Alain Bombard (October 27, 1924 July 19, 2005) was a French biologist, physician and politician famous for sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat.
Alain Bombard was born in Paris. 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.
On October 19, 1952 Bombard began his solitary trip, after visiting his newborn daughter in France, across the Atlantic for the West Indies. He had sailed in the Atlantic Ocean solo before, from Tangier to Casablanca (August 13 - August 20), and from Casablanca to Las Palmas (August 24 - September 3), however the original plan was to sail across the Atlantic with a friend, English yachtsman Jack Palmer, with whom he sailed just before from Monaco to Minorca (May 25 June 11), but Jack abandoned Alain in Tanger. Bombard sailed in a Zodiac inflatable boat called l'H r tique, which was only long, taking only a sextant and almost no provisions.
Bombard reports he 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 also drank a limited amount of seawater for a long period on his trip. On the October 23, 4th day of the journey Bombard had to mend a torn old sail, while the backup sail was blown away. On the 53rd day of the journey he encountered a ship. The crew told him that he was still over thousand kilometers short of his goal. However, after the ship's crew offered him a meal, Bombard decided to go on. Bombard reached Barbados December 23, 1952 after 4,400 km of travel. Bombard had lost 25 kg and was briefly hospitalized. He published a book entitled "Naufrag Volontaire" about his trip in 1958.
Bombard's claim was later tested and contested by Hannes Lindemann, a German physician, canoeist and sailing pioneer, although both the French and Taiwanese navies both concurred with Bombard's findings; the Taiwanese exercise extending to 134 days. Lindemann wanted to repeat Bombard's trip in order to gain a better understanding of living on salt water and fish, but found that he needed fresh water (from rain) most days. Lindemann later claimed that Bombard had actually taken along fresh water and consumed it on the ocean, and that he had also been secretly provided further supplies during his voyage. Lindemann's own observations about reactions to scarce fresh water supplies became the basis for the World Health Organisation's navigation recommendations.
Bombard died in the southern French town of Toulon in 2005 at age 80.
Bombard was featured in an episode of the educational television program 3-2-1 Contact in 1986, in which he coaches two of the teenaged cast members on his life-raft survival techniques using a real raft on the open sea.
Books in English
The Voyage of the Heretique, Simon and Schuster (1953)
The Bombard Story (1955)
Dr. Bombard Goes to Sea, Vanguard Press (1957)
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