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How the ‘North Pond Hermit’ survived three decades alone in the woods

How the ‘North Pond Hermit’ survived three decades alone in the woods

Culture

In 1986, a 20-year-old Christopher Knight left his home only to disappear into the woods…on purpose.

He remained in the woods for almost three decades, until he was arrested for breaking into neighboring homes for food. The story of the North Pond Hermit has continued to confound police and residents for years.

Christopher Knight heads into the woods

Back in the late ’80s, a man named Christopher Knight was only 20-years-old when he decided to leave his family home in Massachusetts to head towards Maine. It was there that he disappeared without a trace. On that fateful day, he decided to turn his back on society for three decades.

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He abandoned his car in the middle of nowhere and decided to descend deep into the woods, with just some basic camping supplies to keep him company. He didn’t think to bring many of his belongings. Although he packed like he was going on vacation, his goal was to make the situation permanent, leaving his family members and co-workers confused and worried.

His reason for leaving

Christopher Thomas Knight was raised in a small town near Massachusetts. He grew up in a typical environment, but he just found it difficult to connect with those around him. In fact, he disliked social environments so much, that he decided to run away from the world in 1986 to live by himself in the middle of nowhere.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

After his disappearance, he was never reported missing, so he continued to roam without a plan in mind. He told GQ, “I had a backpack and minimal stuff. I had no plans. I had no map. I didn’t know where I was going. I just walked away.”

The lonely trek begins

When Knight decided once and for all that he was going to embark on his lonesome quest, he didn’t have a clear idea as to where he should go. He simply drove his car as far as he could into the forest, and when he ran out of gas, he parked and got out.

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Image by Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He left the keys in the console and took off into the woods. At first, he would move around from place to place, but he soon settled on a spot where he almost guaranteed he would never be found. It was here that he set up a nylon tent, not that much different than what you would camp with, and this tent became his home for almost 30 years.

Surviving in the harsh winters

Knight never once lit a fire, even on the coldest night, out of fear that the smoke would give away his position. He went to extreme measures to make sure that he would never be found out by the outside world that was now dead to him. He spray-painted almost every item he brought with him in camouflage, especially the shiny items that would give off a reflection.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

During the fall months, much like an animal going into hibernation, he would gorge on sugars and alcohol, to keep him fat for the approaching cold. In the winter, he grew his beard long and would sleep at odd hours to avoid freezing to death during the night.

Losing touch with reality

Over the next 27 years, Knight would live as a hermit in the woods and completely lose touch with the society that bustled beyond the trees. During the time that Knight was in the woods, he had never seen a modern phone, a text message, or an email. He was clueless about every social media site, and he had no idea what the internet was.

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The only connection Knight had to what was going on outside was the books, magazines, and radios that he would steal during his raids. Over the years, Knight would rely on thieving although he “was always scared” when he crept around in the middle of the night stealing items, but he knew it was something he had to do to survive.

There were rules he had to follow

Although Knight had stooped to such illegal tactics to survive, there were still rules that he had to follow to avoid being caught. He would only steal at night so that he could remain undetected, using the darkness as an invisibility cloak.

Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The houses he would break into had to be empty, and when it snowed, he could no longer steal from homes so that he wouldn’t leave footprints in the deceiving snow. To get around this, he would use canoes that he would “borrow,” from surrounding homes and float larger items across the lake to get back to his camp.

Becoming the North Pond Hermit

In his backpack, he would carry tools like screwdrivers and pen-lights that he would use to get away with his selfish pursuits. He would make sure that a watch was on him at all times so that he could always return to his camp before the sun woke the neighborhood from their slumber.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Over time, his presence began to alert the people in the area, and he became a character from folklore. He became a mystical being, much like a troll or a fairy, that would steal things from their yards or their homes. They began to refer to him as the North Pond Hermit.

Catching a glimpse of the North Pond Hermit

Due to the presence of the North Pond Hermit, neighboring residents began setting up traps, alarm systems, and security cameras with the hope of catching the fabled man in the midst of one of his raids. He was elusive, and the traps were set for catching a legend in his wild environment.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Some of the local people would stay up into the wee hours of the night in hopes of at least catching a glimpse of the man. But of course, he was smarter and more cunning than that. One resident told GQ, “we always felt like he was watching us.” Knight’s survival skills weren’t cracked that easily.

