawling along the banks of the Cheyenne River.
During the insane trek across country that followed, he prevented gangrene from infecting his wounded back by lying on a rotting log and allowing maggots to eat his dead flesh, sustained himself by killing and eating rattlesnakes, and crawled overland for six weeks until he reached civilization — which was really surprised and impressed to see him alive.
2. Juliane Koepcke
On Dec. 24, 1971, a Peruvian commercial airliner crashed in a thunderstorm over the Amazon, killing every one of the 92 crew members and passengers aboard, except for one person…
High school senior Juliane Koepcke fell a total of 2 miles from the sky into the Amazon rainforest strapped to her seat — and walked away from the accident. For 10 days. Through the jungle. With a concussion, a broken collarbone, and a hole in her right arm. Then she met up with some local lumberman and took a canoe home.
3. C. Dale Peterson
4. Dr. Leonid Rogozov
In 1961, Rogozov developed peritonitis, meaning that he would have to get his appendix taken out or die. The problem? He was the only doctor stationed at the Novolazarevskaya Station in Antarctica at the time, the nearest help was a thousand miles away, and a massive blizzard was forming, which meant that he would have to perform the appendectomy on himself.
With two non-medically trained researchers standing by to pass him tools, Rogozov used a mirror, some novocaine, and a scalpel to remove his appendix over the course of an excruciating two-hour operation. In 1961 he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, which is some cool Soviet award for being a total badass.
5. Monsieurs Granpree and Le Pique
Monsieurs Granpree and Le Pique settled their beef over a sexy opera dancer the only way real men should: by fighting a duel in hot-air balloons with blunderbusses.
(For those keeping score, Le Pique missed his shot, but Granpree popped his opponent’s balloon from 80 yards out, causing Le Pique and his second to be dashed to pieces on the roof of a house, whereupon Granpree descended “in grand style” and presumably went home with a sexy opera dancer.)
6. “Mad” Jack Churchill
“Mad” Jack Churchill’s two claims to fame are his motto — “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly armed” — and the fact that he took his motto really seriously.
To prove this point, he fought throughout the entirety of World War II armed with a longbow, arrows, and a Scottish broadsword. In July 1943, he led his commando unit from their landing site in Sicily with his broadsword hanging from his belt, his longbow and arrows around his neck, and his bagpipes under his arm. After infiltrating the town, he took 42 men prisoner, including a mortar squad.
When the war was over, Churchill was totally bummed out about it, remarking, “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years.
7. John Fairfax
At the age of 9, John Fairfax settled a dispute with a pistol. When he turned 13, he ran away to go hang out in the Amazon jungle, where he survived by hunting. When he turned 20, he attempted suicide by jaguar but failed and decided to apprentice himself to a pirate.
Then he became the first person to row solo across an ocean.
8. Jay Leone
9. Simo Häyhä
Simo Häyhä was a Finnish sniper in World War II with some terrifying stats. He was credited with 505 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers in only 100 days.
10. Shavarsh Karapetyan
Shavarsh Karapetyan is a 17-time World Champion Soviet Armenian finswimmer, which is a crazy underwater sport that involves snorkeling, wearing tail fins, and swimming like an insane mermaid. But that’s not what he’s famous for.
One day, while he was finishing up a light 12-mile run, Shavarsh heard a crash and saw a trolleybus with 92 passengers sink 80 feet to the bottom of a reservoir.
In zero visibility due to the silt, Karapetyan swam to the sinking bus, broke the back window with his legs, and single-handedly rescued 20 passengers.
The multiple wounds he received from this rescue and the fact that he was unconscious for 45 days afterward effectively ended his sports career, but he’d already found a new calling as a superhero: Ten years later he ran into a burning hospital and saved the people trapped inside.
11. Mike Blanchard
12. Jane Todd Crawford
In December 1809 in Green County, Kentucky, Jane Todd Crawford was informed that the thing she thought was a beyond-term pregnancy was actually a massive 22.5-pound ovarian tumor. In those days no one had ever successfully removed an ovarian tumor, but JTC wasn’t the type to give up easily.
Tumor in tow, she rode horseback 60 miles to Danville to meet up with Dr. Ephraim McDowell, who was willing to cut the thing out of her in an operation that had never been previously attempted.
In those days, anesthesia was for wimps, and Jane opted for a dose of opium and five or six attendants to hold her down. She kept her spirits up by singing hymns and psalms until it was all over. Then she up and lived for another 32 years.
The picture above is of Dr. Ephraim McDowell.
13. Samuel Whittemore
14. Agustina of Aragon
Agustina de Aragón became known as “the Spanish Joan of Arc” during the Spanish War of Independence, when, after showing up at a battle to bring apples to the gunners, she ended up running in the wrong direction in what was supposed to be a retreat of Spanish soldiers and attacking the French cannons at point blank range with a cannon of her own, annihilating an entire wave of attackers.
The Spaniards were so inspired and shamed that they turned around and ran back to help her out. After a short battle, the French decided they were nowhere near crazy enough to take on Agustina and her friends and gave up.
Later on, she was captured by the French, who were about to rue the day they ever met her, because she made a daring escape and took over a band of guerrillas, which she proceeded to lead on a series of raids against the French army.
15. Adrian Carton de Wiart
Adrian Carton de Wiart was a British officer who fought in the Boer War and both world wars.
During World War I, he was shot twice in the face and lost an eye and a portion of his ear. Later, he bit off his own fingers when a doctor declined to amputate them after a wound. Asked about his experience, he is said to have remarked, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”