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Worse things happen at sea
May 10, 2011 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Here Be Monsters. "Three friends, on a drunken dare, set out in a dinghy for a nearby island. But when the gas ran out and they drifted into barren waters, their biggest threat wasn't the water or the ocean—it was each other."

If you want to survive at sea, the epic small boat journeys of Captain Bligh and Ernest Shackleton and the incredible fortitude of Poon Lim and Richard Van Pham remain inspirations. For those cast out onto the waves with little hope or preparation, there may not be a drop to drink but at least the "custom of the sea" offered hope for the menu.
posted by joannemullen (49 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
"What's that in it's mouth?"
posted by Solomon at 3:53 AM on May 10, 2011


Though to be fair to other readers, as a matter of fact cannibalism really isn't a feature of the OP.
posted by wilful at 4:12 AM on May 10, 2011


Ack, that was hard to read.
posted by Phire at 4:15 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP as in original poster?
posted by Splunge at 4:43 AM on May 10, 2011


Three friends, on a drunken dare,

Never ends well.
posted by three blind mice at 4:52 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


original post, the lead.
posted by wilful at 4:55 AM on May 10, 2011


They wanted to get back to their lives, to play rugby, to respond to all the "Rest in peace" messages left on their Facebook pages.

Oooh, I can't contemplate a world where I think it is a good idea to go adrift into the open sea, or consider cannibalism to survive, or have a swollen tongue (gah) but I am now wondering who would write what and how that would change our relationship when I got home. Mark Twain would have had a field day with that.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:00 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oooh, I can't contemplate a world where I think it is a good idea to go adrift into the open sea

Drink some more and try again. I assure you, at some point it will seem not only a good idea, but the best idea you ever had.
posted by three blind mice at 5:07 AM on May 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Next time I fantasize about moving to an isolated Polynesian island, these kids' story will be my prompt to get real.
posted by ocschwar at 5:12 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great story.
posted by a non e mouse at 5:21 AM on May 10, 2011


And here's the picture of them that the navigator snapped.
posted by a non e mouse at 5:24 AM on May 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


Miracles do happen.
posted by crunchland at 5:29 AM on May 10, 2011


Blimey, the stupidest thing I ever did while drunk was to crash out late at night in the middle of a Leeds park, during a cold winter. Oh yeah, and there was that time I downed half a bottle of whisky for a bet. Oh, and when I decided it would be fun to walk across an eight-inch-wide concrete beam that ran twenty-odd feet above a busy motorway.

All of which kinda pales compared with this yarn, which also makes me feel significantly less stupid than I did immediately after the aforementioned incidents.
posted by Decani at 5:32 AM on May 10, 2011


The title seems misleading to me, since the boys worked together the entire time. Sure, two of them talked about murdering and eating the third, but they didn't go through with it.
posted by orme at 5:33 AM on May 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Except in the sense that risk-seeking teenage dumbassery feeds synergistically off the presence of other dumbass teens, I don't really see how the article makes its case that "the biggest threat... was EACH OTHER." A single altercation where someone got nicked with a knife, and some inequitable sharing of resources when one kid wasn't helping out with the work-- we're hardly talking a Lord-of-the-Flies level of brutality and dark insight into the human condition, here

If anything, it's kind of amazing how civilized everyone remained, through such a horrifying experience. The fact that they never did break the boat engine, for instance, is pretty impressive.
posted by Bardolph at 5:34 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops. Sorry if that's a spoiler!
posted by orme at 5:35 AM on May 10, 2011


Wow, that's an amazing story.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 AM on May 10, 2011


Stupidest dare I ever undertook was to break into the local supermarket via roof, Easy getting in, impossible to get out. Massively drunk and unable to find anything stackable to ceiling height, falling over laughing. We had to wait until the morning and 'mingle' with the two early morning old age pensioners.

Piedemonties North Fitzroy, I apologies, no damage done.
posted by the noob at 5:54 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


You sure it wasn't in Frankston, Noob?
posted by a non e mouse at 6:05 AM on May 10, 2011


plenty to drink though, eh noob?
posted by telstar at 6:11 AM on May 10, 2011




Humans taste really salty. Like fatty bacon.
posted by loquacious at 6:32 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If everything else in the world tastes like chicken, why do people taste like pigs?
posted by crunchland at 7:13 AM on May 10, 2011



I always laughed at this Bugs Bunny cartoon about starving castaways considering cannibalism. Now it seems... really creepy.

Wackiki Wabbit is one of my favourite latter-day WB cartoons. The two castaways are caricature of WB cartoon artist/writers Michael Maltese and Tedd Pierce, approximating the roles of Abbott and Costello, right down to that very
specific way of slapping the other guy across the face. Dig the abstract backgrounds.

re-railing:

Tokelau used to be my preferred retirement location. Nothing ever happens there, there's nothing worth stealing, and it isn't on the way anywhere. You can't even land a plane or dock a ship. If anyone buys a fridge or furntiture, it gets landed on the anchored platform offshore and you have to float it in on light craft.

