(CNN) - In an adventure worthy of the TV show "Survivor," Sen. Jeff Flake and two of his sons marooned themselves on a deserted island in the Pacific last week during the Senate's week off.
Dodging sharks and suffering sunburns, the senator and his two teenage boys spent four days fending for themselves – spearing fish, catching crabs, picking up coconuts and sleeping outdoors in hammocks. They cooked what they caught, over a campfire kindled with a magnifying glass.
"We brought no food and no water," Flake told CNN. "We brought some desalinator pumps to pump seawater."
Their most dramatic moment may have come when several sharks came too close for comfort. Flake speared a big grouper, and it wriggled the spear out of his hand, so he had to dive down about 20 feet to retrieve the spear with the fish on the end of it, he said.
"By that time, four sharks had closed in on the fish. And we were about 50 yards out, and didn't want to lose our meal, so we grabbed the spear," he said, "and high-tailed it for shore, with the sharks in pursuit."
They made it back to shore safely, but even afterwards, they found that sharks were frequently on the hunt. When they heard the sound of spear-fishing, it drew them "like a dinner bell," Flake said.
They ate so much coconut, the lawmaker said, his sons eventually were turning them down. "I served up some coconut at one point, and they said, 'No, can't do it. No more.' "
During his senate campaign last year, Flake said he was on the road a lot, but promised his sons some quality time after the race was done. He had already done a similar survivalist trip solo in 2009, and decided to try it as a family trip this year. From Phoenix, Arizona, they flew to Hawaii, then to the Marshall Islands, and then by boat to Biggarenn – an uninhabited island in the Kwajalein atoll that is barely 1,000 feet long.
His wife was worried about the risks, Flake said, "but she valued the time I would be able to spend with the boys more than the risks there."
His favorite part of the day, he said, was the time devoted to a simple chore: pumping water to desalinate water from the ocean.
"Both boys would sit down with a pump in their hand, and a [hose] would be put in the ocean, and we'd just watch the sun set. And there were no cellphones obviously. No texting, no distractions."
A video of their trip is posted here.