They survived by catching rainwater from squalls, spearing fish with the pocketknife (including one good-sized shark), and catching or shooting birds (before the pistol became too rusted to use). A few floating coconuts made up the rest of their food supply. When a squall approached, they removed their clothing and used it to soak up water, which they first drank, storing any extra in the bailing bucket.
Once ashore, friendly natives fed them and restored them to health. For the first week on land, they were unable to walk. Shortly after landing on the island, the barometer started falling and winds built to gale force, and then became a full-blown hurricane that lasted three days. Great damage was done to the island: About one-third of the trees were blown down, and taro and other crops on low-lying sections of land were wiped out as great waves washed inland and over parts of the island. No one wants to imagine what would have happened had they still been in their tiny raft when the storm struck.
Dixon subsequently received the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism, exceptional determination, resourcefulness, skilled seamanship, excellent judgment, and highest quality of leadership.”6
The North Atlantic Ocean has historically been noted for horrible winter storms. Even the biggest ships in the U.S. Navy are not immune to the effects of large waves. One of the first supercarriers, the USS Forrestal (CVA-59), 1,076 feet long, saw its share of rough weather during 21 deployments between 1954 and 1993. My good friend Ray Holdsworth was a young lieutenant (junior grade) on the Forrestal from 1965 to 1967.
Ray described to me the winter of 1965-1966, when the carrier returned from a Mediterranean cruise to Norfolk, Virginia. The Forrestal passed Gibraltar on its way into the North Atlantic. A few hundred miles south of Newfoundland, a large storm arrived, bearing down on the carrier from the northeast. The storm lasted for one and one-half days and left in its wake enormous swells—too much for even the mighty carrier to take head-on. The Forrestal altered its heading to take the swells at 15 degrees and slowed to 8 knots. Even then, green