The unstoppable resilience of the thief

The residents of North Pond were absolutely floored with what had been going on in their area. Flashlights began missing batteries, steaks were disappearing from the fridge, and new propane tanks had been replaced with old ones. One resident, David Proulx, whose vacation cabin had been broken into over a dozen times exclaimed, “My grandkids thought I was losing my mind.”

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It seemed that no matter how many locks had been placed or alarm systems installed, the North Pond Hermit had an unstoppable resilience. Some residents would leave notes on their doors saying, “please don’t break-in. Tell me what you need, and I’ll leave it out for you.”

The effect of the North Pond Hermit

During a North Pond homeowners’ meeting held in 2002, it was recorded that out of 100 residents who had been in attendance, 75 people had suffered at the hands of the North pond hermit. Pete Cogswell, a resident, told GQ that, “The legend of the hermit lived on for years and years.”

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He continued, “Did I believe it? No. Who really could?” A child at the meeting noted that the man had stolen all of his Halloween candy. He was 10 years old at the time. At the time that Knight was finally caught in 2014, that same little boy would be in his 30s.

One last raid

One night, the hermit set out during the night to go on a raid that would prove to be his last. He decided to hike to the newly built Pine Tree summer camp, which was an hour away from his location. The camp was made up of a few dozen cabins along the shoreline in central Maine.

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

With a twist of his screwdriver, Knight was able to open the dining hall and peruse the items inside. On the night of April 4, 2013, Knight was browsing through a selection of fine entrees such as Smarties and bacon strips, when he set off a motion detector hidden behind the ice machine.

The well-kept hermit

When the alarm went off, it alerted Sergeant Terry Hughes, who had become obsessed with the enigma that was the North Pond Hermit. He rushed over to the camp, prepared to become face to face with a person ready to use any kind of force possible to get away with his newly collected items.

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

When Hughes looked through the window to get a look at his nemesis, he was surprised at the sight. This didn’t look like a man who had been forced out into horrible conditions. His face was freshly shaven, and he was donning warm, wool clothes. Hughes used his phone to call trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, who had also been hunting for the famed hermit.

The man behind the curtain

As the North Pond Hermit began sneaking out of the dining hall, Hughes rushed over to him and shined his flashlight on him, signaling the end of the Hermit’s reign. It’s said that the Hermit complied immediately and didn’t put up a fight. Terry Hughes told National Geographic, “I was prepared to hate this guy.”

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

As he looked upon the man wearing an expensive Columbia jacket, and boots, he found it difficult to hate him as much as he wanted to. After a while, he began to speak. He revealed that his name was Christopher Thomas Knight, and he was born on December 7, 1965.

Three decades without seeing anyone

When asked for an address, he didn’t say anything as he didn’t have one. When asked how long the man had been living in the woods, Christopher Knight paused. He didn’t know. He was unsure as to how much time had gone by since he took up residence in the woods.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He told them that he had lived there since the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster, which happened when he was 20 years old. He was now 47. For over three decades, he hadn’t seen a doctor or seen anyone for that matter. It was revealed that the last time he had come in contact with another human was sometime in the 1990s, when he passed a hiker in the woods and sent a simple “hi,” their way.

Life pre-hermit

Michael Finkle, a writer at GQ, decided to visit Knight in jail, where he got an earful about his life pre-woods residence. It was revealed that Knight had never actually slept in a tent before deciding to reside in one for over 25 years telling Finkle, “A couple of hunting trips I slept in the back of the pickup, but never alone and never in a tent.”

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

His family was made up of incredibly private and quiet people. When asked about his family, Knight admitted, “Culturally my family is old Yankee. We’re not emotionally bleeding all over each other. We’re not touchy-feely. Stoicism is expected.” The emotional solitude was a precursor to his eventual life of total isolation, and serves as an interesting psychological study for what would follow.

His family never alerted police

Christopher Knight grew up with good parents, and he acknowledged that he had “no complaints.” However, after he disappeared, his family didn’t even attempt to search for him or think to alert police. When his brothers, Joel and Tim, visited him in jail, Knight said: “I didn’t recognize them.”

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He continued, “My brothers supposed I was dead, but never expressed this to my mom. They always wanted to give her hope. Maybe he’s in Texas, they’d say. Or he’s in the Rocky Mountains. Look at me, I’m in my prison clothes. That’s not how I was raised. I couldn’t face her.”

