Teenager Drifts on Wooden Hut in Ocean for Seven Weeks, Survives by Sipping Water Through His Clothes

Reading the Bible and remembering the advice of his parents gave a teenager cast adrift on the Pacific the motivation to keep fighting for his life.

Aldi Novel Adilang worked as a lamp keeper on a floating fish trap about 80 miles out from the Indonesian coast. For three years, he lit lamps to attract fish, which would then be harvested and picked up once a week by his company. His hut would then be resupplied with food, water and fuel.

But heavy winds on July 14 snapped the moorings that held the fish trap, known as a rompong, and cast him adrift. Over the next seven weeks, he was blown thousands of miles from home, toward Guam, with no paddle or engine.

When his supplies ran out after a few days, the 19-year-old had to survive by using the hut’s wood to cook fish and sipping seawater through his clothes to filter out the salt.

Fajar Firdaus, an Indonesian diplomat from the consulate in Osaka, told The Jakarta Post: “Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift. 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.”

At his wits' end, Aldi thought he was going to die and had considered jumping into the ocean, but he remembered that his parents had told him to pray during times of distress. He told Tribun Manado that the Bible on board helped.

Finally, on August 31, Aldi saw the carrier Arpeggio and waved his cloth for help. He also tuned his on radio signal, hoping the captain would pick it up. When he spotted Aldi, he turned the vessel around and circled him four times. His rescue was complicated because the waves were high, the rope thrown to Aldi did not reach him and he was weak from his ordeal at sea.

“Aldi then decided to jump into the sea to grab the rope, while the waves and wind rocked him…. The ship’s crew managed to catch his hand,” Fajar said.

He was handed over to Indonesian consulate officials in Japan and flew home to Manado, Indonesia, on September 8. The Indonesian consul general in Osaka, Mirza Nurhidayat, told The Jakarta Post he was in good health.

“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," Mirza said.

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