The Incredible True Story of the Young Girl Who Was Orphaned at Sea
The Incredible True Story of the Young Girl Who Was Orphaned at Sea

The Incredible True Story of the Young Girl Who Was Orphaned at Sea

Wyatt Redd - September 18, 2017

The Incredible True Story of the Young Girl Who Was Orphaned at Sea
Terry Jo In Hospital. Youtube.com

As the sun settled into the gathering clouds that night, Terry left her family on the deck of the ship and moved towards her sleeping quarters in the back of the ship. She drifted off early, rocked by the motion of the waves against the ship. But after a few hours, she was jolted awake by the sound of her brother Brian. Brian was screaming for help from his father.

Terry slid out of her bunk and moved up towards the deck. As she passed through the kitchen, she witnessed a sight that chilled her to the bone. Her mother was lying on the floor in a rapidly expanding pool of her own blood. Nearby, in the main cabin, she found the body of her father and brother. Both had been slashed repeatedly with a knife and Terry could tell that they were dead as well.

But before she could call out for help, she heard the sound of the engine sputtering, and her nose caught the scent of gasoline as it poured into the engine compartment. And she could hear the seawater rapidly rushing into the ship. On the deck, she could make out the dark shape of a man silhouetted against the night sky. It was Captain Harvey, and Terry Jo could tell that he was carrying his brother’s rifle.

Her heart beat furiously against her ribs as Harvey studied her in the darkness. Harvey’s arm rose, but rather than shooting Terry, he threw her the rope to the ship’s lifeboat and told her to hold on.

The saltwater filling her cabin and her fear made Terry Jo’s hands numb and the line slipped through her fingers. The lifeboat began to drift away in the swift current of the Gulf Stream, and Harvey quickly dove in after it, leaving Terry Jo on the sinking vessel to drown. But thinking quickly, Terry Jo was able to untie a small cork float from the wall of the ship and rode it off of the ship. As the boat disappeared beneath the water and the sun rose slowly over the horizon, Terry Jo found herself completely alone, surrounded by hundreds of miles of open ocean.

And as the sun drove away the night chill, Terry Jo soon discovered the scorching rays were burning her skin and leaving her lips cracked and dry.

As her feet dangled in the water, parrotfish began to nibble at the vulnerable skin of her legs. Terry Jo could feel the moisture leaving her body with each passing hour and she began to hallucinate. She saw her family and heard their beckoning voices. Dark shapes began to appear in the water. At first, she feared they might be sharks, but as they broke the surface, she could see that they were porpoises, guarding the young girl as she drifted across the waves. She would need her help to weather the trying days to come.

The Incredible True Story of the Young Girl Who Was Orphaned at Sea
Terry Jo Duperrault Moments Before Her Rescue. History In Orbit

Over the next few days, Terry Jo endured the blazing sun and the freezing winds at night. Even during the day, the pleasant breeze of the Caribbean became a source of unbearable pain to Terry Jo as it blew across her parched eyes. She had had nothing to eat or drink for almost four days. And she began drifting in and out of consciousness. She was living in a dream world, where the line between her visions of being with her family became blurred with the harsh reality of her ordeal at sea.

The average person can only survive around three days without water, so by the time the sun rose on the fourth morning, and Terry Jo’s eyes fluttered awake, she was on the verge of death as her kidneys began to shut down. But that morning, as her eyes opened, she saw an enormous shape coming out of the haze on the horizon. In her extreme state, she thought it was a huge whale swimming towards her, but as it got closer and she could hear the hum of its engine, she realized she was saved. It was a Greek merchant vessel, plying the trade lanes in the Caribbean and there, at the end of her strength it had happened upon the young girl adrift at sea. Terry Jo’s story quickly made the papers and the photo of a ghostly little girl on a raft quickly spread across the nation.

But there was one person who wasn’t quite so happy to discover the girl had survived. Captain Harvey had been picked up on his lifeboat a few days earlier and according to the story he gave investigators, a tropical storm had blown down the mast of the Bluebell, tearing a hole through the boat and rupturing gas lines. Harvey had tried to save the passengers, but the ship had gone down too fast, and everyone on board had drowned. The authorities accepted Harvey’s explanation and let him go free. But when Harvey heard that Terry Jo had been rescued, he quietly checked into a hotel and slashed his wrists with a razor blade, bleeding to death shortly afterward.

Terry Jo’s account of the accident conflicted with Harvey’s and taken with his suicide, the police began looking into Harvey’s past. Harvey had been married six times and his last wife died in a mysterious car accident, which Harvey survived. Police noted that Harvey’s wife Diane had a twenty thousand dollar insurance policy. Thanks to Terry Jo’s account, they concluded that he murdered his wife for the insurance money and killed the rest of the passengers to keep his crime secret. Terry Jo returned to Wisconsin to live with her aunt and cousins.

Terry Jo has lived a mostly quiet life since then, trying to move past her ordeal. But she eventually penned an account of her experience in a book called Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, allowing her story of heroic survival to serve as an inspiration to people all over the world.

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