Thousands of feet above the thick canopy of the Amazon jungle, a passenger plane hits trouble in stormy skies. Then, after lightning strikes the wing, the craft’s fuselage disintegrates, sending 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke hurtling down towards the ground below. She’s still strapped into her seat as she goes into a tailspin. The teenager sees the Amazon coming up to greet her – before, perhaps gratefully, she loses all consciousness.
Juliane was born on October 10, 1954, in Lima, the capital city of Peru. Her German parents, Maria and Hans-Wilhelm, were both zoologists employed by the Javier Prado Museum of Natural History. As a result, Juliane developed a passion for nature from a young age. Then, when she was just 14 years old, the family relocated into the depths of the Amazon rainforest.
There, Maria and Hans-Wilhelm established a research station known as Panguana, where Juliane spent her days being homeschooled and exploring her jungle home. Then, in March 1970, she was sent back to Lima to complete her high school education. And by December of 1971, she was ready to graduate.