'I was lost at sea three times': How one Indonesian teen defied fate

Image source, Eva Aruperes
Image caption,
Mr Adilang was working on a rompong when he was sent adrift into the sea

An Indonesian teen was recently rescued after spending 49 days adrift at sea in a fishing hut. But as Aldi Novel Adilang reveals to BBC Indonesian, it's not his first tale of survival.

Aldi Novel Adilang, 18, has survived not once, twice, but an incredible three times at sea.

However his latest ordeal was by far the longest and has captured global attention.

He was working on a floating fishing trap, known locally as a rompong, which is shaped like a hut and floats in the middle of the sea but is anchored to the seabed by ropes.

On 14 July, he was anchored some 125km (77 miles) off Indonesia's Sulawesi island when the rope tethering him to the seabed snapped - sending him adrift.

Image source, EPA/Indonesian Consulate General Osaka
Image caption,
A rompong is a floating fishing trap that is shaped like a hut

"My rompong's rope snapped after it rubbed against my friend's rompong," said Mr Adilang, who spoke to BBC Indonesian from his parents' house near the city of Manado in North Sulawesi. "Unfortunately he was asleep so he didn't know I was adrift."

During the first few days, he survived on his limited food supply. But it only lasted for a week.

"Rice, clean water, spices, cooking gas, and other supplies ran out. To survive I caught fish and burned the rompong's wooden fences to make a fire for cooking. I even ate raw fish," he said, smiling.

His other challenge was getting clean water.

His solution? He wet his clothes in the sea and then drank seawater through it, using it as a makeshift filter. He claims that by doing so, the salty taste of seawater would be reduced.

'Help, help'

In the 49 days he was adrift, up to 10 ships passed by. None of their crews noticed him.

Alone at sea, he sang Christian songs, read the Bible he carried and kept praying hard, wishing to be able to see his parents again.

He admits that at one point he felt depressed and even considered drowning himself. But he kept himself going through prayer.

On 31 August he spotted a ship carrying coal.

"At that time, I cried 'Help, help'. That's the only thing I knew," said Mr Adilang, who was unaware that he had floated all the way from Indonesia to the waters of Guam in the Pacific.

Image caption,
Mr Adilang was found off the waters of Guam

The crew of the Panamanian-flagged vessel rescued him and gave him a change of clothes and water to drink.

Mr Adilang stayed in the vessel for a week until it reached its destination, Japan.

He arrived in Japan on 6 September and flew back to Indonesia two days later, where he was reunited with his family.

Image source, Eva Aruperes
Image caption,
Mr Adilang is now back safe in his parent's home

'Never again'

Mr Adilang says his two earlier experiences of being stranded at sea were much shorter.

"The first [time], I was afloat for a week and helped by the owner of the raft. The second time, I was afloat for two days and also received help from the owner of the raft."

There is no safety or navigational equipment on the rompong - he didn't even have a compass.

His job had been to light the rompong's lamps, which are designed to attract fish.

Image source, Eva Aruperes
Image caption,
Aldi has no plans to return to sea anytime soon

Every week, the teenager would be brought fresh supplies of food, water and fuel by someone from his company who would come to collect the fish.

He signed a one-year contract and was paid $134 (£101 each month).

After his latest experience, however, Mr Adilang said that this time he has promised himself that he will never sail again.

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