On Christmas Eve 1971, the packed LANSA flight 508 from Lima to Pucallpa was struck by lightning and went down in dense jungle hundreds of miles from civilization. Of its 93 passengers, only one survived. Juliane Koepcke, the seventeen-year-old child of famous German zoologists.
She'd been thrown from the plane two miles above the forest canopy, but had sustained only a broken collarbone and a cut on her leg. With incredible courage, instinct and ingenuity, she survived three weeks in the "green hell" of the Amazon - using the skills she'd learned in assisting her parents on their research trips into the jungle - before coming across a loggers hut, and, with it, safety.
Now she tells her fascinating story for the first time, and in doing so tells us about her 'Gerald Durrell' childhood - with a menagerie of wild, exotic and sometimes dangerous pets - about how she learned to survive at her parents ecological station deep in the rainforest and about her present-day commitment to this wildlife as a biologist and dedicated environmentalist.
About the Author
Juliane Koepcke grew up in Lima and the rainforest, where her parents founded the Panguana ecological research station. She earned a doctoral degree in biology and works for the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich. Juliane is continually drawn back to the terrain that threatened to take her, returning to Peru every year where she runs Panguana, which she is working to expand and turn into a nature reserve. She recently received the prestigious Corine Literature Prize for her book. Her incredible story was documented in the film Wings of Hope, directed by Werner Herzog.
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Comments about When I Fell From The Sky:
This book provides yet another example of how some sections of the media will make it up if they can't get the facts. The author needed many types of courage in her life: the type that would see her, aged seventeen, survive a plane crash and find her way through Amazonian jungle for eleven days before she is miraculously saved; the courage to live afterwards with the idea she may have contributed to her mother's loss of life; and the relentless onslaught of media and public interest in her story when she is a shy and private person. How painful it must be for her to still suffer the lies and inventions of others who, being unable to gain an interview with her, decide to make up a story instead which is often cruel and unsympathetic.
Juliane Koepcke's parents, her unusual childhood, the plane crash and its aftermath and her career in biological science make absorbing reading. She writes clearly and maintains the reader's interest about her and her parents' deep regard for the jungle environment and how they came to be there. Her father's remarkable journey from Germany to Peru during the Second World War is fascinating as is the love story between him and Juliane's mother.
Setting the record straight about what really happened when the plane carrying Juliane and her mother crashed on Christmas eve, and how she managed to survive when no-one else did is the reason she gives for writing this book. It serves other causes too though. The personal attributes she credits with ensuring she made it out alive provide valuable life lessons.
This strength of character is also apparent in the final chapters of the book when Juliane describes her long fight to have the Peruvian property her parents bought and ran as a scientific research centre turned into a nature reserve for future generations. I did find this part of her autobiography dragged a little even though I agree with her proposal, but this is a small quibble about a book I enjoyed reading very much.
'She did not leave the airplane, the airplane left her' Werner Herzog, director of Grizzly Man 'Juliane Koepcke writes compellingly of the crash and her unusual childhood' Financial Times (DE) 'Exhilaratingly written' Express (DE) 'Her memoir is a gripping account of a harrowing adventure and an inspiring life' Publishers Weekly 'Her account of the 11-day trek is enthralling. In shock and suffering from injuries, she made it to a river's edge without her eyeglasses, wearing just a minidress and one sandal. It was rainy season, so there was no fruit to eat. She was either freezing or boiling, set upon by bugs. She contended with stingrays, snakes, king vultures and caimans. Eventually, local woodcutters found her and mistook her for a water goddess. Brought to safety, she became an international icon of hope.' Maclean's Magazine
Number Of Pages: 227
Published: 19th March 2012
Dimensions (cm): 21.5 x 13.7 x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.305