Shipwreck Survivor Recalls Deadly Attack by Great White Sharks

Yana Bostongirl

In 1982, Deborah Kiley a 24-year-old sailor was on a routine sailing trip from Maine to Florida when the yacht she was sailing capsized in the Atlantic Ocean leaving the survivors clinging for dear life.

The 18-foot yacht, The Trashman, with 5 onboard set sail from Bar Harbor in Maine for the 6 day 2000 km trip that would take them to the yacht's new owner who was based in Florida. The people making the trip included Kiley, Captain John Lippoth, his girlfriend Meg Rooney, Brad Cavanaugh, and Mark Adams.

This is what Deborah Kiley said about the weather in an interview with Discovery Channel’s 2005 series I Shouldn’t Be Alive: “It really didn’t get much better than it was right then.”

But the good weather did not last long and two days into the trip, the yacht was battered by 110Kph winds and 10m waves. The captain who was heavily intoxicated had apparently shirked his duties and by the time the others were alerted to the situation, it was already too late. They barely had time to board an inflated dinghy before their yacht capsized. During the melee, Meg Mooney was severely injured in the leg.

An article in Explorersweb describes how Adams felt a nudge to his leg as he boarded the dinghy. To their horror, the crew discovered that they were surrounded by Great Whites which were drawn by the scent of blood in the water. According to the article, this is how Kiley recalled the event years later: “The minute we got in, there were fins everywhere in the water. I don’t mean like two or three, I mean 10, 20. They were everywhere."

Over the 5 days, they were stranded in the open sea, Mooney's leg became severely infected and the other crew members suffered from extreme dehydration. Both Lippoth and Adams were lost to the sharks when they hallucinated from drinking seawater and leaped into the water. Mooney died from blood poisoning.

According to Explorersweb, when Kiley and Cavanagh were finally rescued by a ship around 140km south of Cape Lookout, they’d drifted almost 150km off course.

Kiley went on to become a motivational speaker and write two books Albatross: The True Story of a Woman’s Survival at Sea and No Victims Only Survivors: Ten Lessons for Survival. She passed away in 2012.

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