Beginning the journey

It’s difficult to understand what drove Knight to want to live this kind of lifestyle. Although he wasn’t the most popular fellow in high school, he still made good grades and graduated early. After high school, he enrolled in a nine-month electronics course at Sylvania Technical School in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It was there that he began working in alarm systems; knowledge that undoubtedly gave him an advantage later on in life. When able to, he purchased a car and then quit his job almost a year later. In 1986, he drove the car to Maine, and began his trek at the edge of Moosehead Lake.

Learning about Asperger’s Disorder

While in jail, it would be discovered that Christopher Knight likely had Asperger’s disorder, which is a “developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication.” While writing his book, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, Mike Finkel asked him why he had turned his back on the world.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Finkel writes, “Chris Knight said he felt very uncomfortable being around other people. Now I had thought at first there might have been a specific triggering action…And he insisted that there was nothing like that at all. He said the tug to be alone was like this gravitational force.”

He was never lonely out there

You would think that spending over two decades in the woods would become pretty dull after a while, right? Well, Christopher Knight didn’t think so. In fact, he embraced his loneliness to the full degree. Finkel writes, “First he was never for a moment, in all 27 years, bored. He was never lonely.”

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He continued, “He said that he felt almost the opposite of that. He said he felt utterly and intricately connected to everything else in the world. It was difficult for him to tell where his body ended, and the woods began. He said he felt this utter communion with nature and with the outside world.”

The way Knight lived

Since being discovered, the police have taken apart much of his camp. He slept in a camping tent, which was covered by several layers of tarp and camouflage. Upon looking inside the tent, there was a metal bedframe that he had taken from Pine Tree Camp in his canoe. He also stole a box spring, mattress, and sleeping bags.

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Image by Andy Molloy /Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Some other necessary toiletries that he stole were toilet paper, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, shampoo, deodorant, razors, flashlights, snow boots, spices, mousetraps, spray paint, and electrical tape. Of course, his diet wasn’t exactly the best, seeing as he didn’t have many options. When searched, they found Marshmallow Fluff, Devil Dogs, peanut butter, Cheetos, honey, graham crackers, Cool Whip, and pudding in his camp.

Charged for the crime

Christopher Knight was charged with burglary and theft, and he was transported to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, where he spent his first nights indoors since the ’80s. Upon discovering that the community and media had referred to him as a “hermit,” he complained. He said, “When I came out of the woods, they applied the label ‘hermit’ to me. Strange idea to me. I had never thought of myself as a hermit.

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Image by Andy Molloy/ Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

He continued, “Then I got worried. For I knew with the label ‘hermit’ comes the idea of crazy.” When Knight appeared in court, he pled guilty to 13 counts of burglary and theft. He received seven months in jail, and a weekly appointment with a judge. He was also ordered to avoid alcohol and find a job or go back to school.

Other hermits

Of course, Christopher Knight isn’t the only one of his kind. There have been hermits recorded all over the world; Knight just happened to be one of the more extreme cases. Sara Maitland is a woman happily living in solitude in Scotland.

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Image by Colin McPherson Corbis via Getty Images

Although she lives in a small home, the nearest neighbor lives miles away. Why does she live this way? To her, the answer is simple. “Ecstasy.” She says, “Silence is a place in which I can find ecstasy. I only get it in silence and most people I know only get it in silence. It is just a fabulous feeling.”

Sara Maitland, the hermit of Scotland

Sara Maitland also makes a point to say that there are many people out there who believe that being a hermit is selfish. She says, “If I say I want to sail a small boat all the way around the world and it will take me two years, everyone says, ‘Oh how exciting!'”

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Image by Colin McPherson Corbis via Getty Images

She continued, “If I say I want to go and sit in my house and not talk to anyone for two years, they say ‘Have you got mental health issues?’ or ‘Why are you so selfish?'” She hilariously adds, “I joke that wanting to be solitary is bad, sad and mad. It’s immoral because it’s selfish. It’s sad because it’ll make you miserable and it’s mad because you must be a nutcase.”

