Eating floating coconuts and drinking rainwater: Four survive 32 days adrift in Pacific; eight companions dead

The Solomon Star News reported the group set off from Bougainville on Dec 22, intending to celebrate Christmas in the Carteret Islands, about 100km away. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

WELLINGTON (AFP) - Four people who survived a month adrift in the Pacific were recovering in the Solomon Islands on Wednesday (Feb 12) after an ordeal that claimed the lives of eight of their companions, including a baby, reports said.

The group, from Papua New Guinea's Bougainville province, said they survived by eating coconuts found floating in the sea and collected rainwater in a bowl during their 32 days adrift.

The Solomon Star News reported that the group set off from Bougainville on Dec 22, intending to celebrate Christmas in the Carteret Islands, about 100km away.

But survivor Dominic Stally said their small boat capsized and a number of the group drowned.

The rest managed to right the vessel but there were further fatalities as they floated in the remote waters at the mercy of powerful ocean currents.

"We could do nothing with their dead bodies, we just have to let go of them at sea," he told the newspaper.

"A couple have died and left behind their baby and I am the one who held onto the baby and later the baby died as well."

Mr Stally said a number of fishing vessels passed nearby without noticing them until they were finally picked up on Jan 23 off New Caledonia after drifting some 2,000km.

The Star News said the survivors comprised two men, a woman and a girl aged about 12.

They were dropped off in Honiara last Saturday and were discharged into the care of PNG High Commissioner John Balavu after receiving treatment for dehydration.

Epic tales of survival are not uncommon in the Pacific, where tiny islands are separated by vast expanses of ocean.

In January 2014, Salvadoran fisherman Jose Alvarenga washed up in the Marshalls, more than 13 months after he set off from Mexico's west coast with a companion, who died during the voyage.

He survived by eating raw fish and bird flesh while keeping hydrated by drinking rainwater, turtle blood and his own urine.

His remarkable feat was initially greeted with scepticism, but he passed a polygraph test and an examination of ocean currents and boating records backed his claim.

An Indonesian teenager survived seven weeks at sea in 2018 after his tiny fishing trap lost its moorings and ended up some 2,500km away, off Guam.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.