Summary and Analysis
Part III Chapter 14: Thirst
Drinking water runs out. Louie, Mac, and Phil go several days without a drink and are literally dying of thirst. Sharks circle the rafts. Finally a storm appears and showers them with enough water to stay alive. They are also starving to death thanks to Mac’s ingestion of the scant food supply and consider eating the leather in their shoes. Finally they catch a bird and use its meat as bait to catch fish, which they eat raw. They survive this way—barely—for weeks, with the hope of rescue dwindling as the ocean looms large before them.
Along with harmful exposure to the elements, hunger and thirst soon become the dominating punishments of being lost on the ocean. Mac’s chocolate-eating binge and subsequent soul-crushing guilt threaten not only their lives, but also their sanity. Louie, with the determined will of an Olympic athlete, institutes a saving grace: conversation. He and Phil keep their minds sharp and active with questions about every conceivable subject. Hillenbrand writes that Phil and Louie “turned the raft into a nonstop quiz show.”
For Phil, another saving grace is a fragile, yet constant, faith in God. Phil begins singing hymns, hoping that a “protective God” will save them. And maybe God isn’t that far away: At the height of their starvation, in what could be described as nearly a miracle, an albatross lands directly on Louie’s head. The bird becomes bait for catching fish, which save the men from starvation.