How long can you survive adrift in the ocean?

Cruise ship life boats are large, stable and give you a good chance at survival. Unfortunately, they're never invincible. Check out pictures of the most famous shipwreck, the Titanic.
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If you've ever been scuba diving, ­then you know that just a­bout the scariest thing possible would be to surface and find that you've been left behind by the dive boat. And­, t­here you are, bobbing in the middle of a lonely ocean, feeling like shark kibble.

­As dreadful as it sounds, it actually happens. In 1998, Tom and Eileen Lonergan were left behind by their diving party after diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Although their bodies were never found, investigators believe that the pair survived through the first night. A nearly faded message written on an underwater, magnetic dive slate was found floating 100 miles from they were stranded. The message read:

"Monday Jan 26, 1998 8 a.m. To anyone who can help us: we have been abandoned on Agincourt Reef by MV Outer Edge, Jan 25, 1998. 3 pm. Please help us, come to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"

The wetsuits and life vests that eventually washed ashore indicated no violent, shark-mangled end for the couple. Chances are, they succumbed to dehydration and exhaustion before drowning. In 2003, a film called "Open Water" was made, based loosely on this incident. The couple in that film met a grizzlier end -- in jaws of sharks.

Another diver named Paul Lucas drifted too far out to sea in January 2000 and found himself stranded in open waters. Luckily for Lucas, he found an island after spending 24 long hours floating in his wetsuit. After a 15-hour stay on the island, Lucas was rescued. He was exhausted, sunburned and dehydrated, but otherwise fine.

Being adrift in a boat is another story. A 62-year-old man named Richard Van Pham lived for nearly four months in his 24-foot (7-meter) sailboat after high winds broke his mast and sent him drifting out to sea. He was all set for a quick trip from Long Beach, Calif., to Catalina Island 23 miles (37 km) away, but it turned out to be anything but. Van Pham collected rainwater in a bucket and ate fish and seagull to survive over the course of the next 15 weeks. All things considered, he was found in pretty good shape.

So how long can you survive adrift in the ocean? Well, it depends on the conditions and what kind of vessel you're in, if any at all. In this article, we'll look at three likely scenarios and explore some of the dangers you'd face in the wide-open ocean.

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