How long can a person last without food or water?

When I read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth my imagination was caught by a part of the story where the heroes are lost without water for days and almost die of thirst. The superb Adrift and Survive the Savage Sea both tell stories about people struggling for survival while lost at sea. It seems that people can survive quite long without food, but lack of water kills pretty quickly.

How Stuff Works has a pretty detailed article on the subject at the moment. What are the answers?

  • How long you can go without food depends a lot on the circumstances. Some people last longer than others. Temperature makes a big difference. Pretty much the same thing for water – circumstances make a huge difference.
  • “Most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks without food as long as they have water”
  • In ideal conditions “a human can probably live for about 3 to 5 days without any water

At the end of the article they have included a little story about a hunger strike by some IRA prisoners in 1981. Nine of these guys starved themselves to death with one guy lasting 73 days without any food!