Tom Leppard, the most tattooed senior

Tom Leppard, a.k.a Leopard Man of Skye, is an English-born soldier who was the first to hold the title of the world’s most tattooed man, and later received the title as the most tattooed senior citizen. His entry in the Guiness World Records states, “a leopard-skin design, with all the skin between the dark spots tattooed saffron yellow.”

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Image by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

After working in the armed forces for 28 years, he decided to move into a small hut made from stones and plastic sheets on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, where he remained for 20 years. To shop for his necessities, he would canoe three miles.

A glimpse into how the other half lives

Tom Leppard had no electricity and no furniture, but in 2008, he moved into a one-bedroom terraced home in Broadford, on Skye. He admitted that he had decided to rejoin society due to his age, but has admitted that, “It’s certainly very strange being surrounded by four walls and a roof, but I’ll get used to it.”

Image by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

In comparison to his gas stove and polystyrene and foam bed, he has said, “I’m getting bits of furniture together all the time and I’m getting used to sleeping in a bed at night – it’s certainly more comfortable than I’m used to and electricity is very convenient.”

NEXT: Push it to the limit: the extraordinary people and animals living the extreme life

1. Feeble fanged foe

Straight out of your nightmares, the fangtooth fish is easily capable of surviving ocean depths exceeding 13,000 feet. In other words, there are few places where this little beast cannot journey. Everything has been specifically designed for the inhospitable: eyes scanning in low levels of light, body to endure the 1000+ pounds of pressure and fangs to hook small cretins who get near.

Mysterious Monsters

If it scares you, here’s some consolation: the fangtooth fish has a maximum length of 7 inches; Just as long as the 20 dollar bill. Not so frightening now, eh?

2. Chill out for the winter

Coming back from a heart-stopping incident is a true achievement for any human, but for the Wood Frog—Rana Sylvatica, it happens every winter for hibernation. While scientists don’t fully understand the phenomena of sudden heart-beating, the frog acts like nothing changed and begins to thaw out of a coma-like state.

Anchorage Press

Don’t get any ideas of sticking a wood frog in the freezer though, the process must be gradual, meaning nesting in the opportune area is the first step to frost mummification.

3. Putting “Death” in “Death Valley”

Four. Four people live in Death Valley Junction. 280 in total, that is adjusted for the -55% population “growth.” That’s right, negative population growth. Death Valley hemorrhages their potential population everyday. There are still a few brave souls willing to settle, despite the foreboding name. Here are more facts: it is the hottest habitable place on in the United States.

Pinterest

100° F is considered a mild day during summer months. Flora is present, but impossible long-term crop growth—brought on by heavy salt presence—ensures difficult access to food. Residents have made the simplest adaptation: journey elsewhere for necessary supplies.

4. The highest hiker

Cute, kind and small. A thick exoskeleton ensures the cold doesn’t bother the teeny hiker. The Himalayan Jumping Spider should count its lucky bugs, because there are very few plants, animals or things that can survive 22,000 feet above sea level.

Neo Stuffs

Speaking of bugs, the spider must hope sources of nutrients are swept up the mountain, because flies, moths or anything with wings isn’t capable of flapping at that altitude. Also, it’s the undisputed crowned king of jumping.

5. Cockroach catastrophes

You too might be able to survive nuclear fallout if shedding your skin every so often was an option, but alas, it isn’t. Cockroaches are among the most repulsive bugs by popular vote, but they also happen to edge out humans by eons in adaptability.

New York Times

Proportionally scaling a human’s speed to a cockroach would mean we could run about 190 miles per hour. Plus, the cockroaches shield-like exoskeleton makes it difficult to simply squish. As for food foraging, the cockroach learned to dodge predators and competition by doing everything during the night. Instead of joining the animal kingdom daytime, cockroaches decided to competitively beat them.

6. Opal oasis

If you are a fan of digging, or ever had ambitions to be a mole, the town of Coober Pedy, Australia is the place for you. 1,800 other excited excavators would be willing to show you the ropes. The vast majority of work in this underground town involves the mining of opal. The excavation life couples with the powerful heat to make for extreme living conditions. All mining materials often carry contaminants which could be poses health threats to workers and residents.

Youtube

Not to mention, falling down abandon shafts is a very real possibility. Climbing to get to the next destination is not unheard of in case of cave-ins. Lastly, make sure the tunnel you are under is propped up properly. Many are the treacherous features of Coober Pedy.

