An Australian sailor has been rescued in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after surviving for months on rainwater and raw fish in a story of endurance that has been likened to the film Castaway.
Tim Shaddock and his dog, Bella, were rescued after spending two months adrift.
He had set off from the coast of Mexico in April on his catamaran, intending to sail to French Polynesia, thousands of miles to the west. But a few weeks into the journey, a violent storm knocked out the electronics on board.
Mr Shaddock, 51, managed to stay alive by catching and eating raw fish, collecting rainwater and sheltering from the sun inside the catamaran. He was eventually spotted by a helicopter that was operating with a tuna trawler and rescued after two months adrift.
When Mr Shaddock, from Sydney, was found he resembled Tom Hanks’ wildly grizzled character in the 2000 blockbuster film Castaway.
He had a big bushy beard and was wearing two hats to try and stave off the sun.
“Can I get your name please?” a rescuer asks him in footage of the incident. “I’m Tim Sharrock, I’m from Australia,” he replies.
He and his dog were brought on board the fishing trawler and he was given medical attention.
“I have been through a very difficult ordeal at sea,” he told 9News, an Australian television network. “I’m just needing rest and good food because I have been alone at sea a long time. Otherwise, I’m in very good health.”
Mr Shaddock is in remarkably good physical shape despite his weeks-long ordeal, an ocean survival expert said.
“It’s a combination of luck and skill,” said Prof Mike Tipton. “And also knowing for example, as Tim did, that during the heat of the day you need to protect yourself because the last thing you want when you’re in danger of becoming dehydrated is to be sweating.”
For the trawler and its helicopter to have come across the catamaran in the middle of the ocean was akin to finding a “needle in a haystack”.
“People need to appreciate how small the boat is and how vast the Pacific is. The chances of someone being found are pretty slim ,” he said.
The trawler is bringing Mr Shaddock and his dog back to dry land on the coast of Mexico.
Prof Tipton likened the story to a real-life version of Castaway and said the company that Bella had provided would have been a huge help.
“I think that may have well made the difference. You’re living very much from day to day and you have to have a very positive mental attitude in order to get through this kind of ordeal and not give up.”
In an apparently hopeless situation, mental discipline would also have been key, said Prof Tipton.
“Having a plan, rationing yourself in terms of water and food, is really the secret to long survival voyages. Just imagine how dark and lonely it would feel out there at night.”
Mr Shaddock worked in the IT industry before retiring and throwing himself into bush walking and sailing. Friends said he was always looking for a new challenge. “He’s got a bit of money, he gets bored and does new things,” one said.
Twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He said he managed to beat the disease by periods of fasting and a diet of raw food – ironically, not dissimilar to the regime that he survived on during his weeks adrift at sea.
“When my health was at a critical stage, it involved a lot of fasting, juicing and smoothies. I recall spending over three months living solely on green vegetable juice at one stage,” he told a website called The Raw Food Kitchen.
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