Indonesian Teenager Survives 49 Days Adrift in the Pacific Ocean

An Indonesian teenager was rescued after 49 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean, national media reported on Monday. Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, managed to survive by catching fish and drinking the water from his rain-soaked clothes.

Aldi had described the time as “one of the loneliest jobs in the world,” as a lamp keeper for a floating fish aggregator called a “n rompong.” The vessel is composed of a modest hut on top of a raft of logs. Aldi’s job was to keep the lamps lit at night to attract fish for a period of six months.

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.

Stationed 125 kilometers (77 miles) out to sea off the coast of Indonesia’s North Sulawesi region, Aldi’s only human contact was a weekly delivery of supplies or via a walkie-talkie.

But on July 14, strong winds unmoored the small vessel, which had no engine and no paddle on board, and blew it thousands of miles away from home toward the remote US island territory of Guam.

After his supplies ran out, Aldi began catching fish from the sea and burning small portions of the rompong wooden base to cook them on.

“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, a diplomat in Indonesia’s consulate in the Japanese city of Osaka, told the Jakarta Post. Firdaus added that Aldi was driven to despair many times during his ordeal.

After attempting to flag down several large ships by waving his shirt, on August 31 the Panama-flagged cargo ship Arpeggio sailed close enough to Aldi’s raft for him to radio for help. The ship had a great deal of trouble getting close enough to Aldi however, and finally they resorted to throwing out a rope. At great risk to his life, the teen jumped into the ocean and was able to reach the Arpeggio.

The ship radioed to the US military base in Guam, who instructed them to keep their course toward Japan, where the young man could be handed over to his country’s consulate.

Aldi was finally reunited with his family in the Indonesian city of Manado on September 9. Indonesian officials have thanked the sailors on the Arpeggio and the Japanese government for his safe return.

PHOTO BY: DANIELLE CINONE

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