When the rugby team from Uruguay boarded the plane, they never imagined that weeks later they’d be eating their teammates to survive. Flying over the Andes Mountains, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. “Fasten your seatbelts, we are going to enter some turbulence.” The rugby team was in good spirits, so they didn’t take the pilot seriously. They began to throw a rugby ball around and sang, “Conga, conga, conga, the plane is dancing conga!” But then, one of the players looked out the window and yelled, “Aren’t we flying too close to the mountains?!” The pilot began descending way too early and crashed into the side of the mountain.
There were 45 people on the plane, but only 16 survived. They were stranded in freezing temperatures on a barren mountain without warm clothing, food or anything for heat. Many of the survivors had broken limbs or other injuries. Rescue parties from three different countries searched for the plane but had no luck. After eight days the search parties gave up.
The survivors were truly desperate. They had just a few chocolate bars and several bottles of wine. They divided the meager amount of food between themselves until it was gone. When the food ran out, they realized that they had only two options. Starve or eat the dead bodies of their friends and teammates. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They chose survival.
It was 1972 and at the time, survivor Roberto Canesso was a 19-year-old medical student. Since he knew the most about the human body, it was his responsibility to cut away the flesh that could be eaten. For Roberto, it was a logical decision. The flesh had much-needed protein and fat, and he tried to think of it like cow’s meat. But he says even though it made sense logically, it was very difficult to eat the bodies of his friends. He felt like he was disrespecting his friends. But then he realized that if he died, he would have been happy and proud that his friends were able to survive using his body.
After two months of being stranded on the mountain, three of the men decided to try and hike out. Luck was on their side and after hiking for more than a week in terrible conditions, they found help. The remaining survivors were rescued just a few days later.