Indonesian teen survives 49 days at sea with no boat and few supplies

Mr Aldi Novel Aldilang was cast adrift after the rope holding the floating fish trap he was on to the seabed broke. He was rescued by vessel Arpeggio on Aug 31.
Mr Aldi Novel Aldilang was cast adrift after the rope holding the floating fish trap he was on to the seabed broke. He was rescued by vessel Arpeggio on Aug 31. PHOTO: KJRI OSAKA

JAKARTA • Mr Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, had one of the loneliest jobs in the world: He was a lamp keeper for a floating fish trap, 125km out at sea, with weekly brief human contact and a walkie-talkie.

On July 14, after keeping the trap for months, a hard wind blew him thousands of kilometres away from home in North Sulawesi to Guam waters. He had to cope not only with loneliness, but also hunger, thirst and fear.

The young man, however, survived for 49 days, until Panama-flagged vessel Arpeggio rescued him in Guam waters. Before that, more than 10 ships had sailed past Mr Aldi, failing to spot him as he waved for help.

The trap Mr Aldi was working on is called a rompong in North Sulawesi. It is a fish aggregator device shaped like a modest hut. It floats on water, supported by buoys and anchored to the seabed by a long rope.

Mr Aldi was contracted for six months by the fish trap owner to light lamps around the rompong with a power generator every night to attract fish.

Every week, the owner would send someone to harvest the fish in the trap and give Mr Aldi a week's worth of supplies: food, gas for cooking, clean water and fuel for the generator.

The Indonesian consul-general in Osaka, Mr Mirza Nurhidayat, who oversaw the return of Mr Aldi after his rescue, said that since the device was not a boat, it did not have any paddle or engine. The rope that had kept Mr Aldi's floating hut in place had torn, and the strong wind then blew him and the trap far to the north.

His supply was enough only for several days, so he caught fish to stave off hunger and drank seawater.

On Aug 31, he was finally picked up by the bulk carrier Arpeggio, which took him to its destination Japan. A week later, Mr Aldi was back with his family in Wori, Manado, and 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," said Mr Mirza.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian teen survives 49 days at sea with no boat and few supplies'. Print Edition | Subscribe