Perfect.

Unfortunately, now that I know what global warming is probably going to do to the place, it's a bit too close to Dave Lister's dream.

NZ and OZ have their hands full resettling Tokelauans and other at-risk pasifikans. Now, many more Tokelauans live on the NZ 'mainland' than on Tokelau. Not sure about Oz.

Six months after their adventure, none of our protagonists reamain there.
posted by Herodios at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2011


You'd think by age 14 growing up in a Pacific atoll you'd have more respect for the ocean than that. The story talks about this, about the tradition of not going out beyond the lagoon without a master fisherman escort. Then again teenage boys are foolhardy, nothing new here. I still find it a bit crazy they only knew not to drink seawater because they saw it on TV: surely this is a fact any child of an atoll would know?

I remember when this event first happened, the New Zealand press stories were full of hints that some sort of contraband was involved but they didn't say what. It seemed what they weren't saying is the kids were running drugs. The stories after the rescue talk about "lovesick trio", as if they were going to the next island to meet girls. And this GQ story says they were just drunk.
posted by Nelson at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but this suddenly reminded me of something I haven't thought about in at least 15 years: "Spam haiku" (my thirteen-year-old self thought these were hilarious)

"Three men in lifeboat.
No food 'cept SPAM. Hour later:
Two men in lifeboat."
posted by FunGus at 9:19 AM on May 10, 2011


3 Mexican fishermen spent 9 months adrift. (I swear this should be a previously...)
posted by vespabelle at 9:34 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


And here's the picture of them that the navigator snapped.

Wow. Those poor boys. Lucky, I guess, in the end, but that was by far a harsher punishment than most of us endured for our adolescent stupidities.
posted by torticat at 9:47 AM on May 10, 2011


I'm not going to read this because you didn't say the bit above the fold in a deep enough voice.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:22 AM on May 10, 2011


The Rime of the Adolescent Mariners
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:36 AM on May 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


their biggest threat wasn't the water or the ocean—it was each other.

Yeah, I must take issue here as well. Their biggest threat (once at sea) was certainly the ocean, or more generally, the natural elements. As orme notes, they basically all worked together as best they could.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2011


This certainly answers the question of what one should do with the drunken sailor.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of that movie, Into the Wild. I know that there's a sense of adventure here, that coming-of-age thing, finding something inside yourself you've never known before -- still I can't get over how stupid the plans are, to a point.
posted by pleasebekind at 11:16 AM on May 10, 2011


There's a 'survival at sea' story in the Autobiography of Mark Twain about The Hornet, a ship of the line that caught fire and sunk 1000+ miles from Hawaii and the remaining 31 people eventually made it there. They started with 10 days rations and made it about 5 weeks. They only lost people who were in a smaller longboat that was voluntarily set free from the larger one, which had a sail.

It's a great story. I hoped to find it available on-line, but only the short snippets show up in Google books (search for "hornet").
posted by Four Flavors at 11:22 AM on May 10, 2011


Amazing story.

I have a question, however, that I'm wondering if someone might answer: I've heard (and this might be bogus) that you can't really digest yourself because while trying to break it down - if you were to eat a chunk of yourself, for example - your body would recognize its own DNA and not consume it because its a 'part of you,' so to speak. So how does it work when your body starts breaking down its own muscle, etc? Or am I completely misinformed?
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2011


mrgrimm: "Yeah, I must take issue here as well. Their biggest threat (once at sea) was certainly the ocean, or more generally, the natural elements. As orme notes, they basically all worked together as best they could."

Damn I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree, as I would prefer to be lost at sea alone than with two dudes who liked to punch and kick me, cut me with a machete, and plotted to kill and eat me.

I mean I guess it was ok for the two older boys. Particularly the one who refused to take apart their useless motor to try and fish, but wanted to eat the weakest among them instead.
posted by danny the boy at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2011


Miracles do happen.

Well, things happen, and people do apply various narratives to them.
posted by anazgnos at 11:53 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


3 Mexican fishermen spent 9 months adrift. (I swear this should be a previously...)

Here's a weird thing: GQ, the source of the FPP, also covered this lost at sea story back in 2007, but the article seems to have been scrubbed from their site and the entire Internet.

Luckily, I loved the story so much that I actually scanned the text in four years ago and kept it all this time. I just uploaded it to Scribd for you guys:

Adrift, by John Jeremiah Sullivan [GQ, March 2007]

I haven't read the Singer article linked above; is it also about the cloud of suspicion that hangs over their story of being lost at sea for 256 days? That's what Sullivan's story is about, except...not really.

