24 OCTOBER 2002:

‘I cut off my arm to survive’

A lobster fisherman from
Maine in the US has told a BBC documentary on human instincts of the extraordinary
lengths he went to in order to preserve his own life:   Doug
Goodale cut off his own arm at the elbow in order to survive an accident
at sea.

    He had
become caught in a winch hauling lobster pots up from the sea floor, and
could not free himself.

    The power
of the winch left him hanging over the side of the boat, unable to either
free himself or clamber back aboard.

    ‘I did
it for my children’

    As the
boat was rocked by stormy weather, he believes it was only a last, desperate
instinct for self-preservation that kicked in to save him.

    He said:
“Nobody near you, no help, no radio, nobody to turn the radio off – that’s
it – you’re going to die.

he managed to haul himself back onto the deck, dislocating his shoulder
in the process.

    His motivation
was the image of his daughters appearing to him.

    “I don’t
know how to explain it to people, but I swear, climbing onto the boat were
my two girls.”

he was still trapped in the winch, bleeding heavily, and with no way of
getting free, his only option was to pick up a knife and cut through his
right arm.

    He then
managed to pilot his boat back into harbour to get medical help.

    He said:
“When my six-year-old tells me: ‘It doesn’t matter that you’ve only got
one arm – you’re here’.

if you heard that from your kids, wouldn’t you take a knife and do the

instincts are the theme of the first in a series of BBC documentaries starring
Professor Robert Winston.

are abilities and reactions which are imprinted in us by millions of years
of evolution.

babies have the instinctive ability to spit out bitter-tasting food – which
may save them from eating poisonous food.

    And modern
phobias, say scientists, are simply left-overs from times when spiders
and snakes represented a genuine threat to life.

the first years of life, humans develop a finely-tuned sense of “disgust”
which can protect them from items which might spread disease.

    And the
classic “fight or flight” response still works, with the first indication
of a threat launching swift brain activity to flood the body with adrenaline,
readying it for action.

instincts have been honed over 4.5 million years, and account for the natural
human preference for sweet or fatty foods.

harks back, say experts, to millennia in which such food was scarce – humans
who craved it tended to thrive better than those who did not.

    It is
only in the past 100 years that food has become plentiful in any part of
the world.

Instinct will be broadcast on BBC One at 2100BST on Wednesday 23 October.