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Observations placeholder

Bombard, Dr Alain – The Bombard Story – Summing up



Type of Spiritual Experience


The importance of the summary in the context of the site is that Bombard discovered the key link between the mind and its state, and health.  To a large extent he was able to see that our mind can kill us and cure us.  The will to live is all important.

Fear produced diarrhoea.

Loneliness and other love related emotions affected his heart and blood pressure.

A description of the experience


THE voyage of L'Heretique is over. Now I have to fight for the understanding of my heresies and their acceptance as orthodox doctrine for future castaways.

Any survivor of a disaster at sea should be able to reach land in as good a physical condition as I did. Mine was a perfectly normal case and my health was that of the average man. I have had three attacks of jaundice in my life and several more or less serious ailments, due to the effects of wartime undernourishment. I therefore made the crossing with no particular physical advantages. I was somewhat shrunken on arrival, it is true, but I got there. It was not a question of living well but of surviving long enough to reach land or meet a ship.

I claim to have proved that the sea itself provides sufficient food and drink to enable the battle for survival to be fought with perfect confidence.

During the sixty-five days it took me to get from the Canaries to the West Indies I enjoyed no particular good fortune and my voyage cannot be considered an exceptional case or a mere hazardous exploit. I lost fifty-five pounds in weight and suffered various minor ills- I became seriously anaemic (my red corpuscle count was five million at the start and two and a half million on arrival), and my haemoglobin level had reached the safety limit. The period following the light meal I had on board the Arakaka was very nearly fatal.

My blood pressure varied greatly with my state of mind. It remained more or less normal until the beginning of December and became dangerously low as my despair increased after that date. My meeting with the Arakoka sent it up to normal again, after which it declined slowly with my growing fatigue. It showed clearly the effect on the system of extraneous events and their capacity to cause psychological disturbances and fluctuations in the state of health.

I was racked by an attack of diarrhoea for fourteen days, from 26th November to 10th December, with sizeable haemorrhages. I nearly lost consciousness on two occasions: on 23rd November, when I had the premonition preceding the storm and on 6th December when I wrote out my will. My skin became dehydrated and I had a rash covering my whole body. I lost the nails from my toes. I developed serious defects of vision, suffered a marked loss in muscular tone and was hungry. But I got there.

For sixty-five days I lived exclusively on what I could catch from the sea. My intake of proteins and fats was sufficient. The lack of carbohydrates doubtless contributed to my loss of weight, but I had proved that the safety margin, calculated in advance in a laboratory, was a correct estimate.

As an example of the paramount importance of mental endurance over the physical, I only need to mention the psychological hunger which I suffered after meeting the Arakoka, which had much more serious effects on my health than the organic hunger I endured with Palmer during our period of fast in the Mediterranean. The former variety is not true hunger, it is a desire for something else, always dangerous when the something else is not available. The Iatter causes pain and stomach cramp during the first forty-eight hours, which then die down, to be replaced by somnolence and general weakness.

In the first instance, the organism is burning itself away and in the second it goes into a sort of hibernation.

The medical examination which I underwent on arrival gave no indication of any condition caused by avitaminosis. The plankton must therefore have been a sufficient source of vitamin C.

I had no rainwater for the first twenty-three days.

During the whole of that period I proved conclusively that I could quench my thirst from fish and that the sea itself provides the liquid necessary to health. After leaving Monaco, I drank sea-water for fourteen days in all and fish juice for forty-three days. I had conquered the menace of thirst at sea.

I had been told that sea-water was laxative, but during the long period of our Mediterranean fast neither Palmer nor I had a single motion for eleven days. There was no sign of the predicted auto-intoxication and my mucous membranes never became dry. I shall give a full account of my medical conclusions in the thesis I am preparing and, in collaboration with the French naval authorities, I am producing a handbook for the use of castaways which will summarize and codify the results of my experiment.

I want to assert most emphatically that a life-raft can remain at sea for much longer than ten days. It can be steered sufficiently to carry a castaway to safety.

L'Heretique was a craft of this type. I have also suggested certain rules of conduct and employment which will keep shipwrecked survivors actively occupied all day, with their hopes concentrated on the supreme object: survival. Even a man in the depths of despair can find a second wind which will enable him to pull himself together and carry on.

The bottom of a life-raft should carry printed in the fabric a map of the prevailing winds and currents in the world's oceans. Survivors of Atlantic wrecks are compelled by these winds and currents to make for America, whatever the distance. To give them hope and convince them that they will survive their ordeal, I would like to see printed on the map: 'Remember the man who did it in 1952’.

To hope is to seek better things. The survivor of a shipwreck, deprived of everything, must never lose hope.  The simple and brutal problem confronting him is that of death or survival. He will need to bolster his courage with all his resources and all his faith in life to fight off despair.

I would like to add one more thought: a human life should only be risked in such an experiment as mine if some useful purpose is being served. If there are any young people who think they see a short cut to fame in setting off in a raft for America or elsewhere, I beg them to reflect or come and see me first. Led astray by false hopes, encouraged by some initial success, or misled into thinking they are on some pleasure trip, they will not realize how desperate is the fight for life until it is too late and will no longer have the time to marshal their courage. Panic will only set in more quickly for having risked their lives to no useful purpose. There will be other and better reasons for such a sacrifice.

But you, my brother castaway, if you remain firm in belief and hope, you will see, as did Robinson Crusoe on his island, how your riches will increase from day to day. And now I trust there is no further reason for you to lose hope.

The source of the experience

Bombard, Alain

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Science Items

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Activities and commonsteps