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A two-mile fall into the Amazon basin

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Juliane Diller fell nearly two miles when lightning hit her plane on Christmas Eve 1971, says Franz Lidz in The New York Times. At 17, she was the sole survivor of the crash. Now, 50 years later, she’s the director of Panguana, a biological research station in the Amazon, where she was heading with her mother that fateful night. She recalls the plane breaking apart and plummeting to earth.

She woke up alone in the belly of the Amazon. Miraculously, dense foliage had cushioned her fall. For a while she lay “like an embryo” in the pouring rain, with a broken collarbone, a sprained knee and one eye swollen shut. But she was no stranger to the rainforest: her parents were zoologists and she had spent plenty of time with them at Panguana. She knew her only chance was to follow moving water to a human settlement.

With just a small bag of sweets to sustain her, she walked, waded and swam through the rainforest for 11 days in “staggering humidity”. River water provided meagre nourishment. She encountered poisonous snakes, swarms of mosquitoes and riverbed stingrays that lashed out at her with “barbed, venomous tails”. Eventually she stumbled into a camp of forest workers, who tended her wounds and took her to safety.

Read the full article here (paywall).