In 1953, German-born Hannes Lindemann had just begun practicing medicine in Liberia and had in mind to settle into a comfortable life as a doctor when he met Alain Bombard, a Frenchman and fellow physician, who had taken an interest in survival at sea. In the fall of the previous year, October 19 to December 23, Bombard sailed a 15′ Zodiac inflatable 2,700 miles from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Hoping to address issues that led to the poor survival rates of sailors who took to lifeboats during World War II, he intended to survive by living off what the sea provided and took few provisions. He had a net to gather plankton for food, and for drinking, he had a press for extracting water from the flesh of fish; he’d mix it with seawater to extend it. Lindemann, doubting some of the claims made by Bombard following his voyage, “decided to use my own body to experience the problems of the shipwrecked; problems of nourishment, keeping the body healthy, avoiding the dangers of the sea, and, ultimately, keeping the mind healthy.”Lindemann’s first crossing of the Atlantic, made in 1955 in a 25′ dugout canoe, took 65 days, and while he had worked out solutions to many of the physical challenges, he had not solved the mental difficulties. “I had been in dire despair several times during the crossing. I had been on the verge of giving up, especially when I lost my rudder and the two sea-anchors. Consequently, I set out to prove that one can and must prepare mentally if one is to succeed in any extraordinary feat.”The preparation for his experiment in survival included what he called Psycho-Hygiene Training to “anchor auto-suggestions deep in the subconscious so that they would automatically come to assist in difficult situations.” For six months he did mental exercises, reciting to himself: I’ll make it, Keep going west, and Never give up. “Thus, my subconscious was prepared to withstand all enticements of a more comfortable life.”

Read this article now for free!

Sign up here (No credit card required) to finish reading your article now.

— OR —

Subscribe now for $29.99 a year! You'll have access to our new issues as they are published, and access to our entire archive of back issues, starting with our inaugural issue in September 2014. Subscribers can also post unlimited classified ads. This is an extraordinary value!