Top 5 survival stories of 2023

Harrowing stories of survival and daring rescues made headlines throughout 2023, from people trapped in caves deep underground to sailors lost at sea.

These are five of the top survival stories that pitted man against nature from the past year.

‘Life or death’

An Australian man attempting to row across the Pacific Ocean alone was rescued in October by a cruise ship after his boat capsized, leaving him naked and adrift at sea in a “life or death” situation, according to his rescuers.


Tom Robinson was spotted from the air sitting naked atop his capsized boat in the Pacific Ocean, about 60 miles from the Vanuatu archipelago, officials said. (New Caledonia’s Marine Rescue Coordination Centre )

Tom Robinson of Brisbane had set off on a journey to become the youngest person ever to row across the Pacific Ocean when he ran into bad weather and rough seas on Oct. 5, according to New Caledonia’s Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (COSS) and P&O Cruises Australia.

Robinson activated his distress beacon more than 60 miles west of Malakula Island in Vanuatu, an archipelago of about 80 islands located east of Australia near New Caledonia, but COSS was unable to get in touch with the rower.

The maritime service called the Pacific Explorer, a cruise ship with P&O Cruises Australia that was sailing in the area with 2,000 guests on a nine-day round-trip voyage from Auckland, New Zealand, to help search for the vessel in distress.

The cruise liner maneuvered through challenging weather conditions and found Robinson sitting naked on top of the overturned boat the next morning. The crew immediately brought him to safety aboard the ship on Friday morning.

Tom Robinson with crew

Robinson thanked the cruise ship’s crew for coming to his aid. (P&O Cruises Australia)

Robinson suffered a sunburn and dehydration during the ordeal, though officials said he was otherwise in good health. He was given medical treatment on the cruise ship along with fresh clothes and a hot meal.

‘Needle in a haystack’

Another Australian sailor, accompanied by only his dog, was rescued in July after being adrift for three months in the Pacific Ocean, surviving on his damaged vessel by eating raw fish and drinking rainwater.

Tim Shaddock

Timothy Lyndsay Shaddock, 54, and his pup, Bella, were found alive aboard his catamaran, Aloha Toa, in the Pacific about 1,200 miles from land after the crew of a Mexican tuna boat from the Grupomar fleet spotted them. (Grupomar/Atun Tuny via AP)

Timothy Lyndsay Shaddock, 54, and his pup, Bella, were found alive aboard his catamaran, Aloha Toa, in the Pacific about 1,200 miles from land after the crew of a Mexican tuna boat from the Grupomar fleet spotted them.

Tim Shaddock sits with his dog Bella

Timothy Shaddock and his dog, Bella, were aboard his disabled catamaran, Aloha Toa, some 1,200 miles from land when they were rescued. (Grupomar/Atun Tuny via AP)

“I’ve been through a very difficult ordeal at sea, and I’m just needing rest and good food because I’ve been alone at sea a long time,” Shaddock said in a video broadcast by Australia’s 9News television. Despite appearing thin and bearded, Shaddock said he was in “good health.”

Shaddock described how he and his dog survived on raw fish and rainwater after a storm damaged his vessel and wiped out its electronics, cutting off all communications.


Bella is shown after she and Shaddock were rescued by a Mexican tuna boat after being adrift for three months. (Grupomar/Atun Tuny via AP)

Professor Mike Tipton, an ocean survival expert at the University of Portsmouth in England, told the outlet that both luck and skill contributed to the survival of the man and his dog, likening the rescue to finding a “needle in a haystack.”


A U.S. Coast Guard crew rescued a man stranded on an island in the Bahamas for three days after his sailboat broke down in August.

SOS written in sand on beach

The castaway scrawled “SOS” in the sand on the beach. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark rescued the man on Cay Sal, an island located between Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas, the Coast Guard said. Rescuers spotted the man after he fired flares into the sky from the boat. 


The castaway had set up his own makeshift camp on the island and the Coast Guard crew dropped food, water and a radio to him so he could communicate with authorities.

makeshift camp on island

The stranded man set up a makeshift camp where he waited for three days until he could flag down rescuers. (U.S. Coast Guard)

“We’re proud to have saved this man’s life. This case serves as a perfect example of why you must have the proper safety equipment on your vessel,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Dev Craig, a Coast Guard Sector Key West watch stander. “Without seeing the flare, the case may not have had a successful outcome.”

‘I’m not going to live’

American researcher Mark Dickey, 40, was rescued from the Morca cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains in September after he fell ill more than 3,000 feet below its entrance.

Dickey became sick on Sept. 2 and began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding during his expedition, according to the European Cave Rescue Association.

The American was first treated inside the cave by a Hungarian doctor who went into the cave on Sept. 3. Doctors and rescuers then took turns caring for him.

Before rescuers could begin the trek to carry Dickey back to the surface, they first had to widen some of the cave’s narrow passages, install ropes to pull him up vertical shafts on a stretcher and set up temporary camps along the way.

Dickey returned to the surface alive on Sept. 11.

“It is amazing to be above ground again,” Dickey told reporters. “My consciousness started to get harder to hold on to, and I reached the point where I thought, ‘I’m not going to live.’”

41 workers rescued after 17 days stuck in tunnel

Rescuers in India pulled all 41 trapped tunnel construction workers to safety in November, ending their harrowing 17-day ordeal stuck beneath piles of mountainous rock and rubble.

Rescue workers lined up outside a tunnel in India where men are traped

National Disaster Response Force personnel along with other rescue operatives gather near the face of the collapsed under-construction Silkyara tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of India’s Uttarakhand state on Nov. 28, 2023. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

Video footage posted online shows the jubilant scenes where the exhausted workers tasted freedom for the first time in more than two weeks.

The workers — who were trapped beneath a collapsed road tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of India’s Uttarakhand after a portion of it collapsed during a Nov. 12 landslide — were pulled out via a 3-foot-wide passageway made of welded pipes inserted through the rubble.

rescued Indian workers smiling

Some of the trapped Indian workers emerge from the rubble after being stuck for 17 days. (Government of India via X)


The rescue brought a dramatic end to an operation fraught with setbacks and delays, which included the breakdown of heavy machinery being used to drill to reach the trapped workers.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Timothy H.J. Nerozzi and Michael Dorgan contributed to this report.

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