Indonesian Teenager Survives After Spending 49 Days Adrift At Sea

An Indonesian teenager working as a lamp keeper on a remote floating fish trap managed to survive for 49 days after his mooring snapped and he was swept out to sea, the Jakarta Post reports.

Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, was working on a rompong, a floating wooden hut anchored 125 km off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia, where his job was to light lamps that were used to attract fish. Once a week he would be resupplied with food and water, and his only contact with the company he worked for, or anyone else, was by walkie-talkie.

On July 14, the rope anchored to the sea floor snapped and a hard wind blew him out to sea. Forty-nine days later, a Panama-flagged vessel, Arpeggio, rescued him near Guam.

Since the hut was not a boat and was never meant to be in transit, it came equipped with neither paddles nor a motor, leaving Adilang completely at the mercy of the currents. He only had several days worth of food and water, which quickly ran out with no rescue in sight.

Alone and scared, Adilang survived by catching fish and cooking them over pieces of the hut that he tore off and used to build fires. For thirst, he was forced to drink the only water available to him – sea water. He was able to survive this way by soaking his clothes in the salt water and then sucking the moisture from the fabric.

“Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift,” said Fajar Firdaus, a diplomat at the Indonesian consulate in Osaka, Japan. “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.”

Adilang was finally spotted by the Arpeggio on August 31, though they almost missed him as well. He luckily had a radio he was able to tune to a frequency he had been told by a friend might be picked up by a ship. The Arpeggio crew threw a rope out for him, but with high seas, the ship couldn’t get close enough for the rope to reach Adilang. He was forced to abandon his craft to jump out and eventually reach the rope to be pulled to safety.

Adilang then had to be quarantined on the boat for a week off of Japan before finally getting permission to come ashore. He was then treated and returned to his family in Wori, Manado.