Monday 5 December 2016

Brett Archibald: How this man survived more than 28 hours at sea while battling sharks, jellyfish and seagulls

Published 10/10/2016 | 19:04

Brett pictured on the boat just moments after he was rescued after 28 and a half hours at sea
Brett pictured on the boat just moments after he was rescued after 28 and a half hours at sea

A man who survived more than 28 hours in the Indian Ocean after falling overboard has spoken out about his ordeal.

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Brett Archibald, a South African businessman, had joined his friends for the surfing trip of a lifetime when he found himself battling stormy Indonesian waters, sharks, jellyfish and seagulls.

Speaking to Today FM’s Anton Savage, Brett said he went up onto the deck of the boat during the night after eating some “dodgy pizza” and blacked out while vomiting over the side of the boat’s railing.

He woke up thinking someone was throwing water at his face, only to realise he was in the sea treading water at 2.30am.

“My boat was 30 or 40 metres in front of me, driving away. It’s been three years and everytime I think of that moment it’s pure hell,” he said.

“I screamed three times as loud as I could, I could see my mate lying on the bed on the top deck and I could see the Indonesian engineer on night duty but he was fast asleep.

“The wind was whipping, the waves were crashing, nobody was going to hear me.

“I swam after the boat but I realised very quickly I would never catch it.

“I stayed treading water and I watched the boat disappear into the dark.”

Wearing just a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and a belt, Brett said he realised very quickly he was going to die.

He attempted to scratch words into his skin with a cutting knife he had in his pocket, so his family would know what happened if they discovered his body.

“I knew there was no chance of my survival,” he said.

“I didn’t decide I was going to die, it was just a foregone conclusion.

“There was 100km on each side me [to land], no one can swim that far.

“It’s not a shipping channel  so no boats would be passing, the only boats that cross that section of water are supply boats and in that kind of storm no boats would be coming for a long while.

“Nobody knows how deep that stretch of water is.”

Brett said he knew his friends would return for him, but he also knew there were at least 10 hours remaining in their journey and he wasn’t sure how long it would take them to realise he was missing.

“I was overweight at the time and my body used, or ate, eight kilograms of body weight in those 28 and a half hours,” he said.

“I ran out of energy soon, my fingers were curling and I was cramping. I was vomiting in the ocean, it was horrific.”

Hope came after 12 hours when Brett spotted his friends’ boat in the distance.

Wearing a t-shirt on his head to protect himself from the sun, Brett described how he screamed and waved towards his friends, but they failed to see him.

 “I thought it was bad when I fell out of the boat, this was worse – they were only 50 metres away,” he said.

“That’s when I gave up – and that’s when all this strange stuff started happening.

“I got stung by blue bottles, bumped by a shark and two seagulls smashed my face.

“It was quite interesting – I think I was falling asleep, I was so exhausted, my head would fall in the water and that would wake me up.

“I was suffering from dehydration and taking in a lot of sea water,  I had lots of hallucinations.”

He continued; “My nose was bleeding from the seagulls, my tongue was the size of a tennis ball, my teeth were chattering.

“I was biting parts of my tongue off, but I was being bumped by sharks so I didn’t want to drop my tongue into the water.”

A total of 28 and a half hours later his friends returned to the area and finally spotted Brett in the water.

A poignant recording of the 2013 incident hears the crew’s amazement when they realise the South African was alive.

“I got tears in my eyes just listening to that again,” Brett added.

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