The families of Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos are hoping for a miracle even as science nags that one is improbable and rescue crews head into a seventh day of searches today for the two teens missing at sea. Though it seemed unlikely a medley of agencies would continue their hunts much longer, the Coast Guard, which is leading the effort to find the 14-year-old fishermen, insists it remains an "active and open" case now focused off the South Carolina coastline. The very vague rule of thumb is humans can stay alive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food but examples of defying that abound. The longest someone has been known to survive in the open ocean without water was about five days, according to an author on the subject, but whether the boys had supplies, wore life jackets or are clinging to something could help.
Stories of miracle rescues do exist: In 2005, two South Carolina teens were swept out to sea on their small sailboat during a storm. After searching for them for several days, the Coast Guard and state officials began referring to their effort as a recovery operation, not a rescue—yet the teens were found alive after nearly a week at sea. A key difference from the Florida teens, though: They were still aboard their boat. But Perry's stepfather, Nick Korniloff says if anyone could survive such an ordeal, it's these two. "They knew how to throw anchors ... how to start the engine ... what to do if an adult fell off the boat," he says. "They worked at learning ... and being trained more and more about being ... skilled [boaters] and [fishermen]." (Read more Florida stories.)