An Indonesian teenager has survived 49 days adrift at sea in a fishing hut, before he was rescued by a Panamanian-flagged vessel and returned home.
Aldi Novel Adilang, a 19-year-old from Sulawesi, worked as a lamp keeper on a floating fish trap, known locally as rompong, located 125km out at sea.
The teenager was employed to light the rompong’s lamps, designed to attract the fish, and according to his father had done the job since he was sixteen.
Each week someone from his company would come to harvest the fish from the traps and deliver him fresh supplies of food, water and fuel.
The small, floating wooden hut – one of 50 owned by the company and spread across the waters of Manado – was anchored to the seabed by a long rope and suspended by bouys.
But in mid-July heavy winds snapped its moorings and sent Aldi adrift into the ocean.
The teenager only had a few days worth of supplies and survived by catching fish, burning wood from his hut to cook them, and sipping seawater through his clothes to minimize his salt intake.
The Indonesian consulate in Osaka said that 10 ships had sailed past the Indonesian teenager before a Panamanian-flagged vessel, MV Arpeggio, finally picked him up in the waters off Guam on 31 August – more than a month and a half later.
“Every time he saw a large ship, he said, he was hopeful, but more than 10 ships had sailed past him, none of them stopped or saw Aldi,” Fajar Firdaus, an Indonesian diplomat from the consulate in Osaka, told the Jakarta Post.
Aldi initially waved a cloth at MV Arpeggio but after failing to attract the attention of its crew, sent an emergency radio signal.
Interviewed by local news portal TribunManado, Aldi said he thought he “was going to die out there”. At one point he said was suicidal and considered jumping into the ocean, but remembered his parents’ advice to pray in times of distress. He had a bible on board so he did.
After rescuing him the captain contacted the Guam coast guard, and as the ship was headed to Japan, it was decided the teenager would be handed over to consulate officials on arrival in Tokuyama on 6 September.
Stranded in the middle of the ocean without supplies and unsure of his fate, “Aldi was scared and cried often” during the experience, said Firdaus.
The teenager flew home to Manado on 8 September, accompanied by consulate officials, and is reportedly in good health.