After nearly two months of drifting alone at sea, a 19-year-old Indonesian teen is back home with his family.
The unforeseen voyage started in mid-July, 125 kilometers (about 78 miles) off the northern tip of Manado, where Aldi Novel Adilang had been working as lamp keeper on a floating fish trap.
Adilang was hired to spend six months on the wooden shack, locally known as rompong, to light lamps run by a generator to attract and trap fish at night. Set further away from coasts, rompongs are anchored to concrete blocks on the seafloor by rope.
At such a remote location, Adilang welcomes someone from his company on a weekly basis to receive supplies such as water, food and fuel. The fish are also collected.
One day, strong winds triggered huge waves that ultimately snapped Adilang’s anchor. He was left helpless without a paddle and the bay was dozens of miles away.
The unfortunate event marked the beginning of a 49-day odyssey to nothing but sea — putting the teenager’s will to survive to the test.
Adilang managed to communicate with friends on another rompong for the first week, but he was truly all alone for the rest of his voyage.
When he ran out of supplies, he started to catch fish and cooked them using wood. To drink, he repeatedly filtered seawater through his clothes.
Adilang came across more than 10 ships, but none of them noticed his call for help. On several occasions, he thought of jumping into the ocean to finally end his misery.
However, words from his parents echoed in his head: When desperate, pray.
Armed with his Bible and survival skills, Adilang pushed through for as long as it took, keeping hope that help was coming.
On Aug. 31, he found another ship.
Adilang managed to establish contact with the passing ship, MV Arpeggio, through a radio gifted by a friend. He cried in a language he hoped would be understood.
Adilang caught the ship’s attention, but huge waves made the rescue extremely difficult. The Arpeggio, a Panamanian-flagged tanker, circled Adilang four times before throwing out a rope toward his rompong.
Unfortunately, the rope missed. It was at this point when Adilang, amid big waves, jumped into the sea, swam toward the ship and grabbed a line that promised a second life.
The Arpeggio successfully rescued Adilang. It was there when the teenager learned that he was already in the waters off Guam.
The breathtaking rescue, which was caught on film, shows the ship’s crew immediately covering him with a towel and offering him water.
The Arpeggio reached the Tokuyama port in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan on Sept. 6. Upon his arrival, Adilang was examined by the Japanese Coast Guard and determined healthy to return home.
The Indonesian Consulate in Osaka facilitated his flight back to Indonesia two days later.
“He was taken care well by the captain of the ship, so when we saw him, his condition was actually better than the first time he was rescued,” Consul General Mirza Nurhidayat told CNN.
In a Facebook update on Sept. 14, the consulate said that Adilang is back in Manado with his family and in “good condition.”
Adilang’s dramatic story of survival and rescue has touched hearts around the world.
“Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift,” Fajar Firdaus, another diplomat, told the Jakarta Post. “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.”
Netizens praised the Arpeggio for saving his life.
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