On October 13th, 1972, a Uruguayan airplane carrying 45 passengers crashed into the middle of the Andes. Extensive search and rescue operations were launched and supported by authorities in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, but after ten days with no results the passengers were presumed dead and the search was called off. Then, 70 days after the crash, two bearded and emaciated boys appeared in Chile, coming on foot out of the Andes and declaring themselves to be passengers of the lost plane. A disbelieving world looked on as the boys led rescuers to discover 14 other survivors from the plane who had lived for over two months on the mountain. Their rescue became an instant media sensation and people from all over the world were aflame to know how they had survived for so long in such a hostile environment. How could such a thing happen?
There were 27 survivors in the initial crash; most were members or supporters of the rugby team which had chartered the plane to fly to Chile for a match. Although they were certain of imminent rescue, the survivors, under the leadership of rugby team captain Marcelo Pérez, organized their efforts over the next few days to clear the plane of debris, melt snow into water to avoid dehydration, and devise ways to keep from freezing to death in the subzero temperatures of the night. They had a small amount of food and wine, and these they rationed severely until rescue would arrive. But no rescue came, and after ten days they heard the news on the small transistor radio they had found in the plane that the search had been called off. Desperate, starving, and with no hope of being saved, the survivors made the difficult decision to eat the bodies of the dead in order to stay alive. With food in their stomachs they were determined to escape on their own, but they still suffered terribly from hunger, cold, sickness, and bad weather. One of the worst moments came on October 29th, when an avalanche hit and filled the plane with snow, killing eight people. One of those eight was Marcelo Pérez, whose death left the group without solid leadership. The void he left was eventually filled by the three Strauch cousins (Eduardo, Fito, and Daniel Fernández), who were trusted and highly respected among the other boys. After the avalanche the remaining survivors were buried alive in the fuselage for three days. Although many of them believed that dying would be easier than going on living, the survivors kept fighting for life and organized expeditions aiming to escape the mountain. Finally, after more than two months on the mountain, two of the boys, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, climbed across the Andes on a heroic ten day journey to civilization and sent help for the rest of the survivors. After spending 72 days on the mountain and enduring unimaginable hardships against all odds, 16 boys were brought home alive. This event quickly became one of the most famous and enduring stories of survival ever told, and the details of what they went through in those 72 days still captivate and inspire the world today.
Now, through Alpine Expeditions, Eduardo Strauch and Ricardo Peña organize yearly trips to the site of the crash, uniting people all over the world through this incredible experience and through the deep friendship which they share.