We’re just learning this week about an Indonesian teenager who survived 49 days adrift in the Pacific. The 18-year-old returned home earlier this month after he was picked up by a passing ship near Guam, about 1,200 miles from home.
For the past couple of years, Aldi Novel Adilong worked as a lamp lighter on a rompong – a wooden fish trap moored about 80 miles off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. His lonely job was to set the light at night to attract fish. Once a week or so, the owner showed up to collect the fish, and drop off food, water, fuel, and batteries for a portable radio called a handy-talkie, an HT, a device that would prove to be a life saver.
On the night of July 14, the rompong slipped its moorings in high winds and drifted out to sea.
“My food ran out after the first week,” Adilong told the Associated Press. He caught and cooked fish, first on a small stove, then, when fuel ran out, he built fires with wood from the railings of his hut. When it didn’t rain, he said, “I had to soak my clothes in the sea, then I squeezed and drank the water.”
He told the AP he couldn’t remember how many ships passed him by. Then, on August 31st, he saw another ship. “I lighted up the lamp and shouted help using the HT.”
What proved to be the MV Arpeggio sailed a mile beyond, but replied over the radio and turned back. The Panamanian vessel contacted the Coast Guard on Guam, which instructed the ship to carry on to its destination in Japan, where Adilong was turned over to Indonesian officials.
His mother told Agence France Presse that the family will celebrate on September 30th. Adilong’s 19th birthday, but Adilong told the AP he does not want to work on rompongs anymore and added, “My parents agree.”