Doctor Bombard goes to sea

Coronavirus

Visitor notice: We are pleased to announce that Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening. To find out more about which sites will be open and how to plan your visit, click here.

Recently I've been researching the story of Alain Bombard, the French doctor and biologist who survived for sixty days in a dinghy on the Atlantic Ocean without food or water.
In 1951, shocked by the deaths of local fishermen brought to his hospital after their trawler was wrecked, Bombard became obsessed with techniques of survival at sea. He was convinced that one of the main causes of death for castaways was not hunger or thirst, but terror and despair. He based this in part on case studies such as the Titanic, where some people died or went mad in the lifeboats, but no children were among these - children being less prone to despair, he theorised.
Bombard deduced that it should be possible for a castaway to survive for some time on the open sea without any provisions, by drinking seawater and gaining further hydration through eating raw fish (if you're interested, the fish with the highest water content is apparently ray, containing up to 82% water, although dolphin is nearly as high - shame on you, Alain). He decided that the only way anyone would believe his calculations was if he tried it himself, by crossing the Mediterranean, then the Atlantic, in a small dinghy without either food or water!
He managed to do this successfully, setting off on October 19, 1952 and arriving in the Canary Islands in December. His obiturary in The Times, after his death in 2005 at the age of 80, noted that:

His triumph that December did wonders for the sales of the Zodiac dinghy which became a popular recreational craft.

You can read more about his experience in two books here in the Caird Library: "The Bombard Story", and his children's version "Doctor Bombard goes to sea".
And finally, here's some advice from Alain himself:

From time to time when you drink a glass of cold water, think of me out there like that, and you'll see how much better it will taste.

Tanya (Reader Services Librarian)