An Australian Man And His Dog Survived At Sea For Two Months Before They Were Rescued By A Passing Helicopter

Published July 19, 2023

Timothy Shaddock and his dog Bella were sailing from Mexico to French Polynesia when a storm damaged their boat, leaving them stranded in the Pacific Ocean.

Timothy Shaddock And Bella

TwitterTimothy Shaddock and his dog Bella shortly after departing Mexico for French Polynesia in April 2023.

In April, 51-year-old Australian Tim Shaddock and his dog Bella left Mexico for French Polynesia. Several weeks into their voyage, a storm swept in and damaged their boat and its electronic systems — and they became lost at sea.

It’s a nightmare for any person, but miraculously, both Shaddock and Bella survived, subsiding on raw fish and rainwater for two months before a helicopter found them by accident.

Speaking with Australia’s 9News, Shaddock’s doctor stated that the rescued man is “stable and very well.”

Shaddock’s 3,700-mile journey began in the Mexican city of La Paz, but after the storm knocked out his equipment and damaged his boat, he and Bella found themselves stranded in the vast and hostile Pacific Ocean. Surviving on what he could catch, Shaddock’s survival was more than just luck.

Mike Tipton, an ocean survival expert, explained, “It’s a combination of luck and skill. And also knowing for example, as Tim did, that during the heat of the day you need to protect yourself because the last thing you want when you’re in danger of becoming dehydrated is to be sweating.”

Tim Shaddock And Bella

TwitterShaddock and Bella after their rescue.

During the hot daytime hours, Shaddock shielded himself and Bella from the sun using his boat’s canopy. And luckily, Shaddock had fishing gear on board, which allowed him to catch fish for the two to eat, in addition to some existing rations.

Still, fresh water was going to be an issue. It’s common knowledge that you can’t drink seawater, and according to the National Ocean Service, the reason for that is the salt. Humans can, of course, eat small amounts of salt — most do daily — but that salt is typically vastly outweighed by the amount of liquid we consume.

Ocean water, however, contains significantly more salt than most people could healthily consume. And human kidneys can only produce urine that is less salty than salt water, meaning the body would contain an excess of salt even after urinating. To compensate, the body makes you urinate even more water than what you drank, which can cause you to eventually die of dehydration.

Fortunately for Shaddock, he was stranded in a warm, tropical climate with plentiful rainfall. Raw fish and rainwater likely aren’t anybody’s ideal sustenance, but for Shaddock and Bella, it allowed them to survive for two months at sea. Granted, Shaddock was significantly slimmer than when he had left, and he now sported a thick beard, but it was far better than the alternative.

When a helicopter accompanying a tuna trawler spotted Shaddock and Bella on their boat, it was a “needle in a haystack” situation, given how vast the ocean is. Still, Shaddock and Bella appeared to be relatively healthy and in good spirits, all things considered.

“I have been through a very difficult ordeal at sea,” Shaddock told 9News. “I’m just needing rest and good food because I have been alone at sea a long time. Otherwise I’m in very good health.”

Tipton also pointed out that having Bella on board likely helped “a tremendous amount.”

“I think that may have well made the difference,” he said. “You’re living very much from day-to-day and you have to have a very positive mental attitude in order to get through this kind of ordeal and not give up… Just imagine how dark and lonely it would feel out there at night time.”

At present, Shaddock can only eat small meals, and doctors will have to keep an eye on him for some time as he weans himself back onto a regular diet.

After reading about this remarkable survival story, read the incredible story of José Salvador Alvarenga, the man who survived 438 days adrift in the Pacific. Then, read the uplifting story of a kitten who was rescued from the Gulf of Mexico.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.