HomeTrendingThis Incredible 11-Year-Old Survived Nearly A Week Adrift At Sea

This Incredible 11-Year-Old Survived Nearly A Week Adrift At Sea

Arthur Duperrault was a wealthy Wisconsinite who had dreamed of taking his family away from the frigid, American Midwest and moving them to the tropics. He wanted to live a life of sun, sailing, and serenity, and he wanted to give that gift to his family as well.

Maiden Voyage

The year was 1961 and Wisconsin-born Arthur Duperrault was looking to fulfill his dream of finally sailing around the tropics. To test the family’s ability to sail and to spend winter someplace warm, the Duperrault family would head to The Bahamas, would head to the Bahamas for a week aboard a chartered yacht. Then, if things worked out well, Arthur would consider extending the vacation indefinitely.

The Bluebelle

Once they had arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, they rented a yacht called The Bluebelle, which was captained by former Air Force Pilot, Julian Harvey. On the morning of Wednesday, November 8, 1961, the entire crew, which consisted of Captain Harvey, his wife, Arthur and Jean Duperrault and their three children: Brian, Rene, and Terry Jo, set sail for the adventure of a lifetime…

Tropical Vacation

The family adventure had begun. Over the next four days, Captain Harvey took the Dupperaults around the 100,000 square miles of the Bahamas archipelago. The Bluebelle sailed east from there, towards the Bimini island chain. During their tropical vacation, they spent their leisure time snorkeling, swimming, collecting shells, and being together as a family.

Returning Home

Before long, it was time for the family to return to Wisconsin. On the Sunday before they sailed back home, the Depparaults stopped by the Sandy Point village commissioner in order to fill in the official forms that would let them re-enter U.S. territory. They were hoping to be back by Christmas. That night, however, would prove to be the last for many of the Bluebelle’s passengers…

Disastrous Night

It was barely 9 p.m. when little Terry Jo, the Duparraults’ youngest girl, decided to head to her small sleeping quarters below decks. Later that night, Terry Jo was awaked by her brother screaming in panic “Help, Daddy! Help!” She didn’t know what was going on, there was running and screaming above her for a good five minutes and then…only silence. As she crept out of her room she saw a terrifying sight: her mother and brother lying lifeless in a pool of blood in the main cabin.

Find Help

Unsure what to do next, Terry Jo climbed the stairs and stuck her head out of the hatch. More blood seemed to be spread about the deck, along with a blood-soaked knife. Despite her crippling fear, she climbed up and headed to the captain’s cabin. Without warning, Captain Harvey lunged at her, shoving her down the stairs and shouting “Get back down there!” She crawled back into her bunk, avoiding the bodies of her mother and brother, and waited…

Sinking Ship

The captain soon stood in her doorway, clutching her brother’s rifle and breathing heavily. Terry Jo knew something was very wrong. All around her the ship was creaking and roaring as water began to fill all of the lower levels. Waves crashed outside of the ship, thundering against the bulkheads. Without saying a word, Captain Harvey turned and walked out of her cabin, then climbed up the stairs to the upper decks.

Climb to Safety

Water began to pour from beneath her cabin floor. The mattress was becoming waterlogged know. She couldn’t stay there, she knew that she needed to be brave and make her way through the waste-deep seawater, to the stairs. Once she had made her way through the icy water and climbed out, she saw that the boat’s only lifeboat and rubber dinghy were floating beside the ship. It seemed like the captain was getting ready to leave…

Slipped Through her Fingers

Terry Jo called out to the captain, the only other person she knew for a fact was still alive, and asked if the boat was sinking. He answered yes and forced the dinghy line into her numb hands. Unfortunately, due to the cold and shock, Terry Jo allowed the rope from the dingy to slip through her hands. Desperate to get off his sinking yacht, Captain Harvey jumped into the water, after the dingy, and rowed away.

Floating Away

Exhausted and alone, Terry Jo began frantically searching for any item she could potentially gloat on once the boat inevitably sank. She remembered the cork life float that was kept lashed to the top right side of the main cabin, and made her way there, sloshing water around her as she went. She struggled with the float for a few minutes until finally…

Adrift and Alone

By the next morning, Terry Jo realized the gravity of her situation and began to weep. She had no water, nor food, and had only the barest of pajamas on to keep her warm. The night had been freezing and all through it she has prayed for an end to the frigid waters and the random waves breaking upon her tiny, disintegrating cork raft.

Scorching Sunlight

Thankfully, the tropical sun had driven away the evening chill. But the tiny 11-year-old soon found that the heat was quite as bad as the cold, of not worth. Terry Jo’s pale skin was roasting in the sun and if she put her legs and feel in the water, they’d be nipped at by territorial parrotfish. Soon her tongue became drier and her throat even more parched. The next day, however, fortune smiled upon her…


The next day, Tuesday, a small red plane began to circle above her. She took off her blouse and waved it in the air, hoping one of the pilots would catch sight of her and swoop down to her rescue. It even dove in her direction as she waved, but it was no good. The plane just kept passing directly over her.

Unexpected Company

After the departure of her would-be savior, Terry Jo encountered the help of a very different savior. Ghostly shapes began to float just below the water’s surface about 30 feet from her. It seemed that a pod of dolphins had heard her cries for help and come to do what they could. They comforted her with a series of clicks and whistles and even remained by her side for hours that day. Sadly, she was still very much alone…

Alone at Sea

The next day was bright and equally sunny, her eyes burned, her lips were swollen, and her muscles ached. The skin, even that which was covered by her pants and blouse, was blistered and burned. She began to hallucinate that she had found a tiny desert island, or that she and her family were still on the boat. The lack of water and food were starting to take their toll. If she wasn’t found soon, she’d surely die.

Safe At Last

It was now her fourth day alone on the raft. She emerged from her stupor to find that something huge was now looming over her, shielding her almost completely from the blistering sun. The rescue ship rumbled around her and she soon felt like she was being raised into the air, suspended somewhere between sea and sky. Images of hands and faces that she didn’t recognize swam around her. As she slid back into unconsciousness, she knew she had been rescued…

Other Survivors

As for Captain Harvey, the 44-year old former Air Force Lieutenant, and former captain of the Bluebelle, he had also been found by a local ship, bound for Puerto Rico several days before little Terry Jo. The crew had spotted a wooden dinghy floating adrift in the middle of a broad channel. It seemed that besides the girl, Captain Harvey was the only other survivor. Harvey had told the Coast Guard in Miami that he was the sole survivor of what he described as a “grave accident”.

Harvey’s Tale

It seemed that the night before, a sudden squall damaged the Bluebelle sailboat. According to him, Harvey’s wife, Dene, and the Duperreault family were all injured when the masts and rigging collapsed. A gas line ruptured and the ship caught fire. Harvey was the only one who escaped. But as sad and unbelievable as it was, Harvey’s tale lacked some elements of truth…

The Devious Plot

Meanwhile, Terry Jo was taken by helicopter to a Miami hospital. A week later, Coast Guard officials questioned her as to what she remembered happening the night of the shipwreck. Her story disproved Harvey’s account of the events of the night. After a bit more investigation, it was determined that Julian Harvey had slaughtered his wife to collect insurance money and had killed the Duperrault family after Arthur discovered what he had done.

Deserved Fate

Several days after his rescue, Captain Harvey was told that little Terry Jo had survived. Two days later he was found on the floor of the bathroom in his hotel room: he had committed suicide. Terry Jo on the other hand, was returned to Green Bay to live with her father’s sister and three cousins. 50 years after that fateful week, Terry Jo, now going by Tere, finally revealed what she had gone through in its entirety and even told her story on CBS.


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