How a Quick Walk Turned into a 17-Day Survival Ordeal in the Hawaiian Jungle

by | May 30, 2019 | Emergency Preparedness, Headline News | 25 comments

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    This article was originally published by Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper. 

    More than 2 weeks ago, the news was abuzz about Amanda Eller, a 37-year-old physical therapist/yoga instructor who took a walk in a Maui forest and never came back to where her car was parked. Theories abounded about Amanda because she’d left her water bottle, cellphone, and wallet in her car. People wondered whether she’d been kidnapped or murdered.

    The official search was called off after only 72 hours, leaving the hunt for Amanda in the hands of hundreds of volunteers who combed the forest. As well, people all over the world made donations to help fund the search.

    The Makawao Forest Reserve is a 2000 acre area on the north side of Maui that is surrounded by even more thousands of acres of dense forest, steep ravines, lava rocks, and vegetation so thick that it often must be hacked with machetes to get through it.

    There’s a lot we can learn from the survival stories of other people and  Amanda’s story also has many lessons. While I’ll point out a few mistakes, keep in mind that nearly every survival story begins with something going sideways. Amanda survived a situation many people could not, and did so barefoot and with a fractured leg. Amanda did a few things wrong but did a LOT of things right.

    How did she get lost in the first place?

    Amanda told reporters she didn’t take her water or phone because she was planning only a quick walk. One thing Selco drummed into us during our course is that you don’t even walk across the street without a layer one that contains at the least some water purification tablets, a lighter, a whistle, a trauma bandage, and a knife.

    According to news reports, Amanda intended to walk a quick three-mile trail. But when she stopped to rest, she got turned around and that was when things went wrong.

    ‘I wanted to go back the way I’d come, but my gut was leading me another way — and I have a very strong gut instinct.

    ‘So, I said, my car is this way and I’m just going to keep going until I reach it.

    ‘I heard this voice that said, “If you want to live, keep going”.

    ‘And as soon as I would doubt my intuition and try to go another way than where it was telling me, something would stop me, a branch would fall on me, I’d stub my toe, or I’d trip. So I was like, “O.K., there is only one way to go”.

    ‘The whole time I was going deeper into the jungle, even though I thought I was going back where I came from. (source)

    Unfortunately, her instincts led her astray. Anyone who regularly walks in wild areas should learn the basics of navigation using the sun, or better yet a compass,  (You can get watches that have compasses built in. Be sure to calibrate your compass with a known accurate compass.)

    How she survived

    Amanda told reporters she hiked for about 14 hours the first day hoping to get back to her car. She was only wearing a tank top and capri pants. Temperatures in that area drop to about 60 degrees at night.

    By day 3, she stopped looking for the trailhead and began searching for water. Generally, when you’re lost, water should be a resource you look for sooner due to the immediate risk of dehydration. This was the same day she fell off a cliff and injured her leg, fracturing it and tearing her meniscus. The following day, she found water indeed when a flash flood swept her shoes away. Now, injured and barefoot, she was not moving as fast, and she was crawling instead of walking, but the entire time, she was moving deeper into the jungle. From her hospital bed, she said, “I heard this voice that said, ‘If you want to live, keep going.”

    She covered herself with ferns and leaves at night. She slept in the mud, and another night in the den of a wild boar. (It’s interesting to note that boars are the most dangerous wildlife on the island. Aside from boars, there aren’t any large predators.)

    She ate wild strawberry guavas, berries, and moths for 17 days. Fortunately, she had learned enough about the local flora to know what she could safely eat. She stayed by a stream, from which she drank water.

    But she was beginning to lose hope. “I was getting so skinny that I was really starting to doubt if I could survive,”

    The rescue

    Even though officials gave up on the search after 72 hours, the locals did not. Volunteer search parties combed the area near where Amanda’s car had been found.

    Meanwhile, an army of volunteers turned seemingly every stone looking for her. They rappelled into ravines, searched caves, free-dove into pools and navigated fast-moving streams looking for Ms. Eller. Others killed aggressive wild boars and checked their intestines for human remains. At least one volunteer was attacked by a boar. (source)

    A friend of mine in Hawaii joined the search and told me that the volunteers were searching miles and miles on foot, day and night, despite the lack of official support. Finally, by sheer good fortune, Amanda was out in the open when a search helicopter flew over.

