Seventy Six Days Lost At Sea, by Stephen Callahan.

The title pretty much tells you the contents of this story. It’s a mans tale of being lost on a life raft at sea for 76 grueling days. 
His ship unexpectedly capsized off the coast of the Canary Islands (possibly from a breaching whale). Barely escaping with his life, he managed to grab in addition to his life raft, basic at sea survival tools and supplies. Having a small stock of food and water, Stephen is forced to live almost exclusively on caught fish, and distilled sea water. Suffering from dehydration, severe malnourishment, open sea salt boils and atrophy. A small Eco system of barnacles, sea weed, micro organisms and small fish also developed under his raft, attracting even larger fish, Dorados. The Dorado fish became his chief source of food, and his company for the subsequent days. His connection with these fish takes on a respectful, spiritual relationship. 

“I cannot stop mourning the big dorado that I futilely slew last evening. (he killed but couldn’t get on his boat). I try to convince myself that my depression comes only from the fact that I am in desperate need of meat, but my sense of loss is not solely pragmatic. Ineffectual attempts to catch fish are nothing new, and I think little of them. I feel emotionally devastated. The dorados have become much more than food to me. They are even more than pets. I look at them as equals- in many ways as my superiors. Their flesh keeps me alive. Their spirit keeps me company. Their attack and their resistance to the hunt makes them worthy opponents, as well as friends. I am thankful of their meat and companionship, and fearful of their power. I wonder if my deep respect for them is related to my Indian ancestors’ respect for all natural forces. It is strange how killing animals can sometimes inspire such worship of them. I can justify killing the dorados in order to save my own life, but even that is getting more difficult. Last nights killing was to no ones advantage. I have robbed the fish of life and myself of the fishes spirit. I feel as if I have greatly sinned, that this is a very bad omen. Such waste. How I hate waste. Still I realize that if I am to survive I must continue to fish. I must prepare myself to kill again this morning.” 

In our modern day ‘mastery’ over our environment and the abundance it provides, it seems something has been forgotten of our very real co-dependance on other life forms. How we measure our lives against that of a creature of the sea or land.

Stephens was thrust into a world outside of our normal modern day perceptions of time and life cycle. Being pulled away right into the face of his most basic of needs and most minimal comforts, he beautifully describes his heightened awareness of being at the oceans mercy.

Rare are books such as these. I recommend this book, everyone should be able to take something positive from it.