Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean
Rating: 3.5 stars
In April 2013, Brett Archibald, a 50-year-old South African businessman, was on a surf charter boat off the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. It was the middle of the night and the seas were storming. Archibald had food poisoning and went on deck to be sick. He lost his footing, fell off the boat and no one saw. He spent nearly 29 hours in the Indian Ocean before a miracle happened. That miracle was Tony “Doris” Eltherington, captain of an Australian charter, and a seafaring legend, who acted on a hunch and found Archibald bobbing in the vast expanse.
How Archibald survived, how his friends and Eltherington’s boat and crew persisted, and how his wife and family never gave up believing he would survive is chronicled in Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean. Already weak from dehydration, Archibald fought off raging seas, a shark attack, dive-bombing seagulls, stinging jellyfish and man of wars. He kept his wits about him by counting strokes, naming books in his library and singing songs from his iPod playlists. Despite these efforts, he was often overwhelmed by hopelessness. In addition, he was fooled by hallucinations. When he looked to the sky and saw a wooden cross, he was sure it was another trick of the mind. That cross was the mast of Eltherington’s boat, coming to get him.
The book is written from three points of view: Archibald, his friends and other rescue boats, and his wife and family. While there were some who thought it was unlikely Archibald could survive, those who knew him believed he would. An intense personality and competitor, always pushing himself, Archibald was better off than most, despite the odds against him. From the moment he was rescued he was coherent and surprisingly strong. I was skeptical of this part of the story until I watched several live videos of his rescue. To see what I mean, check out the links at the bottom of the post. The euphoria after his rescue is contagious, Archibald is ridiculously upbeat, making you believe he had all the right stuff to get him through what would have been certain death for most.
Survival stories are hard to resist and this is an incredible one. I enjoyed learning the details of his hour-by-hour story. While lost in the ocean, Archibald reflected on his life mistakes and failed relationships and faced the grim possibility that he would never see his wife and young children again. It’s no surprise that he came out of the ordeal a changed man and the phrase “life is short” doesn’t seem nearly as trite.
My one disappointment is in how the book is presented. The cover and title and Archibald’s first person account made me think he had written the book, but the account is in fact written by an unnamed author. This fact is buried in the “Three Years Later” chapter at the end of the book.
In addition, readers are well-advised to give up trying to remember the hundreds of names provided, which tends to bog down the flow of the story.
All in all, however, an engrossing read that results in a happy, feel-good moment.
Check out these video links and see for yourself:
I fell off a white water raft once and got lodged underneath. But my friends pulled me back in within a minute. Doesn’t compare, but I was pretty scared! Have you ever had a close call at sea?
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