Dr Alain Bombard - doctor, scientist, castaway - BajanThings

Dr. Alain Bombard (1924 – 2005)

Dr. Alain Bombard - Barbados
Dr. Alain Bombard interview with the press at Harbour Police Station Bridgetown.
Photo source: Sunday Advocate page Five Sunday 28 December 1952. Sunday Advocate caption: Dr. BOMBARD and friends sitting in his dinghy L’Heretique at the Harbour Police Station yesterday. Right with movie camera is Frank Watkins taking some “live shots”of the doctor for Television News International News Service of New York. This film will be flown to the United States at the earliest opportunity.

Dr.Alain Bombard was a French biologist, physician and politician famous for sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a Zodiac rubber dinghy L’Heretique from Las Palmas to Barbados in 1952. He theorized that a human being could very well survive the trip across the ocean without provisions and decided to test his theory himself in order to save thousands of lives of people lost at sea.

During the Second World War many sailors on both sides of the conflict lost their lives from thirst and starvation when they took to the lifeboats after their ship was sunk.

Dr. Alain Bombard was a French Heart Specialists who was working at a hospital in Boulogne-sur-mer in 1951 when 43 men lost their lives in a shipwreck.

After many years of study and research he decided that it was possible to live off the sea using the fish and plankton he caught along with catching rain water and using the flesh of the fish for water. He also proved you could drink small quantities of sea water in emergencies.

After many trials in the Mediterranean he set sail on the 19th October 1952 from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in a 4.5m (15 ft) Zodiac rubber dingy L’Heretique. His plan was to prove conclusively that he could live off the sea. On board was the basic equipment that one would expect any prepared sailor to have on a lifeboat. Remember this was 1952, and today’s survival equipment will have better supplies.

During the 65 days it took to get to Barbados he lost 55 lbs, became anaemic, plus had other minor ailments. The important thing is that he proved that a castaway could live off the sea for the time it took to drift across the Atlantic. He met a ship, The Arakaka, but would not get on as he wanted to prove that he could go for longer.

Alain Bombard survived by fishing (and using fish as source of both fresh water and food) with a self-made harpoon and hooks and harvesting the surface plankton with a small net.

He did have emergency rations that were sealed by the authorities when he left. When he arrived in Barbados the Police verified that seal was unbroken.

He landed at Stroude Bay in St. Lucy on 23rd December 1952 having spent 65 days at sea.

When he met The Arakaka he said he missed his classical music and would like to hear the Brandenburg Concerto on Christmas Day. This was relayed to the BBC and on Christmas Day, while he was still in Barbados, he was able to listen to the BBC World Service and have his wish fulfilled.

The book written by Dr Alain Bombard,   The Voyage of the L’Heretique which was published by Simon and Schuster in 1953 should be mandatory reading for anyone setting out on a sea voyage.

Alain Bombard zodiac L'Heretique Stroude Bay Barbados
Journeys end at Stroude Bay for Alain Bombard’s zodiac L’Heretique.

Some Dr. Alain Bombard obituaries:

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