    Rescue workers had been combing the thickly wooded 1.5-mile radius around Ms. Eller’s car. But on a whim, the searchers in the helicopter on Friday decided to go farther, about seven miles from the central search area by air — the equivalent of 30 miles walking in such rough conditions, said Javier Canetellops, a search coordinator who was in the helicopter…

    …On Day 17, Ms. Eller was near a stream searching for “some plant to eat for dinner and some place to sleep that wasn’t directly in the mud” when she saw a helicopter. She said she had seen and heard multiple helicopters fly above her during her ordeal, according to her friend Ms. York, but none had spotted her. This one did.

    “I looked up and they were right on top of me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just broke down and started bawling.” (source)

    Here’s the footage of Amanda’s rescue:

    Rescuers say that Amanda was found in an extremely treacherous area, deep in H’aiku’ several miles above Twin Falls. She was immediately airlifted to a hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. In the following video, a rescuer described finding Amanda.

    Amanda had a lot to say about the volunteers who searched for her and about her “spiritual journey” while she was lost. Here’s her statement from the hospital.

    And finally, this is a press conference held at the hospital updating us on Amanda’s condition.

    Amanda walked with a fractured tibia, severe sunburns, infected wounds in her lower extremities, and a torn meniscus. Miraculously, her doctor said she was well-hydrated when she was rescued and that she looks great. She did not contract any issues from drinking water from the stream. Physicians expect a full recovery.

    Her doctor chalks a great deal of her survival up to the fact that she was very healthy and well-nourished before her ordeal.

    What do you think?
    When I heard about this story and a week had gone past, I certainly didn’t expect to hear a happy ending. In nearly every survival situation, mistakes are made. Amanda’s will to live helped propel her through what must have been a terrifying two and a half weeks.

    Could you survive 17 days in the wilderness? What do you think of Amanda’s story?


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      1. Stupidity. How one gets lost for 17 days on a small island.

        Note to editor, the human adult can go months without food, the record is over a year without food. Fresh water can be found plentiful on the island.

        So what is the point of this story, I see it as a story regarding stupidity, not some hardship or even heroism. Of course you white knight lime haircolored cuck-a-doodle-genderlessvaginas will poo-poo this.

        • Is this to say that breatharianism was your survival strategy?

        • I’ve been to Maui. Road to Hana is the best for great waterfalls, and you can take trails deep into the jungle. Maui would be a great place to get lost. I would leave a note. “Do NOT Attempt to find me, leave me alone, I stumbled into the best Free Growing Weed forest in Maui” Yours truly., See ya’ll in a few years. Everything grows on Maui, without hardly trying. Go eat some pineapple and mangos, fruits, all good.

        • Yeah like you said, either she was incredibly stupid or this was all staged. Probably looking for some, GoFundMe dollars.

        • Bert, the case of a man going one year without food is misleading because that man was obese. He had ample fat stored for such a long fast.

          Dehydration is what kills. People get most of their water from food. But if you stop eating, you don’t get that water. One must be sure to drink plenty of water, especially when fasting.


          • In some belief systems, the ‘nectar of immortality’ is composed of the 5 products of the holy cow. The 3 most-polite products are ghee, milk, and curd. It is put in tea, and they say no solid food was eaten.



        • A 3 square mile radius in thick wooded areas is a LOT of terrain.
          City and suburban people may not realize the fact that sound doesn’t travel nearly as well in thick wooded areas like it does in flat land and the southwest desert..Visibility is also extremely limited in thick wooded areas..A person can scream to the top of their lungs where I live and the sound wouldn’t even travel 1,000 yards,let alone 1 mile..Instead of spending the majority of time online or staring at a cellphone people need to learn basic survival skills and practice them often..

        • You see those fat lazy slobs riding carts. I’d luv to say “git off your as$ you slob and start walking your slob-self off.” Those carts are for the handicap not lazy slobs like you.

