Survival photo

For a number of years following the end of World War II, Japanese soldiers would occasionally emerge from the jungles in the Pacific theater, either unwilling to believe or unaware that the war was over. The last verified Japanese holdout came out of hiding in the Philippines and officially surrendered back in 1974. It’s an incredible story, but a piece in Smithsonian magazine tops it, in both longevity and in the sheer harshness of the landscape in which it occurs. In 1978, Soviet geologists discovered a family of six eking out a desperate existence in the depths of the vast Siberian taiga. They had been living there since 1936, completely cut off from all human contact, completely unaware of events such as WWII.

From this story on
“…peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time. It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

According to the story, when the scientists finally reached the cabin, they discovered Karp Lykov and his family. The Lykovs were members of a Russian Orthodox sect called the Old Believers that had been persecuted for their religious beliefs since the days of Peter the Great, and had continued once the Bolsheviks seized power. In 1936, after Lykov’s brother was shot by a Soviet patrol, Lykov gathered his family and fled into the vast Siberian taiga, never to be seen again. The rest of the story is an utterly fascinating account of how the Lykovs managed (barely) to stay alive for so long in one of the harshest environments on the planet.

No guns, no high-tech survival gear, no “bugout bag” and no Rambo fantasies. Just a scared, desperate family fleeing into the wilderness with nothing more than what they could carry on their backs. Think you could have survived under similar circumstances?