Lobsterman Rescued: How Did John Aldridge Survive Dehydration, Exposure, Sharks For 12 Hours Off Long Island Coast?

By Philip Ross on July 26, 2013 11:03 AM EDT

lobsterman rescued
A lobsterman, rescued off the coast of Long Island in New York, survived in shark infested waters for 12 hours. He was rescued (not pictured) Wednesday afternoon by coast guard rescuers. (Photo: Reuters)

A lobsterman, rescued Wednesday off the coast of Long Island, miraculously survived with just a few minor injuries after he spent 12 hours drifting at sea. Commercial lobsterman John Aldridge fell overboard in the middle of the night while his crewmates slept, plunging into the cold Atlantic waters.

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"The handle broke off and I fell off the back of the boat. Just like that," Aldridge, 45, told reporters during a news conference outside his parents' home in Oakdale. "I just watched the boat float away."

Twelve hours later, the coast guard plucked Aldridge from the ocean 43 miles from the town of Montauk around 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. He was wearing little more than a t-shirt and shorts, and was dehydrated and sunburnt. After the coast guard was alerted to Aldridge's disappearance, they searched 780 square miles of ocean -- more than half the state of Rhode Island -- for more than eight hours, before coming across the floating lobsterman. 

Aldridge survived 12 hours in open ocean without a live vest. At one point, he said sharks were circling underneath him. He also sustained a pretty serious sunburn, and dehydration. According to AP, the lobsterman saw other boats and planes in the area, but none of them spotted him until the coast guard came.

And how does the lobsterman rescued off Montauk say he survived the elements for so long? He clung to a pair of rubber boots. AP reports that Aldridge noticed the rubber boots he was wearing caused his feet to float higher in the water than the rest of his body, so he took the boots off and used them as flotation devices.

"Once I did that, I was good to go," he said. "The water was warm, my head was above water, so I was floating and I knew I had to conserve energy and that was it, I floated for hours."

After the lobsterman rescued off the Long Island coast was released from the hospital Thursday morning, he reunited with his family, Newsday reports.

"It feels good to get home to see my parents," said Aldridge just before he boarded a ferry in New London, Conn., to return to Long Island.

"The search and rescue coordination between the Coast Guard, its partner agencies and fishermen was exceptional. The fishing crews allowed us to search a much greater area," Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Walter, the officer in charge of Station Montauk said in a statement. "To find this man in the water after this much time is amazing"

Read more from iScience Times:

Lobster Cannibalism: Why Are Maine Crustaceans Turning On One Other? [VIDEO]

Blue Lobster: Elusive Neon Shellfish Captured By Fisherman In Nova Scotia, One In 2 Million Chance [PHOTOS]

Shark Attack Brazil: 18-Year-Old Bruni Gobbi Suffers Fatal Bite Moments Before Lifeguard Rescue [GRAPHIC VIDEO]

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