An Indonesian teenager survived 49 days at sea in a fishing hut before a Panamanian-flagged vessel rescued him last month off Guam, The Jakarta Post reported on Sunday. Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, is now back with family and is in good health, said a government official.
Adilang worked on a floating fish trap, known as a rompong in Indonesia. Shaped like a hut, a rompong, supported by buoys and anchored by ropes, floats in the middle of the sea. As a lamp keeper, his job was to light the vessel’s lamps, which are designed to attract fish. Adilang used to be provided a weekly supply of food, water and fuel when the owner would collect the fish.
In July, Adilang was blown thousands of kilometres from his home in North Sulawesi to the Pacific Ocean after the rope securing the rompong to the seabed tore when the wind picked up.
With essential supplies dwindling, the teenager was forced to catch fish and drink sea water. “After he ran out of cooking gas, he burned the rompong’s wooden fences to make a fire for cooking,” said Mirza Nurhidayat, Indonesian Consul General in Osaka, Japan, where Adilang was brought. “He drank by sipping water from his clothes that had been wetted by sea water.”
More than 10 ships passed by before the Panamanian vessel stopped for him on August 31 after its captain intercepted Adilang’s radio signals. With high waves interfering with the rescue, the ship was forced to circle Adilang four times before throwing him a rope.
Adilang, weak of hunger and thirst, had to swim to grab the rope but almost lost it. The ship’s crew, however, managed to catch his hand, said Fajar Dirdaus, another diplomat at the consulate in Osaka.
Adilang was taken to Tokuyama in Japan on September 6, where authorities contacted the Indonesian consulate general, said Mirza. “We coordinated with the shipping authorities in Japan, the ship’s captain, the Japanese coast guard and the immigration authorities,” he added.
Adilang was quarantined for health reasons and entered the country a day later. On September 8, he flew to Jakarta and then to Manado in North Sulawesi.
“Aldi’s story is indeed dramatic, and we are thankful to all – the ship’s captain and the Japanese authorities – that have been very helpful in ensuring Aldi’s return,” said Mirza.