Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean
by Richard Logan and Tere Dupperault
I learned about the book “Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean” from an episode of the “My Favorite Murder” podcast. It’s a true story and follows Terry Jo and her family, ultimately to their gruesome end.
Terry’s father—an optometrist from Green Bay, Wisconsin—was a good provider for his wife Jean and his three children: Brian (14), Terry Jo (11) and Renee (7). He wanted his family to see more of the world, so in 1961 he chartered a boat, the Bluebelle, to take his family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to The Bahamas.
The skipper of the vessel was a man named Julian Harvey—a decorated World War II and Korean War pilot—who was joined by his wife Mary Dene (who happened to be lucky #6).
The family, skipper and Mary Dene departed from Fort Lauderdale on November 8, 1961. The Bluebelle was a 60-foot ketch (sailing craft with two masts) and would shortly be the site of five brutal murders.
The night of November 12, 1961, as the Bluebelle was embarking on her return voyage, Julian Harvey killed his wife before murdering Dr. and Mrs. Dupperrault and two of their children: Brian and young Renee. Terry Jo woke up to screams and ran to the deck to find bodies in the main cabin and a bloody knife near the cockpit before an enraged Harvey ordered her to stay below deck. He then scuttled the ship (enabled it to take on water) and boarded a dinghy to escape.
Terry Jo, knowing that the ship was taking on water, was able to untie a 2-foot by 5-foot cork float and launch herself into the ocean just as the ship sank. She drifted for 4 days without food or water and was near death when she was rescued by the Greek freighter Captain Theo in the Northwest Providence Channel. Her photo (seen above) was featured on “Life” magazine and made her world famous as the “sea waif.”
It wasn’t until after her rescue, and after she was well enough to talk, that the truth of what happened to her family started to come to light. Three days before Terry was found and rescued, Harvey had been picked up in the dinghy along with the body of young Renee. He then proceeded to weave a tale for the United States Coast Guard about how a squall brought down the masts, which caused a rupture in the gas tank and a fire that ultimately sank the Bluebelle and murdered its charges. He claimed that he found Renee floating unresponsive and took her body when he wasn’t able to revive her.
While Harvey and the sinking of the Bluebelle were being investigated, it was discovered that Harvey owned two prior ships that sank under “suspicious circumstances,” which yielded him large insurance settlements. In addition, it was believed that Harvey planned to kill his wife to collect on her $20,000 insurance policy. Investigators surmised that the deaths of Dr. Duperrault and his family were an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place—and seeing the wrong thing—at the wrong time.
We can never know for sure what Harvey’s intentions were, for when he learned that Terry Jo had survived, he checked himself into a hotel room under an alias and committed suicide with a razor blade.
“Alone” delves into the history of Terry Jo’s family, the horrific details of that awful night, and chronicles her survival and journey to healing after her improbable rescue. A quick read, it touches on the human spirit and will to live, even in the direst of circumstances. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
“Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean” is an out-of-print book, but is available for download on Kindle, and can be found at some half-price bookstores. I scored a copy at one of my local bookstores for $9 (compared to $32-$70 online for a hardcover).
I hope you enjoyed the review. There is still so much more to the story that I didn’t touch on, and I encourage you to locate a copy at your local library if you’re interested in learning more. Terry Jo (who now goes by Tere) lives on the shores of Lake Michigan with her family.
Until next time, get your read on.