Key to 1813 Shipwreck Crew Survival Uncovered

The key to one of the wildest Alaskan wilderness survival stories might have been unlocked thanks to a recent archaeological expedition. The story, which is unknown to many, holds that the crew of a ship that sunk in the Arctic waters were able to swim ashore and survive weeks on end in unforgiving conditions. There have been many, many survival stories relating to people having braved the toughest winter conditions, but few are more remarkable than this one.

Neva Shipwreck Story

All the way back in the early 1800s, A Russian-American ship by the name of Neva was wrecked near the Alaskan Island of Kruzof. Despite most everyone knowing that these sailors, who made their way to shore with almost no supplies, survived horrible winter conditions, no one could figure out just how their survival was possible. Now, it has come to light that the sailors used what was left of the wrecked ship to start fires and build life-saving shelter.

According to Dave McMahan, one of the expedition’s lead archaeologists, “The items left behind by survivors provide a unique snapshot-in-time for January 1813, and might help us to understand the adaptations that allowed them to await rescue in a frigid, unfamiliar environment.”

When it set sail from the port of Okhotsk, Russia in August of 1812 the ship was carrying goods that ranged from animal furs to guns and just about everything in between. The journey, which was marred by storms, sickness, and supply shortages, quickly turned deadly. Though finally arriving in the Prince William Sound of Alaska, the crew’s journey was far from over. Despite being on a heavily damaged ship, the crew pushed forward and was finally near their final destination near Kruzof Island when the ship they were on hit rocks and sank. After the ship’s sinking, 28 members of the original crew were able to make it to shore. Though there were 75 on board to begin with, 15 perished prior to them nearing Alaska, and the rest perished during the shipwreck itself.

Though the 28 who made it to shore survived almost a month with very few supplies, only 2 of the 28 perished before help could arrive. Thanks to help from indigenous tribes of the area, the archaeologists were able to locate the crew’s camp and begin uncovering how they managed to keep themselves from succumbing to the bone-chilling temperatures. Though many items were found, the expedition determined that massive improvisation was the key to survival. Tools and pieces of the ship were rigged and used in ways they were never intended to be, and somehow that all translated into a remarkable survival rate. Though the discoveries are still being exposed, this is easily one of the most insane survival stories ever. It also goes to show just how far willpower and some ingenuity can take a person or group of people.

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