7. Down in the deep blue sea

Sponges of the ocean floor and Spongebob, the character, share some characteristics: especially their ability to bounce back from harrowing situations. By virtue of being on the ocean floor, they have surpassed the success for millions of species.

Urban Spa

It is an excellent strategy; most predators have no reason to harm the lounging loofahs, if they can even reach them. The last trick up their sleeve guarantees nothing living will want to touch them: by nestling next to hydrothermal vents, reaching far beyond 500° F, they are virtually isolated and free to carry about their business.    

8. Radioactive residents

Signs warn civilians Danger! Radiation on every turn. Plants, trees and stray grass dies as you progress further into the city. While everything is screaming for you to leave, 600 people have decided to ignore all caution. In 1984, Chernobyl, Ukraine suffered the worst nuclear reactor meltdown the world has ever witnessed.

Inverse

To this day, long term consequences follow when stepping into the city, though dogs and stray animals don’t seem to be too bothered by the force–there’s no shortage of bravery for Chernobyl residents.

9. Bacterial bath

Ever heard of the big fish in a little pond? Archaea, located in the roiling, boiling depths of Yellowstone’s national geysers, are the only fish in the pond. They have no competition because nothing else can survive in a face-melting acidic enclosure.

Trover

Don’t feel too jealous, Archaea have been doing this forever, well, 3.8-plus billion years to be exact. Over such a large expanse of time, they haven’t evolved much, but they maintain the extremophile lifestyle. Archaea are the prime example of ride or die. 

10. Cold never bothered him anyway

Put this little red bark beetle in the freezer. It won’t care, in fact, it will welcome the cold with open arms-er…appendages. Of all the unsuspecting organisms and animals on this list, the red bark beetle has some pretty incredible super powers, including fluids made of antifreeze.

BugGuide

Thousands of years of adaptations yielded proteins that prevent internal fluids from sticking together, which allows safe journey in -100° C weather. If there is a league of superbugs, the red bark beetle would be on the roster.

11. Kilauea killer

Bravery, courage and incredible insurance coverage are the key items to live next door to the titanic Mt. Kilauea volcano. 2,800 people have iron wills to live in such an extreme environment. Besides the looming possibility of a fiery, apocalyptic emergency, there are other unsuspecting consequences associated with a volcanic home: horrendous air.

Imageevent

Once a volcano erupts in an area, SO2, known as Sulfur Dioxide, diffuses with the air and creates a huge health hazard. Staying near an active volcano is equivalent to smoking cigarettes, depending upon proximity. It affects atmospheric pressure, causing headaches, and can bring on acid rain that causes wild swings in humidity. Non-stable conditions are not for the faint of heart.

12. Saharan smarties

The Saharan Desert ant is a wonder in ingenuity. It is thoroughly aware of the sun’s potent UV powers and utilizes silver hairs as reflective material. For survival, the ant must keep its core body temperature at 54° C or below, otherwise, amino acids and proteins will begin to break down. How would humans fare in the Saharan desert sand?

Science

Your feet would melt—literally. 160 F (70 C), the temperature of desert sand with intense sun beating down, would easily cause second degrees burns and would cleanly separate the skin from the foot. Oof.

13. Pals with pompeii worms

Despite its appearance as an creepy nether-demon, the Pompeii worm is actually rather smart in its choice of attire. The spines, frills and tentacle mouth resemble corals or sponges on the seafloor. Camouflaging into the environment protects from predators, but it is capable of much more: friendship. A friendly relationship with bacteria goes a long way when it prevents being burned alive.

National Geographic Spanish

Like sponges, the worms stay near hydrothermal vents, but it’s back cannot stand the heat, so it secretes a mucus that attracts bacteria, who shield the worm from overbearing temperatures. Friendship and ugly looks can go a long way apparently.

14. Clothes covered in creativity

Tube worms, which look more like plants than actual creepy crawlies, are another intelligent organism relying on the power of friendship. Hopefully, you wouldn’t make your friend eat poison, but local bacteria near hydrothermal vents do exactly that and then spit it back out towards the tube worms for nourishment.

Uniprot

The flora, the fleshy tip located at the top is the body of the organism, while it relies on chitinous clothes to protect from physical contact with predators or excessive heat.

