Podcast Episode 207: The Bluebelle’s Last Voyage


In 1961, Wisconsin optometrist Arthur Duperrault chartered a yacht to take his family on a sailing holiday in the Bahamas. After two days in the islands, the ship failed to return to the mainland, and the unfolding story of its final voyage made headlines around the world. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll recount the fate of the Bluebelle and its seven passengers and crew.

We’ll also sympathize with some digital misfits and puzzle over some incendiary cigarettes.


John Brunner’s novel The Squares of the City encodes an 1892 chess game between Wilhelm Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin.

Around 1730 Ben Franklin laid out 11 “necessary hints to those that would be rich.”

Sources for our feature on the Bluebelle:

Richard D. Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender, Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, 2011.

“The Sea: The Bluebelle’s Last Voyage,” Time, Dec. 1, 1961.

Herbert Brean, “The ‘Bluebelle’ Mystery,” Life, Dec. 1, 1961.

Erle Stanley Gardner, “The Case of the Bluebelle’s Last Voyage,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 25, 1962.

“Shipwrecked Girl, 11, Rescued After 4 Days on Raft in Atlantic,” United Press International, Nov. 17, 1961.

“Skipper Is Suicide After Yacht Wreck,” United Press International, Nov. 18, 1961.

“Yacht Girl Rallies,” New York Times, Nov. 19, 1961.

“Yacht Girl Questioned; Survivor of Sinking Reported on Way to Full Recovery,” Associated Press, Nov. 20, 1961.

“Rescued Girl’s Story Indicates Skipper Killed Others on Yacht,” Associated Press, Nov. 21, 1961.

“The Mystery of the Bluebelle,” New York Times, Nov. 22, 1961.

“Dead Skipper’s Papers Are Held by Court Order,” Associated Press, Nov. 22, 1961.

“Rescued Skipper Showed No Grief,” Associated Press, Nov. 23, 1961.

“Yacht Survivor Hears of Deaths,” United Press International, Nov. 24, 1961.

Bluebelle Survivor Tells Story Again,” United Press International, Nov. 28, 1961.

“Coast Guard Rules Harvey Was Killer,” Associated Press, April 26, 1962.

Bluebelle‘s Owner Sued in Deaths of 4,” Associated Press, April 28, 1962.

Mary Ann Grossmann, “‘Alone’ Book Recounts Green Bay Girl’s 1961 Ordeal at Sea — and Life After,” Saint Paul Pioneer Press, May 30, 2010.

John Bogert, “The Tale of the Bluebelle Still Captivates Decades Later,” [Torrance, Calif.] Daily Breeze, May 26, 2010.

Marlene Womack, “Out of the Past: The Mystery of the Yacht Bluebelle,” [Panama City, Fla.] News Herald, Nov. 10, 2014.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “Isle of Man” (accessed June 28, 2018).

Wikipedia, “Geography of the Isle of Man” (accessed June 28, 2018).

Wikipedia, “Wallaby” (accessed June 28, 2018).

Wikipedia, “Red-Necked Wallaby” (accessed June 28, 2018).

“Searching for the Isle of Man’s Wild Wallabies,” BBC News, Oct. 17, 2010.

“Isle of Man Wallaby Population ‘Increasing,'” BBC News, Sept. 16, 2014.

Nazia Parveen, “Wallabies Flourishing in the Wild on Isle of Man,” Guardian, Aug. 14, 2016.

Christopher Null, “Hello, I’m Mr. Null. My Name Makes Me Invisible to Computers,” Wired, Nov. 5, 2015.

Associated Press, “Apostrophe in Your Name Can Cause a World O’Trouble,” February 21, 2008.

Anna Tims, “I Was Denied Boarding a Plane — All Because of a Hyphen,” Guardian, April 27, 2018.

Tim O’Keefe, “Apostrophe in Name Causes Computer Chaos,” April 29, 2016.

Freia Lobo, “Here’s Why Airlines Have Trouble With Your Hyphenated Name,” Mashable, June 25, 2017.

John Scott-Railton, “#HyphensUnite: A Decade of United Airlines Ignoring the Hyphenated,” June 21, 2017.

Click consonants are speech sounds that occur as consonants in Southern and East African languages.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Mike Wolin, who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!