If you ever go on a boat trip, make sure you bring a life jacket. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, you never know what will happen—the ocean could knock you off the ship. Just ask Brett Archibald.
Archibald, a then 50-year-old South African father of two, was on a surfing trip with some of his friends near West Sumatra, a province of Indonesia, in 2013. He and the rest of his crew became sick one night from food poisoning.
In the middle of the night, he tried to drink a soda, but he couldn’t keep it down because of how sick he was. This led to him going out on the ship’s deck to get some air, and possibly puke some more.
Then, he passed out momentarily, lost his footing, and fell right into the ocean.
He didn’t even know he fell; it happened so fast, he initially thought he was in his bed and his friend was pouring water on him to wake up. By the time he came to his senses, it was too late.
Archibald became lost at sea, knowing it would be hours before his friends woke up and realized he was gone.
Being in the middle of the ocean, treading water with no food or resources, the first thing that went through his head was that he was going to die. He even considered using his belt to scratch into his body what happened, so that if he was found dead, his loved ones could understand what had happened to him.
“There was no shadow of a doubt,” Archibald told TODAY. Given the circumstances, he thought he would never see his wife or two kids ever again.
His range of emotions went back and forth during the hours he was floating. He started talking to God. Initially he was angry: “I can’t even use the profanities that I used in the ocean,” he told TODAY.
Then he reflected on his life, thinking about all the wrong he had done. “I thought I was a great father and husband, but when I was faced with reality I hadn’t been,” he said.
At one point, he even started hallucinating.
In between all of this, he had to deal with stings from jellyfish, and a seagull attack.
The hours went by, and then there was hope—he saw his boat and his friends approaching. But the hope was short-lived as they sailed away again. They hadn’t seen him.
It was a moment of pure despair.
Then, something bumped into him from behind.
“At first I thought it was a big barracuda,” Archibald told News24. After being bumped a few times, he saw it was worse than that.
It was a shark—the icing on the cake after everything Archibald had already dealt with.
So, after being thrown overboard, stung by jellyfish, becoming dehydrated, and now being stalked by a shark, Archibald thought all of this was too much.
“I literally decided to end it all there and then,” Archibald said.
Ironically, months before, his wife had read him an article about how drowning is the most peaceful way to die. This came to Archibald’s mind, and he tried to drown himself.
But he couldn’t do it. His will to live was too strong.
And soon after his attempt, he saw a ship.
Archibald was rescued 28 and a half hours after falling overboard, and a medic said he wouldn’t have survived another hour treading water.
After losing 13 pounds in the water, and almost giving up, Archibald was finally safe.
“I’m just so happy I get to see my family and my kids again … it’s made me realize what’s important in life,” he told News24. He said that he feels the world needs stories like his to give them hope, even in the darkest of times.
Even if Archibald was close to giving up a couple of times, he persevered nonetheless. The amount of courage he must have had to tread water for that long while dealing with the unknown circumstances of the ocean is mind-boggling.
And this ordeal not only demonstrated Archibald’s impressive cardio, but his undeniable will to live and see his family again.