While the ocean is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also incredibly dangerous. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fisherman with years of experience or a novice just starting out; between mechanical failures, unexpected weather, and even sea creatures, sometimes things just go very wrong.
If you were to find yourself stranded in the open ocean, would you know how to survive? If the answer is “no,” you might want to take a lesson from these 20 people who set out to sea and sailed into the unthinkable…
1. Steve Callahan: This inventor was attempting to sail across the Atlantic in 1981 when a whale struck his boat, effectively destroying it. He managed to secure a life raft with necessary supplies and survived 76 days until fishermen spotted him.
2. Harrison Okene: This man was actually using the toilet when his ship sank off the coast of Nigeria in 2013. All the other crew members died, but Harrison survived, trapped in an air pocket.
3. Matthew Bryce: This 22-year-old surfer was riding the waves off the Scottish coast in 2017 when he was pulled 13 miles into the sea. He survived 32 hours, thanks to his wet suit and surfboard.
4. Louis Jordan: In 2005, Louis’s fishing boat capsized, destroying any means he might have had to call for help. He broke his shoulder, but that didn’t keep him from hanging on for 66 days! He credited rainwater, using his clothes as a fishing line, and the power of prayer for his survival.
5. William and Simone Butler: In 1989, whales attacked this couple’s massive boat. Before abandoning ship, they managed to grab a water purifier and a fishing rod! These items kept them alive for two months, until they were found by the Costa Rican Coast Guard.
6. Terry Jo Duperrault: Terry Jo was just 11 when a family vacation turned tragic in 1961. She was on a chartered boat off the coast of Florida when she awoke to find that the captain had murdered her family. He tried to harm her, too, but she escaped using a dinghy. She survived hypothermia and was rescued three days later.
7. Samu Perez, Filo Filo, and Edward Nasau: In 2010, these three Samoan teens set sail from the South Pacific and disappeared soon after. Everyone was so sure they were dead that a funeral was held. Thankfully, 50 days later, they were found and rescued off the coast of Fiji.
8. Burmese fishermen: In 2009, two men from Burma survived for 25 days after their boat sank off the coast of Australia. They managed to outlast sharks and utter starvation, all from inside a tiny cooler they were using as a lifeboat!
9. Jose Salvador Alvarenga: If this name rings a bell, that’s because he’s one of the most infamous lost-at-sea survivors—he was accused of eating his shipmate in order to stay alive for 14 months in 2014. He claimed his fellow fisherman died of starvation and thirst; he only survived by drinking turtle’s blood…
10. John Glennie, Rick Hellriegel, Jim Nalepka, and Phil Hofman: These four friends were excited to sail from their native New Zealand to the island of Tonga in 1989. However, their boat was capsized by a massive wave. The men survived on the wreckage for 118 days before they eventually washed back up on New Zealand’s shore.
11. Nathan Carman: In September 2016, Nathan and his mother, Linda, set out from Rhode Island to go on an overnight sail. Neither expected that their engine room would flood. Linda was never found, but Nathan managed to survive. He was rescued 100 miles off the coast after a full week at sea.
12. Adrian Vasquez: This 18-year-old and his two friends decided to go night-fishing off the coast of Panama in 2012.They lost control of the boat in the strong currents and were swept out to sea. Fishermen near the Galapagos islands spotted Adrian, the sole survivor, 22 days later.
13. Hiromitsu Shinkawa: After a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, it wiped out every structure, including Hiromitsu’s home. Miraculously, the 60-year-old man survived by clutching onto a raft made out of his roof for two days before he was found.
14. Salvador Ordonez, Jesus Vidana, and Lucio Rendon: These three Mexican fishermen set out to hunt for sharks. However, their boat’s engine failed and the men were adrift at sea for nine months before being found in August of 2006, thousands of miles from their home.
15. Maurice and Maralyn Bailey: In 1973, this British couple was sailing in their yacht off the coast of Central America when whales struck again and sank their boat. They survived for 117 days before being rescued by a South Korean fishing boat.
16. Louis Zamperini: This soldier, and eight other men, were flying for the U.S. Air Force during WWII when their plane was shot down over the Pacific. Louis survived at sea until he was rescued by the Japanese… only to be made a POW. He was released in 1945; Angelina Jolie went on to direct a film about his story, Unbroken.
17. Dougal Robertson: In 1972, Dougal, his wife, son, three daughters, and a crew of five survived for 38 days at sea after their ship was sunk by a pack of angry – wait for it – killer whales. So much for Shamu being friendly!
18. Ron Ingraham: This seasoned fisherman is proof that even experienced seafarers can have accidents. On his way to a Hawaiian island in 2014, his boat started taking on water. Everyone believed he drowned, but Ron was found 12 days later—hundreds of miles away.
19. Poon Lim: This Chinese sailor set out to sea in 1942 on a giant British merchant vessel. Tragically, the ship was sunk by a U-boat just three days later. For 123 days, Poon—the ship’s only survivor—did everything he could to make it on his handcrafted raft.
20. Lapahele Sopi and Telea Paa: It was 2001 when these two Samoans survived four months at sea on rainwater and fish. Tragically, their two other companions were not so fortunate; they died of hunger and thirst. A local doctor who treated the survivors said that they were truly proof of miracles.
Traveling by boat is truly a thrilling journey. However, the stories of these sailors and families lost at sea, prove that sometimes an adventure can capsize.
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