May/June Issue 241: Bluebelle’s sole survivor


There is an intriguing picture on the Internet of a young girl on a small raft just as she is rescued, with a caption reading something to the effect of “Survivor of Shipwreck.”

This tale begins with Dr. Arthur Duperrault of Green Bay, Wis. In 1961, Dr. Duperrault took his family on a sailing trip. Along with his wife and three kids — Brian, 14; Terry Jo, 11; and Renee, 7 — he went to Florida and chartered Bluebelle, a 60-foot ketch skippered by 44-year-old Julian Harvey and his new wife, Mary Dene. Harvey looked every bit the part of the salty captain: good-looking, athletically built and a genuine war hero who had served as a pilot both in WWII and Korea. 

Had Duperrault dug a little bit deeper though, he would have discovered this was Harvey’s sixth marriage and that one of his previous wives had been suspiciously killed in a car accident, which Harvey had escaped. Harvey had also been involved with the sinking of two yachts and had collected sizeable insurance settlements from both. 

So, the doctor and his family chartered Bluebelle with Captain Harvey and Mary Dene for a trip from Florida to the Bahamas, cruising the Bahamas for a week or so. On the return trip, the pleasant vacation became a vision of hell. Harvey had taken out a $20,000 double indemnity insurance policy on his wife and aimed to collect. If she died an accidental death and her body wasn’t found, Harvey could collect $40,000. 

Harvey’s cold-blooded murder of Mary Dene was accidentally witnessed by Dr. Duperrault. This had tragic consequences, as Harvey then murdered Mrs. Duperrault, Dr. Duperrault and Brian and Renee. Terry Jo was to be next, but Harvey handed her the dinghy painter. Terry Jo dropped the line and the dinghy floated away. Harvey jumped overboard to retrieve the dinghy while Bluebelle, with her seacocks open, sank. He likely figured Terry Jo went down with the ship.

Terry Jo, however, got on a small balsa float. For the next four days, she drifted without food or water until she was rescued by a Greek freighter in Northwest Providence Channel. She had suffered from exposure, but was alive.

Meanwhile, three days before, Harvey had been rescued along with the drowned body of Terry Jo’s sister Renee. Harvey told the Coast Guard a tale of a sudden squall, a dismasting, a fire and the loss of all on Bluebelle, thinking all along that Terry Jo had drowned. For three days, his story held. But, when Terry Jo was rescued, he checked into a motel and slit his wrists.

Terry Jo returned to Green Bay and was taken in by family but was never encouraged to speak of the episode. Fifty years later she and a co-author wrote Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, bringing her story to attention.

In 1961, let’s assume Captain Harvey took a noon sight to ascertain his latitude. On Nov. 12, using the 2017 Nautical Almanac, the ill-fated Bluebelle was at a DR of 26° 32’ N by 78° 15’ W. The height of eye was 10 feet and Harvey was taking a lower limb sight of the sun. The Hs was 45° 30.8’. There is no index error. We want to calculate the time in GMT of LAN, then we want to reduce our HS to Ho. Finally, we want to calculate our latitude.

A. What is the time of LAN at the DR? 
B. What is the Ho?
C. What is latitude?

A. LAN is at 1657 GMT
B. Ho is 45° 43.0’
C. Latitude is 26° 25’ N

By Ocean Navigator