Adrift At Sea For 76 Days With Sharks Circling


Have you ever thought about sailing the open
sea alone? Would you ever want to? For many of us, it might sound fun, exciting
or simply relaxing to take some time away from our day to day lives, like enjoying a
nice vacation. Perhaps picturing yourself on a boat with
beautiful sunshine and salty sea air is appealing to you. Either that or maybe the idea just makes you
seasick. Whatever your case may be, most of us can
probably agree that sailing is one thing but being stranded out in the open ocean alone
is far less than ideal. Should anything like this happen to you, your
chances of survival are slim. No one knows this better than a man who has
experienced it firsthand. In 1981, after enduring a divorce from his
wife, Steven Callahan was driven by ambition and an adventurous spirit. He decided that he wanted to sail the treacherous
Atlantic Ocean in his 21-foot boat called the Napoleon Solo, a fitting name given his
desire to undertake the voyage entirely by himself. At first, his trip was going smoothly. He began his long journey from Newport, Rhode
Island, first sailing to Bermuda. From there, he set sail to England. He continued onward, eventually making his
way to the Caribbean island of Antigua. From there, his boat suffered heavy damage
from some bad weather. Luckily though, he managed to make the necessary
repairs and move forward with his grand trip. He persisted on through Spain and Portugal,
coming out near Madeira and the Canary Islands. It was when he departed the Canary Islands,
on his way back to Antigua, when disaster struck. On January 1982, just a week after his departure,
the Napoleon Solo was stricken, presumably by a whale. This caused severe damage and Callahan was
forced to abandon his boat. With no time to think, he frantically prepared
his lifeboat while simultaneously trying to gather as many supplies as he could. He had to dive repeatedly back into his sinking
boat to retrieve vital items for survival. This was made all the more difficult considering
that he couldn’t see anything while under the water and had to navigate his boat by
memory. He had no choice but to locate items by feeling
around for them. Imagine, for a moment, having to race against
the clock to pack whatever you can for survival, knowing full well that what you choose to
grab could mean the difference between life and death. Now also imagine that you are forced to do
this while blindfolded. Anyone would probably feel the need to panic
in this scenario. Your adrenaline would surely be pumping, your
heart racing out of your chest. Yet, if you want to survive, you don’t have
time to give in to trepidation. That is probably how Callahan felt during
this moment of sheer crisis. In his haste, Callahan managed to procure
a fishing line, a water purifier and a spear gun. For food, he gathered mostly scraps like peanuts
and raisins, eggs, cabbage, corn beef, baked beans, and 8 ounces of water. With what he was able to grab, however, his
supplies would only last him about two and a half weeks. From then on, he was without much of anything,
800 miles west of the Canaries, completely isolated and adrift on a raft in the middle
of the open ocean. Surely, he should have been doomed by this
point. He had only his wits to rely upon. With very few resources available to him,
he had to develop a means to survive. He mostly fished and occasionally hunted for
birds. He had no way to cook his food, however, so
he had to eat everything raw. Consider that the next time you feel the need
to complain about your food being overcooked. For Callahan, during this desperate time,
overcooked meals would have been a luxury. Though he had grabbed a water purifier, it
turned out to be ineffective at converting sea water, so he had to rig a system of balloons
and tarps to catch rainwater. With this, he was only able to secure about
20 ounces of water per day, but this was just barely enough to keep him alive. Callahan was forced to revert to old-fashioned
navigational techniques, creating a sexton out of pencils. A sexton is a device used to measure the horizon
and celestial objects like stars and planets. He used this tool in order to roughly estimate
where he was and where to steer his raft. He used the north star as his guide to aim
his raft towards the West Indies, hoping to run into help along the way. After so many weeks adrift at sea, Callahan’s
raft became its own miniature ecosystem. A colony of barnacles began to grow at the
bottom of it, which attracted fish that he would then catch and eat. Unfortunately, these fish also attracted sharks
that would continuously circle his raft. They served as a constant reminder of the
dangerous situation he was in. One might presume that one of the sharks would
have grown impatient and taken a bite out of Callahan’s raft to deflate it. But, no. It was actually a fish that almost sunk him. While he was fishing one day, his catch ripped
a hole through the bottom of his raft. Callahan had to perform rushed repairs with
his arms under the water and an encompassing circle of sharks surrounding him. Keeping his boat afloat while simultaneously
trying to repair it was a full-time job. It must have been exhausting! Throughout the entirety of his ordeal, around
seven ships passed within his vicinity. Two of them were less than a mile away. Callahan desperately tried to signal them,
using a flare gun and emergency radio beacon to gain their attention. But his attempts ended in failure. He felt utterly helpless and became increasingly
depressed. Though his raft was rated a 6-man inflatable,
it still felt cramped after a while. On top of everything, he endured fierce storms,
battled huge waves, and fought against extreme loneliness. With each passing day, his chances of survival
were also growing more and more bleak. On the morning of his 76th day adrift, a group
of fishermen spotted him just off the southeastern coast of Guadeloupe. Finally, he was rescued. By this point though, Callahan had lost 40
pounds and was covered in painful, open sores from his constant exposure to the sun and
seawater. One might think that after enduring all of
this, Callahan would have succumbed to post-traumatic-stress disorder and wished to remain silent on his
frightening experience. But this was not the case. Callahan recounted his days at sea in his
book Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea, which was on The New York Times best-seller list in
1986 for more than 36 weeks. His memoir was also used in the television
documentary series, I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which aired on November 17th, 2010, about
29 years after he was rescued in the Caribbean. His ordeal made him somewhat of an expert
on ocean survival and so he was contacted to act as an advisor for the 2012 film “Life
of Pi,” which, if you don’t already know, is about a young boy trapped on a raft in
the middle of the ocean with a tiger. Callahan made props for the film, including
lures and other tools seen in the movie. He mentioned that the film was so realistic
that he found it difficult to watch. Thankfully though, Callahan didn’t have
to deal with the added threat of a tiger on top of everything else he endured during his
experience. After recovering from his living nightmare
at sea, Callahan also decided to use the knowledge of what he had learned to help develop a design
for an improved life raft. He called his design The Clam and created
it as a utility raft equipped with a canopy to shield from prolonged exposure to the sun
as well as to use for collecting rainwater. He did this so that if others somehow wound
up in the same, dangerous situation, they would at least have an easier time through
the ordeal than he did. As an author, naval architect, inventor, and
sailor, Steven Callahan is an interesting person, to say the least. With everything set against him on his 76-day
venture alone at sea, he survived using his ingenuity and determination. What do you think about this story? Could you survive alone at sea for 76 days? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
Can You Survive A Nuclear Winter? Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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