The plot thickens: Alain Bombard
In our April and June '98 issues, we ran articles on Dr. Alain Bombard's experiment in living off the sea while sailing across the Atlantic in a small inflatable in 1952. While no one doubts that Bombard made it across the Atlantic, not everyone believes he did it living entirely off the sea - as he claimed. Indeed, many experts believe Bombard's assertion - that shipwreck victims could survive indefinitely by drinking limited amounts of saltwater and the juice squeezed from fish chunks - was both incorrect and irresponsible.
One of Bombard's biggest critics was/is Dr. Hannes Linde-mann, a German doctor who met and was inspired by Bombard just before the French doctor took off across the Atlantic. Starting in October of 1955, Lindemann crossed the Atlantic from the Canaries to Haiti in 65 days aboard a 25-foot long, 2.5-foot wide dugout canoe. Just nine months after completing that trip, Lindemann crossed the Atlantic from the Canaries to St. Martin in 72 days, this time with a 17-foot long, 36-foot wide stock Klepper folding kayak!
According to Alone At Sea, the book which Lindemann wrote shortly after his crossings, everyone at the Real Club Nautico in Las Palmas watched Bombard load his raft "to the brim" with 25 gallons of water and enough food for three months before he left. Lindemann also charges that Bombard twice took on provisions from passing ships - and that photographs of one such incident appeared in Dutch newspapers.
Lindemann - who was so adverse to publicity that he didn't even tell his family until after he completed the voyages - calmy disputes both of Bombard's main tenets. Lindemann says that his experiments at sea - as well as many by other notable doctors ashore - proved that saltwater is not potable. In addition, Lindemann reported that he was unable to get any useful fluids by crushing chunks of fish. Lindemann advises shipwreck victims without water to avoid eating fish.
Lindemann's book offers much more specific observations and recommendations than did Bombard's, which in truth offered very little. Lindemann also reports that Bombard wasn't the first to sail across the Atlantic in a raft. He claims it had been done in 1868 with a raft called Nonpareil, and in a folding rubber boat by Capt. Franz Romer in 1928.
The English version of Alone at Sea was long out of print when Peter Schwierzke, a sailor who owns Klepper West/Western Folding Kayak Center in the Central Valley, convinced a reluctant Lindemann to let him republish the English version - along with a new chapter summarizing what was learned from the two crossings. This fascinating book, complete with color photographs, is available at $20 - a discounted price for Latitude readers - by calling Schwierzke at (530) 626-8647. We highly recommend it.
Lindemann is one of those older gentlemen - he's 75 now - who mistakenly believes that nobody cares about the achievements of his youth. Yet when his folding kayak, on permanent display in Munich's prestigious Duetches Museum, was loaned to another museum in Bonn, Lindemann was asked to appear. Although only several hundred people were expected to attend, a crowd of 2,000 - many of them from other countries - packed the auditorium to hear Lindemann speak.
If it was a life and death situation, we'd follow Lindemann's recommendations.