Jakarta, Indonesia: An Indonesian teenager survived seven weeks adrift at sea after his tiny fishing trap lost its moorings and ended up some 2,500 kilometres away in waters near the Pacific island of Guam, his family said Monday.
Aldi Novel Adilang's harrowing tale began in mid-July when the 18-year-old was working solo on a fishing hut anchored about 125 kilometres off Indonesia's Sulawesi island.
His job was to keep the vessel's lamps lit to attract fish. Its owner would reportedly come by weekly to drop off food, clean water, fuel and other supplies.
Aldi Novel Adilang (19), penjaga lampu di rompong (rumah rakit di lautan) hanyut terbawa arus mid Juli 2018 sampai perairan Guam ketika berada di perairan 125 km dari pesisir utara Manado. Aldi ditemukan oleh kapal berbendera Panama, M.V. Arpeggio, 31 Agustus 2018 @Kemlu_RI pic.twitter.com/lQsPkQ5rNL— 在大阪インドネシア共和国総領事館 (@kjriosaka) September 14, 2018
The floating fishing trap, known as a rompong, had no engine and was anchored to the seabed with a long rope, but heavy winds knocked it off its moorings and sent Adilang out to sea, local media said.
Rompongs are a traditional form of trapping fish in Indonesia, but are often unmanned, secured by buoys and ropes.
Fishing for survival
Local media reported that the owner of Adilang's rompong had as many as 50 moored in the surrounding waters
"His boss told my husband that he went missing," Adilang's mother Net Kahiking told AFP from her home in Sulawesi.
"So we just surrendered to God and kept praying hard."
The teen, who only had enough food to last several days, survived by catching fish, Mirza Nurhidayat, the Indonesian consul general in Osaka, who oversaw his eventual return, told the Jakarta Post.
"After he ran out of the cooking gas, he burned the rompong's wooden fences to make a fire for cooking," he was quoted as saying.
Drinking water by the drop
"He drank by sipping water from his clothes that had been wetted by sea water."
About ten ships passed the malnourished teen before a Panamanian-flagged vessel rescued him on August 31 near Guam and brought him to Japan, its original destination.
"I was shocked when his boss told us," he had been rescued, Adilang's mother said. "I was so happy."
Adilang is the youngest of four siblings and arrived back home on September 8, in good health despite his ordeal.
"He is now back at home and he will be 19 on September 30 - we're going to celebrate," his mother said.