15. Socotra serenity

Easily confused with an alien landscape, Socotra is on the Funkiest-Terrains-on-Earth list. It contains an incredible breadth of biodiversity, but a challenging cultural area to cultivate. 60,000 people would probably agree with that statement. Many dozens of flora located here cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Like many extreme locations, the rainfall is ruinous—maybe if you are lucky—in December you will receive 3 inches of rain.

Middle east Eyes

In addition, everything is sparsely located. The encroachment of people has only made the problem worse, now the dying biodiversity and lack of arable land serves as another obstacle. When foraging for food is also extremity, that is a testament to the people who live there.

16. Gaunt Greenland grandpa

Do you really want to live forever? The Greenland shark is definitely trying. Capable of dwelling in freezing water temperatures 1° C, it is also known as the “sleeper” fish because of its amazing energy conservation ability. Ocean temperatures and the subsequent insane lifespan would guarantee there will be only one true survivor after 200 years.

Gazzetta

One certainly extreme case yielded a behemoth that could be fossilized; scientists estimated a Greenland shark captured off the North Atlantic Ocean was 300+ years old, potentially spanning over 500 years of age. We should definitely give him some anti-aging cream though, his age spots are showing.

 

17. Polar bear paradise

Polar bears are good for more than just Coca-Cola commercials—they are also extreme condition champions. Everything on this cute, cuddly creature has an evolutionary purpose. Extraordinary fur blocks out the -50° C average temperature while the white color camouflages them from predators during their youth.

WWF

Upon reaching adulthood, they find no natural predators — claiming their throne and the south pole’s apex predator. Thick paw insulation simultaneously allows for strong grip and excellent swimming ability. With so many tools under its belt, the polar is the Antarctic’s Swiss-Army knife.

18. Mecca melting

Mecca: one of the most beautiful cities to visit as a tourist. As a resident, however, it is more suited for the climate extremist. Temperatures reach 110° F during the day, and only falling to 80° F at night. If they are lucky, Mecca farmers will get 1 inch of rainfall a month.

Steemit

Civilians must also cope with the sporadic weather cycle; they receive close to no rainwater, but suffer many bouts of flash-floods. While crops are dying in drought, a subsequent wave of water often wipes them out.

19. Ghostly ghoul of ocean ground

This fish is very close to resembling a ghost, because it is completely translucent. All of its organs are visible by a quick glance. Observation in its native environment? Much more challenging. The Snailfish dives to absurd depths around 36,000 feet, the approximate ocean depth of the Marianas trench. If you inverted Mt. Everest and placed it underwater, this creature could still dive deeper than any other.

Spiegl

The spherical head and perfectly tailored tail are built for withstanding ludicrous amounts of pressure—thousands of pounds per square inch—that would kill a human in half a second. An excellent example of not judging a book by its cover.

20. Titan tardigrade

Indestructible, bullet-proof and immortal—almost. These odd looking water bears are called tardigrades, Italian for “slow-stepper.” Not every creature can have it all, but the tardigrade has more than any living organism in the survivability department. When NASA pilots threw these 1mm bulbous bears into space, many lived to reproduce, shrugging off a lack of atmosphere like it was a cakewalk.

BBC

How is it capable of the most amazing organic feats we have ever observed? Sitting inside itself and lazing about. The pill shaped body is perfect for retreating, which is exactly what the water bear does when there is a lack of water. Once in sedentary state, it can slow down the metabolism and relax for decades. Talk about being comfortable in your own skin.

21. Coming around the mountain

50,000 people survive daily in conditions that would leave normal people gasping on the floor. Located 10,000 feet above the ground, harboring an average temperature of 35° F year round, the La Rinconada people are made of steel—or zinc, perhaps, because that is what the workers spend all day mining. In addition to the harsh altitude and temperature, all men in La Rinconada are miners, performing backbreaking physical labor.

Magnus Mundi

Perhaps that altitude acclimation pays off, because scientist have found that there is an altitude “gene” passed down for each generation, making it easier to survive. Simply, the longer you suffer high up, the easier it gets.

22. Demon digger

Devil worm. An unpleasant name for a particularly ugly pest. The scientific name Halicephalobus Mephisto translates to “one who does not like light,” An accurate articulation. Located 2.2 miles below the Earth’s surface, bacteria buddies are all the company this guy shares.