          • Fat people in Walmart carts remind me of the flying fat man, Baron Harconan, in the movie Dune.

        • Good one bertie!

      3. if your dumb you better be tough

      4. May I suggest lots of water, guavas, strawberries, and a mud bath, for anyone having a problem with that.

        I was thinking of the standard 1/4 mi track, or the 1/2 mi for scale and also the myth about sirens.

        And, this seems like a religious problem.

      5. I live on Maui, theres either uphill or down hill, that area she was lost in i know well,
        Whitless wonder is all i have to say

        • Nail,
          I’m not that familiar with Maui, since I’m a Big island guy, but a place nicknamed “Valley isle” and a broken leg I’d describe her as stuck, not lost.
          The one big rule the lady violated, is she did not let someone know where she was going and stick to that plan. She decided to follow some Menehune into the sh it and got hurt.
          You and I both know that it is easy to “disappear” in Hawaii
          outer islands. What I found interesting is that the local Cops don’t have a lot of search assets eg. infared and night vision. They will have a rough time confiscating our registered guns, when they finally decide to grab them.

          • Rellik
            I was surprised with the lack of thermal, my first thing would have been to go up in the state chopper at night with the thermal scope, it sees stuff from 200m fairly easily, flying just over the canopy you see all sorts of stuff,
            Drone with a thermal camera seems a basic piece of hardware,

            Yea, its easy to disappear,

            Now i think perhaps even easier than i thought.

            Panaewa forest

      6. Case of having “book smarts” but lacking in COMMON SENSE..

      7. She must have gotten a hold of some pretty damn good weed in that forest to get that lost for that long in 3 square miles.

      8. One person hears voices and invents AC. Another person hears voices and goes off a cliff.

      9. Heard a voice saying “go father if you want to live.”

        #1 Search and Rescue advice for the lost: Stay Put!

        “I don’t need no man…”
        Women navigate by landmarks. Men navigate by cardinal directions and headings/bearings. There wasn’t a GAP or Starbucks to reference.

        Finds a stream but doesn’t follow it to the ocean (or even think, “hmmm I didn’t pass a stream on my way in here, but I’ll keep going if I want to live.”).

        Branch fell on her; therefore, can’t turn back, must “keep going if I want to live.”

        I feel sorry for the Boar who had to die because this moron can’t put her legs into “Reverse.”

      10. In the Left’s never ending search for universal brotherhood, inclusivity, unicorns, fairy dust and gender neutral glitter, another New Age acolyte walks into the magic forest unprepared.
        Apparently, namaste, the heart chakra, and her mystical third eye wasn’t enough to rescue her.
        Kind of reminds me of paying $11,000.00 for a permit to climb Mt. Everest and having your oxygen source run out while waiting in line to make it to the summit. Darwin award winners the whole lot!
        Now be prepared for a Go Fund Me account in her name, a candlelight vigil at the yoga studio (to honor her “struggle”), a vegan potluck, numerous interviews by the MSM, and a book deal.
        When did honoring/rewarding ineptness, carelessness, and stupidity become the thing to do?

      11. We all screw up. 17 days with a broken ankle. THIS my friends is a woman. If her boyfriend isn’t man enough to marry her immediately, I will.

      12. She used her Yoga training to follow the sun to find her way out. Unfortunately that meant she was going east in the morning, south at noon and west in the afternoon. Then in the morning she was going east again …

      13. In 1967, at 11 year old I got turned around in the woods going for a walk in the middle of March in Wisconsin behind my grandparents farm. I got turned about in a swamp on an cloudy overcast day by 180 degrees. I walked a straight line when I realized I was not where I had intended to end up (as I already knew how to do) until I came to a road, which I followed to a home to call my parents. These people did not have a phone as it was a quite rural area, but gave me a ride to their daughters house to call. I had went for that walk in the woods behind my grandparents farm about 1 PM and had rescued myself with the adults help by 7 PM. I had covered over 20 miles in 5 hours. I question this woman’s story if she was an avid hiker. she had another agenda or did everything wrong.

        • She was in tropical vegetation. A mountainous area. With a broken ankle.
          She was not in flat land woods luckily finding a paved road.

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