It's really about his attempts to get a story despite bad circumstances and bad decisions on his part. For example, he decides to get a translator only because he feared his Spanish--which he learned from his wife's older Cuban relatives--would cause him to slip into grandmotherly diminutives when interviewing the fishermen: "What was it like the very first time you put the raw meat of the birdies into your little mouths?" So he decides to bring along the only Spanish-speaking friend he has, a professor of Medieval Spanish at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Eventually—not to give too much away—these two get mixed up with a conspiracy theorist and spend the entire article following her increasingly crazed leads before finally more or less just giving up. It's a great article, not just about the subject but about journalism itself, and it's very very funny.

Anyway, click the link to read it. I'm not sure how serious Scribd is about copyrighted material (I'm guessing "just enough to provide plausible deniability") so you might want to just download it if you're afraid it won't be there forever.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:30 PM on May 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Twain narrative Four Flavors references is available on the Mark Twain Project site: "My Debut as a Literary Person" in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1. 2010, 2008.
posted by zepheria at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What an incredible and haunting story. One thing that surprised me: I thought drinking sea water would have done them a lot more harm than it (apparently) did. Were they just lucky to get enough fresh rainwater after drinking the sea water?

[SPOILER WARNING]

I certainly don't blame them for any of the personal nastiness that flared up, given the extremity of their circumstance. If anything, it sounds like they genuinely tried to support each other 99% of the time. That said, I was left with the feeling that Samu isn't someone I'd ever want to meet.
posted by treepour at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


treepour, my understanding is that if seawater is diluted down to less than the body's salinity level, it's harmless. So, if you drink a glass of seawater followed by three glasses of pure water, you'll be okay. I guess if they were able to drink rainwater soon enough after the seawater, it wouldn't have done much lasting damage.
posted by twirlypen at 3:48 PM on May 10, 2011


I've heard (and this might be bogus) that you can't really digest yourself because while trying to break it down - if you were to eat a chunk of yourself, for example - your body would recognize its own DNA and not consume it because its a 'part of you,' so to speak. So how does it work when your body starts breaking down its own muscle, etc? Or am I completely misinformed?

I'm arguing misinformed. Immune system recognizes self (not directly via DNA, but pretty much the same thing) but digestive system doesn't. Body goes to a lot of work to deactivate digestive enzymes and keep them from getting out of control.
posted by nathan v at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and when I decided it would be fun to walk across an eight-inch-wide concrete beam that ran twenty-odd feet above a busy motorway.

All of which kinda pales compared with this yarn, which also makes me feel significantly less stupid than I did immediately after the aforementioned incidents.


Dead is dead, Decani, and you were one muscle-twitch away from making these boys look smart.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2011


Humans taste really salty. Like fatty bacon.

loquacious,... WTF?

Are you eating them unwashed? They're no more salty than carpaccio; less so than oysters (and the texture is way less unnerving than the latter).

Fatty I'll give you; at least, if we're talking Americans.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:36 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Keeping one eye on loquacious and the other on IAmBroom notreally slowly backs away.
posted by notreally at 4:48 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've heard (and this might be bogus) that you can't really digest yourself because while trying to break it down - if you were to eat a chunk of yourself, for example - your body would recognize its own DNA and not consume it because its a 'part of you,' so to speak. So how does it work when your body starts breaking down its own muscle, etc? Or am I completely misinformed?

You are completely misinformed. Stomach acids do not care what they act upon.

The process of breaking down muscle and other tissues as a consequence of starvation (catbolysis) is completely different to the process of digestion.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:05 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I am never having kids.
posted by salvia at 8:16 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember when this made the rounds here. It's a good argument for civilization and videogames.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:20 PM on May 10, 2011


I still find it a bit crazy they only knew not to drink seawater because they saw it on TV: surely this is a fact any child of an atoll would know?

It's only relevant information if you're dehydrated. If you're normally hydrated, drinking seawater is not dangerous. If you knock back a lot of seawater then you'll probably puke, but if you manage to keep it down and your overall hydration remains OK, you'll be fine. And given how unpleasant seawater tastes, even island-dwellers probably don't need to tell their kids not to drink it.

A similar deal applies for drinking urine; essentially, it's only dangerous if the reason you want to drink it is because you're dying of thirst. (And in that case, your urine will of course be much saltier, and thus worse to drink, than it'd normally be.)

There's no scientific support for the people who, like Gandhi, think there's something in your own pee that's good for you and insist on drinking the stuff regularly. But if someone bets you an impressive amount of money that you won't drink a tumbler of seawater or of your own pee, the only reason not to take them up on the bet is self-respect.
posted by dansdata at 12:22 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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