The family who drank turtle blood to survive at sea after killer whales attacked boat

  • Watch Grace Pascoe's report

A family who survived on turtle blood after being stranded at sea following a killer whale attack have recounted their extraordinary experience 50 years on.

The Roberston family spent 38 days stranded at sea in a tiny dinghy after a pod of whales sunk their boat.

They have now spoken about how they managed to stay alive, which included eating a raw turtle and drinking its blood to stay alive.

The Roberston family set sail from Falmouth In January 1971 for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but little did they know they would be stuck for almost six weeks.

They were sailing in the Pacific Ocean on a boat called the Lucette, which was carrying six people, five of whom were from the family.

The boat the family survived on for 38 days

Once the pod of killer whales had attacked the boat, the group jumped overboard, with just enough time to launch a liferaft and dinghy, the Ednamair, and grab the supplies they could.

They managed to survive on board on meagre rations for 38 days before miraculously being rescued.

Half a century later, the Robertson family have visited the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth to remember their incredible experience.

Douglas Roberston, who was on the boat at the age of 18, told ITV News West Country: "We were farmers, we’d never sailed before.

"We never even so much as went around the bay to get a bit of training in, we were cold, we set sail from Falmouth straight out into the Bay of Biscay, straight out into a force 10 gale.

"My mother said that night, 'Dougal do you think it’s time to send the rockets up' and he said 'don’t be silly woman, only a fool would be out in weather like this'. He thought for a minute and then said 'hang on that’s us'."

Douglas Robertson

Speaking of the moment he realised the boat was sinking, he said: “Two minutes later we were in the middle of the ocean with a big problem. Where was our next meal going to come from? Where was our next water coming from? How were we going to get home?"

Sandy Robertson was just 12 at the time. He said: “Our staple diet went from a normal diet to whatever we could catch out at sea, so turtles, fish, all raw of course. Fluid we drank was water, turtle blood, cut the throat, fill a beaker, pass it round six people.”

The trip had started 18 months before in Falmouth on 27 January 1971 and was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime for the Robertson’s, but it soon became a nightmare.

For five and a half weeks they had to fight for survival, they tackled storms, drought, severe hunger, thirst and exposure, all the time knowing that no one was out looking for them.

Then out of nowhere came a Japanese trawler.

The family being rescued

“When we saw the Toka Maru II we didn’t dare believe she’d stop and pick us up. She altered course twice, then came for us," Douglas said.

"I always remember the heaving line fell across the Ednamair, it was dirty, I grabbed hold of that rope and I knew I had connected to another world and this is how I re-join it, they hauled us alongside and suddenly our ordeal was over. We’d reached a pinnacle of contentment that cannot be reached, you don’t normally reach it, when somebody gives you your life back.”

“Life is an adventure and the things we learned on here apply to everyone else’s normal life. Never give up, deal with each problem as it comes, have hope, as long as there’s life there’s hope and it did turn out aright in the end, nobody died and we got home.

"We lost the Lucette, we lost all our money, we had no money, not a penny but we rebuilt, you can rebuild.”