Discover magazine

One great advantage? Having a body only 0.2 inches long. Opening a can of devil worms wouldn’t be scary, considering the small size.

23. Sickening Snotties

That is not mucus dripping down from the ceiling, but it certainly has a snotty consistency. Snotties, a microorganism with a less than cute name, are not only poison gobblers, they also dish out poison. It takes one deadly gas, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and turns it into something equally deadly.

Microbes wiki

This interesting gunk is sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which even in small quantities, can easily render a human seriously ill. It’s truly a bacterial goo that would fit nicely in a creepy sci-fi set design.

24. Nematode Nuisance

Whether you are a gardener or not, you’ve probably seen one of these little mischievous munchers before. Gardening with nematodes can a pain, which is reflected well on them, because it highlights ecological success. The nematode is a metaphor for life, where too much of anything in one sitting is bad for your health. Notice a few in your plants and you are a-ok, nevermind the more than the several scuff marks left behind. Now time to worry about plant integrity.

Mother Nature Network

The microscopic nibbler has the ability to put up with the radical heat, cold and pressure within the Earth’s crust. Water? Not a problem, dehydration does nothing to them. Placed hundreds of feet below ground? Just another day at the office.    

25. Aswan aquifer in need of acquisition

Do not let the picture deceive you, it is merely a mirage. Well, not really, but this location in Aswan, Egypt has a secret that makes life difficult. Before the construction of the Aswan dam, the city would get bouts of tremendous flooding. Even more ironic, Aswan gets 1mm (or zilch inches) of rain a year.

Wikipedia

So, suffer a drought of water, then endure a barrage of rain over your village…great. Additionally, during the summer months—100° F is cool day. If you hate humidity, this is your go-to oasis.

26. Budding without a buddy

Bdelloid rotifers have been virgins for millions of years and still lead successful empires of organisms. For most life on earth, sexual reproduction can lead to a more advanced species. So scientists were astounded to find they reproduced asexually, meaning without another partner. How?

Quanta Magazine

The bdelloid packs a little extra—extra chromosomes that is. Each time they reproduce, the surplus of genetic material allows for greater diversity, thus, greater chances of survival.

27. Yakon yucky winter

Oymyakon, arguably the coldest, most inhospitable place for people to live, still houses 500 people. Reaching below -80° F is the norm; quite often, everything in the town will be frozen, rending crops incapable of growth. Cold snaps with little clothes could kill a person within a minute.

Gezilecekyerler

November to January is a particular depressing time, because sun is visible for less than 10% of the month, meaning, a lucky person will see the sun one hour a day. These inhabitants could use a trip to the Bahamas, STAT.   

28. No longer the dead sea

Saltiness in people can be found anywhere. Saltiness in bodies of water spells death for the vast majority of life. A special bacterium, Halobacterium, require large concentrations of salt in order to live. Reproduction is done by binary fission (budding), splitting one bacterium into two.

USA TODAY

37 C or 100 F is the optimal temperature for these microscopic mutants, which makes it even more challenging for any other life to compliment them.  

 

29. Hold your breath for this one

You have heard of living without a brain, but living without oxygen? Impossible. Impossible for all organisms and animals on the planet except for Spinoloricus cinziae—the only known thing on the planet who can survive its whole life without oxygen. It can be found relaxing 10,000 feet below the ocean floor, withstanding the brutal environment of the ocean depths.

Azula

Better yet? This creature was only recently discovered in 2010 and is now the number one contender for something that could tolerate Mars. Our first Martian resident very well could be a bug.


30. Way beyond waterlogged

The wettest place on Earth is not your local waterpark, it is Mawsynram, India, where they log an average of 460 inches of rainfall a year. How much is that? Tilt a school bus longwise towards the sky. Just a few miles east, citizens of Cherrapunji adapted to incredible disruptions and intelligent solutions. Above, living bridges, which can last for hundreds of years, are built from one site to another, avoiding the treacherous waterlogged trenches below.

BBC Earth

Considering the power and frequency of rain, it would otherwise be impossible to grow crops, so Cherrapunji citizens also specialize in shielding their harvest with hand-woven roots and miscellaneous bark to prevent them drowning.

Humans, along with animals, regardless of their conditions, always find a way to overcome any challenges Mother Nature throws their way.

Don’t forget to share this article if you could survive with these people and creatures in extreme conditions!