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Family defied odds surviving 38 days at sea by eating shark and drinking turtles' blood

Family defied odds surviving 38 days at sea by eating shark and drinking turtles' blood

Douglas Robertson and his family have an incredible tale of survival

A family stranded at sea for 38 days survived on fish, sharks and the blood of turtles after their ship was sunk by killer whales in the Pacific Ocean.

On 27 January 1971, the Robertson family set off on a seaborne voyage around the world, having sold their family farm in Staffordshire to buy a boat.

They bought a 50-year-old schooner, the Lucette, and on board were dairy farmers Lyn and Dougal, their 18-year-old daughter Anne, 16-year-old son Douglas and nine-year-old twin sons Neil and Sandy.

The whole idea had come from Neil in the first place, suggesting they sail around the world as Dougal was an experienced mariner.

They set sail from Falmouth and spent the next 18 months crossing the Atlantic Ocean and stopping off at various ports in the Caribbean.

Anne departed the voyage in the Bahamas and in her place the 22-year-old student Robin Williams (no, not that one) joined them on their next leg of the journey towards New Zealand.

Douglas Robertson and his family survived a harrowing 38-day ordeal at sea.
LADbible TV/YouTube

However, on 15 June 1972, disaster struck just a few days after the Lucette had set sail from the Galapagos Islands.

The Robertson family were heading for the Marquesas Islands some 3,000 miles west, but after getting about 200 miles clear of the Galapagos their vessel was battered three times and sunk.

The ship had been attacked by killer whales and in just a few minutes the Lucette had sunk, leaving the Robertson family and Williams to seek refuge in their inflatable life raft and the fibreglass dingy Ednamair.

Unfortunately the family only had enough water for 10 days and enough emergency food rations for three days.

It would turn out to be a 38 day ordeal which say the family forced to resort to other sources of sustenance to survive.

The Ednamair dinghy was recovered and the family later demonstrated the cramped conditions they had survived for 38 days in.
The Last Voyage of the Lucette by Douglas Robertson

Douglas Robertson told LADbible that without enough food or water to sustain themselves for that period of time they turned to hunting animals and drinking their blood for sustenance.

He explained that some of their food came easily, with a flying fish and a dorado fish both jumping into their boats, but much of the family's food had to be hunted.

They tied the raft and dinghy together and began catching turtles, with Douglas explaining that he hit the first one that came close to them on the head with an oar but it swam away, with the teenager convincing his dad they needed to get smart in hunting the denizens of the sea rather than merely catching whatever came close.

When the next turtle arrived they were able to lift it out of the water and into the raft, but when it started thrashing around Dougal threw it out of the boat.

By the third turtle they knew to tie the creature up to avoid it thrashing about and they killed it with a kitchen knife they had inside the boat.

The Ednamair dinghy was so cramped that everyone had to stay in their own place.
Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson

He explained that he suggested to his family they should drink the turtle blood after reading about it in the novel South by Java Head, so his dad Dougal gave it a try on a turtle they had captured and killed and realised it could work.

They also dried the turtle meat and lived off it, relying on their survival instincts not to eat anything too dangerous from the creatures they captured.

He said: "You've got instinct, we knew that the liver of the turtle was poisonous. Never read it, you just looked at it and knew you couldn't eat it, whereas the liver of the shark you could eat it.

"You've got this innate ability and you touch it in a situation like this. I've read other great survival stories where people have had the same experience and a realisation comes to them what you can and can't do."

At one point, the family ended up killing and eating a five-foot Mako shark - and some of its teeth are still on display in the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall.

Douglas Robertson said the family were finally saved when a Japanese ship spotted their last flare.
LADbible TV/YouTube

Douglas also told LADbible that when their ship went down they immediately confronted the elephant in the room.

"We made a deal, we made a deal to each other on that first day that no matter what happened we wouldn't eat each other and we would die together," he said.

Douglas explained that they agreed not to follow the outdated tradition of the 'custom of the sea', where shipwrecked survivors would draw straws and the one with the short straw would be eaten by the others.

He recounted: "We thought about the custom of the sea and we decided, because Robin of course was not a family member, we assured him we would die together.

"He thought we might eat him, he was very gratified to hear us say 'you are one of us, you are one of our family and we will die together if that's what's going to happen'."

"When things like that happen you have to discuss those things so you know where you stand."

On day 17, the inflatable raft sunk and everyone had to transfer into the dinghy, which they had almost lost two days before after the two vessels had separated, but Dougal had been able to swim across to the dinghy and save it.

Day 20 was Lyn's birthday and the family celebrated it with turtle meat and water, and the family continued to struggle through a lack of water while they battled to keep their little dinghy afloat.

By day 37, they were nearing the direct sea route between Panama and Hawaii, meaning there was a greater chance of being discovered by a ship and they also felt they had enough food to survive the 15 days of rowing it would take to reach land.

Douglas explained that the 'most terrifying moment' was when they were caught in a storm and 'lightning was hitting the water around us' in straight bolts which fired from the clouds down into the sea.

Fortunately they were spotted and rescued the very next day by a Japanese fishing trawler named the Toka Maru II, which responded to their distress flare.

They eventually made it back to Panama on 28 July with their incredible ordeal over.

Featured Image Credit: LADbible TV/YouTube

Topics: Weird, World News, News