Sea and Shipwreck Survivors

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1. Introduction

Many of us here stories about people who survived horrendous, unlikely circumstances and wonder if we would be able to persevere in such situations. We watch movies like Castaway and try to imagine ourselves trying to survive on the open sea. There are so many factors that could affect someone’s ability to survive such an ordeal. Some of them we can control, like preparedness, and others we are at the mercy of, like the weather. Thousands of people have been lost at sea, many of them never heard from again. But there are several throughout history who have survived against the odds and lived to see their loved ones again.

2. Josh Long and Troy Driscoll

Josh Long and Troy Driscoll are two best friends who shared a love of fishing. In April of 2005, the two boys, ages seventeen and fifteen, launched their boat off of the coast of South Carolina on a shark fishing excursion. In their excitement, the boys failed to notice that the beach had set up their rip-tide warning flags. Before they could do anything to stop it, they had been swept out into the ocean in a matter of minutes. While struggling to paddle back to shore, Josh accidentally knocking his fishing rod into the water; then, in his frustration, he threw their bait in, too. Without fresh water, food, or a means of getting any, they were stuck at sea.

As if the prospect of being lost at sea without food or water were not bad enough, the boys were also faced with stifling heat and inescapable sun exposure. At first, they would take short swims in the water to keep cool, but before long they had gained the attention of sharks that began hanging around near their boat. The boys survived on the boat for six days without any water and only eating the occasional jellyfish. After six days, they had drifted one hundred miles north and seven miles away from the coast (Kropf). The boys had given up hope of being rescued or surviving and had each scratched good-bye messages into the boats for their families. However, they spotted a boat and were able to signal it to stop and rescue them. Once rescued, they were immediately taken to the hospital and treated for dehydration and severe sunburn. Doctors who treated them reported that if they had been out there for only a few more hours, Troy would have died (Vrey).

3. Brad Cavanagh and Deborah Kiley

In Autumn of 1982, a crew of five people began a boating trip from Maine to Florida. They were John Lippoth and his girlfriend Meg Mooney, Mark Adams, Brad Cavanagh, and Deborah Kiley. The trip was troubling from the very beginning, as Mark and John were both heavy drinkers and did not get along well at all. On the second night at sea, fifteen foot waves and sixty knot winds began railing against the boat (Vrey). They decided to take turns keeping watch over the storm during the night. During John and Mark’s shift, though, the others woke up to find the boat sinking; John and Mark had been drinking and fallen asleep.

The only life raft was torn away in the storm and the only option left was an inflatable boat. Though they all made it off the boat and swam to the inflatable, Meg had gotten caught in the rigging while trying to get off the sinking ship and had suffered deep lacerations in her arms and legs. The storm kept flipping over the inflatable, making it impossible for them to get into it until it ended eighteen hours later. Due to her injuries, Meg had to be supported by the others the entire time. By the time they were able to get into the inflatable, Meg’s blood had attracted countless sharks that stalked them for the remainder of their voyage. She slipped into a near-catatonic state by the third day from blood poisoning and barely moved or spoke. In their desperation, Mark and John began drinking sea water, causing them to slip into delusion. John mentioned that he was going to get cigarettes and jumped into the water. He was able to swim a short distance before being pulled under the water by sharks (Vrey). Shortly after, Mark decided he would feel better if he just took a quick dip in the cool water. He was only in the shark-infested water for a few minutes before he, too, became fish food. On the fifth day, Brad and Deborah awoke to find that Meg had died. They rolled her body into the sea. Later that day, they were spotted by a boat and rescued.

4. The Sam Blas Nayarit Fishermen

Three fisherman from San Blas Nayarit- Salvador Ordonez, Lucio Rendon, Jesus Eduardo Vivand, and two companions wet out on a shark fishing trip in a twenty five foot fiberglass vessel on the twenty-eighth of October in 2005. Then men set their bait and equipment and went to sleep, expecting a huge catch when they awoke. However, when they checked their equipment in the morning, it was gone, and they spent the rest of their fuel and the next few hours searching the ocean for their riggings (“Mexican Fisherman Recount 9 Months Adrift at Sea”). They had run out of gas and were out too far to paddle back. On top of that, the winds kept sweeping them further out to sea.

Their boat held supplies to last them for four days, but when it ran out, they had nothing. They went three days after their supply ran out without any food or water. On the fourth day without water, it began to rain and they were able to clean out their fuel containers and fill them with fresh water. The men were only able to eat twice during the month of November. The first time, they caught a sea turtle that had surfaced for air. The two companions had a hard time eating the raw flesh and eventually starved to death near the end of November (Vrey). The surviving three continued to live on turtles and seabirds; by the end of their ordeal, the ‘turtle tally’ they had scratched into the boat number over one hundred. Eventually, barnacles began to build up on the side of the boat and they used them for bait on hooks they made from screws. This enabled them to catch fish and they even salted and dried some of their food for the times they were unable to catch any. They were able to stave off scurvy because of the small amounts of Vitamin C found in raw fish (Vrey). After the first week of August in 2006, the men’s boat was stopped by a Taiwanese man on his fishing boat radar and they were rescued. They had drifted more than five thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean and were only two hundred miles from the cost of Australia (Squires). Their nearly ten months at sea earned them the keepers of the record for longest sea survival.

