Lost at sea, man battles to stay alive—then after 28 hrs, he sees a black cross on the horizon

This South African man almost drowned eight times while drifting alone in the Indian Ocean. For almost 28.5 hours, he fought exhaustion, cramps, dehydration, and even shark attack, yet, he miraculously survived. Read about his incredible survival story below.

On the fateful day of April 17, 2013, Brett Archibald thought his life was over when he woke up at around 2:30 a.m. only to find himself in the middle of the Indian Ocean, amidst a tropical thunderstorm.

Archibald, then 50 years old, had lost his footing and fell off the charter boat after passing out from severe food poisoning. He and nine other friends were sailing to the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia for a surfing trip.

“I just watched the lights of the boat disappear,” Archibald told BBC. “I screamed, I screamed with everything I had in my lungs, but I realized very quickly that they were never going to hear me.”

He swam all he could to catch the boat, named Naga Laut; however, it vanished into the darkness, leaving him behind.

Alone at sea, he set himself “a short-term goal” by counting the hours his friends would return. He thought it would take them 14 hours.

And he began conversing with God, and reflecting on his life. “I reflected, I hadn’t been a good person,” Archibald recounted his experience to TODAY. To keep his mind occupied, he sang Elton John songs and recited cell phone contacts.

“I was running out of energy very quickly,” he said in an interview with National Geographic. “I had nothing left so my brain said: Form a company. I made my mouth Bob. My left nostril was Hillary, my sales director. My right nostril was Emily. She was marketing. I started having these board meetings with them. How do we get Bob to safety?”

He kept thinking about his wife, Anita, and his children—Zara, 9, and Jamie, 6—to pull himself through the ordeal. In his head, Anita was yelling, “Swim, you bugger, swim! You’re not leaving me here with two young children.”

“I swam for her, for my kids,” Archibald told National Geographic.

In the next hours, he had to battle cramps, dehydration, and stings from jellyfish. After the 12 hours, he started having hallucinations, and saw Virgin Mary in the clouds. “She was so real,” he recalled.

At one point, two gulls were squawking around him, as if trying to pluck out his eyeballs. Not wanting to be defeated, he told himself, “I can catch one of them and I can eat him,” he told BBC.

During the 15 hours, a massive blacktip reef shark bumped into him. He knew the shark might rip him apart, but again, he thought, “I’m going to catch you [shark] and I’m going to tow you to land.” Amazingly, it worked, and the shark just swam away.

As time went by, Archibald lost all hopes, and intended to lay down his life. Just then, he saw a black cross appearing on the horizon. “But slowly this cross got bigger and bigger until I realized it was the mast of a boat,” he told National Geographic.

The boat was Barrenjoey, which had joined the search effort. Miraculously, he was saved after almost 29 hours floating at sea. He had shed 13 pounds (approx. 6 kg) while in the water, and a medic on board reckoned he would only live for another hour if he wasn’t saved.

This life-threatening experience totally changed Archibald’s perspective on life, and made him realize how short our existence is.

“Before this happened, I was very materialistic. I chased money, houses, fast cars, private jets,” the now 55-year-old hospitality industry executive said.

“In the sea, I said, ‘If I get through this, I’m going to live life according to my three Fs: faith, family, and friends,’” he told National Geographic. “I’m not perfect, but I’ve lived close to all three. There’s always money in the bank, food on the table, a cold bottle of wine in the fridge, my friends are always around me, and I have such contentment from that.”

Photo credit: Video Screenshot | TODAY.

Sources: BBC, National Geographic, TODAY.