In a tale of extraordinary human survival, an Indonesian teenager has managed to keep himself alive for 49 days while floating adrift in a flimsy hut for thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, was working lonely shifts as a lamp keeper for a floating fish trap, 80 miles off the coast of Indonesia’s North Sulawesi in July when strong winds broke the mooring and pushed him far out to sea.
He was eventually rescued in late August by a ship sailing under a Panama flag that picked him up in the waters near Guam and then dropped him off in Japan, reported the Jakarta Post.
Mr Aldi, who was finally reunited with his family in early September, had struggled to keep his spirits up when 10 passing ships failed to spot his plight, revealed an Indonesian consular official in the southern Japanese city of Osaka.
“Aldi said he had been scared and often cried when adrift. Every time he saw a large ship, he said he was hopeful, but more than ten ships had passed him, none of them stopped,” said Fajar Firdaus, a diplomat.
Mirza Nurhidayat, the Indonesian consul general in Osaka, explained that Mr Aldi’s hut, known as a Rompong, did not have a paddle or an engine. After his meagre food supplies ran out, he had to catch fish and drink sea water to survive.
“After he ran out of cooking gas, he burned the rompong’s wooden fences to make fire for cooking. He drank by sipping water from his clothes,” he said.
Mr Aldi’s ordeal finally ended on August 31 when he saw the tanker ‘Arpeggio’ sailing nearby. After failing to attract attention by waving a cloth, he switched his radio to an emergency frequency and the ship’s captain picked it up.
The rescue was complicated by high waves and crew members threw a rope to help him as the ship circled his tiny craft. In desperation, Mr Aldi jumped into the water to reach it and was eventually pulled to safety.
The captain contacted the coastguard of Guam, a tiny US territory, but was told to carry on his planned route to Japan, where Mr Aldi could be helped by his embassy.
Although his journey had a happy ending and Mr Aldi is now in good health, his story has also highlighted the perils faced by lamp keepers who take on the isolated job of looking after fish traps.
Mr Aldi had been contracted to light lamps around the Rompong to attract and trap fish, and only had a walkie-talkie for company.
His only contact with another human being was once a week when someone would come to harvest the caught fish and give him a fresh batch of food, fuel and water.