Resourcefulness, faith and a little luck kept 19-year-old Aldi Novel Adilang alive when his fishing hut drifted away at sea for 49 days.
Adilang was originally commissioned by a fisherman to keep up a rompong, a floating bamboo hut for trapping fish that was anchored to the ocean floor by a long rope. The rompong was tethered 77 miles off the coast of Indonesia, and because it’s a stationary craft, Adilang’s floating hut had no steering or propeller.
It was Adilang’s job to use a generator to light lamps around the hut every night to attract fish. Once a week, someone would come to collect the fish he had caught and bring him a week’s worth of supplies, including food, clean water and fuel.
But in July, strong winds caused the rope anchoring Adilang’s rompong to break, and he was sent adrift with only a week’s worth of supplies.
Despite his efforts to flag down large ships he passed, Adilang wasn’t rescued until Aug. 31, when he was able to use his radio to flag down a nearby bulk carrier, the MV Arpeggio. When the crew of the Arpeggio rescued him, 49 days after being set adrift, Adilang was just off the coast of Guam — thousands of miles away from his starting point.
This photo crew members took shows the rompong he was living on:
After a dangerous rescue that involved Adilang jumping into the ocean to grab hold of a rope to get aboard the large ship, he was finally safe. The crew gave him food, fresh clothes and even a haircut.
This photo posted by the Indonesian consulate shows the Arpeggio’s crew caring for the teen after he’d jumped off the rompong to swim for a rope:
With only a week’s worth of supplies, how did he manage to stay alive all that time?
The Indonesian consul general in Osaka, Japan, Mirza Nurhidayat, told the Jakarta Post that Adilang used the generator to cook fish he caught until that ran out.
But humans rarely can survive more than a week without water, according to Live Science. How did he get by?
“After he ran out of the cooking gas, he burned the rompong’s wooden fences to make a fire for cooking,” Nurhidayat told the Jakarta Post. “He drank by sipping water from his clothes that had been wetted by sea water.”
He created a routine of catching fish in the morning and reading his Bible in the afternoon.
“Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift,” Fajar Firdaus, a diplomat at the consulate, told The Jakarta Post.
The most risky point was when the rompong was circled by a shark for an entire day. “I can only pray, and the shark goes,” he told Tribun Manado.
Thankfully, he managed to return to land, and eventually, to his family.
The ship that saved him was headed to Japan, so that’s where Adilang was taken. After a brief health quarantine, the teen flew from Tokyo to Jakarta, Indonesia. Finally, on Sept. 8, he was reunited with his family in Manado, in North Sulawesi, in good health.
What an incredible journey for a 19-year-old. A journey that, despite the odds, had a happy ending.
We’re so happy to hear he’s well and is with his family once more!