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Turtle meat - the ultimate survival diet?

Douglas Robertson was 18 when his father, Dougal, a former merchant navy officer, decided it'd be fun for the family to sell his farm, buy a 43ft wooden schooner and sail around the world.

"Every day was an adventure - life was idyllic," says Douglas, of the 1971 voyage. Indeed, it was all going swimmingly until a pod of killer whales - near the Galapagos Islands - attacked the boat. Forced to abandon the sinking vessel, the six of them ended up adrift on the Pacific - away from any shipping lanes - onboard a 10ft dinghy.

With minimal rations to hand, to stay alive the sea would have to provide.

On their sixth day of being shipwrecked, they managed to catch a turtle - which proved to be their salvation - and staple diet.

"A meal would be a mouthful of turtle meat, followed by drinking its blood. The blood is a little difficult to drink as it congeals - so you have to knock it back. We'd bleed the turtle into a little cup and pass it around. It's a bit like black pudding you have at breakfast," Douglas says.

As time passed drifting at sea, the Robertsons' turtle recipes became more inventive.

"We made soup out of turtle eggs - and we chewed on the bones for days on end to get the marrow."

Sustained by the reptiles - and whatever sushi they could land - the family survived for more than six weeks on the Pacific. After 38 days, they were rescued by a passing Japanese ship.

"It's amazing how civilisation is just a thin veneer - underneath it we are hunters, gatherers, innovators."

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