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Survival-at-sea pioneer dies

JULY 23 - Dr. Alain Bombard, the first person to sail an inflatable boat across the Atlantic, died last Tuesday in southern France. He was 80.

Bombard was admitted to a military hospital in Toulon nearly one month ago, news reports say. The cause of death was not immediately known.

In the 1950s Bombard, a biologist and medical doctor, began studying survival tactics at sea, a report says. At age 27 Bombard completed a 65-day single-handed voyage across the Atlantic in a 15-foot, 4-inch single-sail inflatable boat called Heretic. He left Las Palmas on the Canary Islands on Oct. 8, 1952, and reached Barbados Dec. 22 of that year.

After spending more than two months at sea, Bombard had lost 55 pounds, was anemic and suffered from a number of other ailments from which he recovered, according to a report. He did not, however, suffer from dehydration or scurvy, preventing the later by eating plankton for vitamin C. Bombard also consumed raw fish, rainwater and occasional sips of seawater.

Bombard’s voyage proved to many that, with the right survival tactics, a shipwrecked person could survive at sea. Bombard published several books about his experiences at sea and a series of inflatable boats, made by Zodiac, was created in his name.

— Jason Fell