5. The Bailys

In 1973, Maurice and Maralyn Baily were several months into their journey on their yacht from South Hampton to New Zealand, where they were immigrating, before something terrible happened. They last anyone had heard from them had been in February of 1974 when they sent a postcard to family that they had made it safely through the Panama Canal. Not long after, though, their boat was struck by a whale, leaving a huge hole in the side of the boat. The Bailys began inflating their life raft and an extra inflatable dingy, throwing their possessions, food, and water into the raft and fastening the two vessels together. Among the things they were able to bring with them were a small oil burner, knives, their passports, rubber and glue for patches, a map, a compass, and a water container (Vrey).

The Bailys were able to survive for the first few days on the food they were able to bring with them and on rain water they were able to collect. When their food supply ran out, they caught turtles, birds, fish, and the occasional shark with their bare hands or with hooks they had made from safety pins. A total of seven ships passed them and they were unable to flag any of them down. After months without rescue, they were losing hope; their clothes began rotting off their bodies and they developed severe sores and sunburn. Their inflatable vessels were deteriorating and needed to be reflated every day. Finally, after almost one hundred twenty days at sea, they were rescued on the thirtieth of June in 1974 (Martins). They had been spotted by a Korean fishing boat when the crew saw a mysterious blob in the middle of the ocean and decided to check it out. The Bailys were slipping in and out of consciousness and were unable to stand or function without any help. They each had lost more than forty pounds and drifted almost fifteen hundred miles (Vrey). The Bailys wrote a book about their ordeal and even bought another boat later and went on various excursions.

6. Amanda Thorns and Dennis White

Amanda Thorns, her father William, and her godfather Dennis White set sail from Cape Cod in November of 2010 when Amanda was twenty five and the other two were sixty four. Amanda had sailed around Cape Cod with her father before, but this trip would be her first experience sailing into ‘blue water’. Around noon on the day they set out, the three were forced into the cabin while a storm thundered against their ship. The storm continued for four days and Captain Thorns, Amanda’s father, volunteered to keep watch while Amanda and Dennis slept below deck. Unfortunately, waves had swelled to thirty feet, and when one swept across the ship’s deck, it took the mast, most of the riggings, and the Captain with it. Amanda and Dennis attempted to rescue him, but he was caught in lines from the equipment that washed overboard. Amanda told her father she loved him one last time and she kissed his outstretched hand before being pulled beneath the waves.

The storm continued for another three days while Amanda and Dennis mourned the loss of William. Amanda later said, “I did want to sit down and cry. I didn’t want to go on. I did want to jump into the ocean. [But] part of me that I didn’t know was there was bound and determined to get through it.” (Springer). They had to constantly bail water from the bottom of the ship in order to stay afloat. The boat had lost all of its power resources and they had none of the rigging equipment they originally left with. They were left with no means of communicating with anyone or calling for help. They did not even have any GPS equipment so nobody knew exactly where they were. As they heard the anchor and mast, which was hanging off the side of the boat, slamming into the vessel’s side over and over again, they waited for the hull to crack and the boat to go down. They tried unsuccessfully to signal passing ships.

After ten days without the Captain, Dennis managed to pull the anchor aboard and tied the mast from the boat’s dingy to what was left of the ship’s mast. It was able to catch wind and the duo sailed fifty miles that day. The second day, they shot off more flares and caught the attention of a passing tanker. They were seen and rescued, taken to Bermuda on the twenty first of November. Though Amanda and Dennis are clearly still deeply affected by the events they had to endure, they both feel blessed to be alive. Of her father’s death, Amanda stated, “If you are going to go, what better way to go? I get peace knowing that my father died doing his very favorite thing with his very favorite person. That’s what I’m sort of clinging to right now.” (Springer).

7. Conclusion

The basic rule of survival is the rule of three; we can survive three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food (“Wilderness Survival Rules of 3”). But what about the people who prove this rule wrong? Something as simple as a safety pin and some string could make all the difference in whether or not someone survives. Sometimes desperation causes our ingenuity to kick in and we surprise ourselves. Could you survive if you were lost at sea?

Works Cited

Kropf, Schuyler. “Second Chance”. The Post and Courier. The Post and Courier, 24 Apr. 2010. Web. 14 Aug. 2016. <

Martins, Daniel. “Six tales of castaways who defied and defeated the ocean”. The Weather Network. The Weather Network, 10 Deb. 2014. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.<

“Mexican Fishermen Recount 9 Months Adrift at Sea”. Fox News, 22 Aug. 2006. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. <

Springer, John. “Daughter recounts the harrowing storm at sea that killed her father”. Today. Today, 10 Dec. 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. < harrowing-storm-sea-killed-her-father/#.V7JPRpgrLIU

Squires, Nick. “Questions over lost crew face fishermen adrift for 10 months”. The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 23 Aug. 2006. Web. 14 Aug. 2016.<

Very, Christine. “Top 10 Sea Survivors”. Listverse, Listverse Ltd., 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. <

“Wilderness Survival Rules of 3- Air, Shelter, Water, and Food.” Backcountry Chronicles., 2011. Web. 15 Aug. 2016. <