An Indonesian teenager who survived 49 days adrift at sea after the wooden fish trap he was employed to mind slipped its moorings, says he ran out of food within a week and survived on fish and seawater he squeezed from his clothing.
According to The Associated Press, Aldi Novel Adilang turned on a lamp every time he sighted another ship and can’t remember how many passed by “unaware of my ordeal.”
The Indonesian Consulate in Osaka, Japan, said the 18-year-old was rescued by a Panamanian-flagged vessel off Guam on Aug. 31, about 1,200 miles (1,920 kilometers) from his original location, and returned to Indonesia with officials earlier this month.
He was employed since age 16 in the one of the world’s loneliest jobs: lamp lighter on a rompong — a wooden raft with a hut on top that’s lit at night to attract fish.
Supplies including food and fuel for a generator are dropped off about once a week. The minders, who earn $130 a month, communicate with fishing boats by hand-held radio.
“I was on the raft for one month and 18 days. My food ran out after the first week,” said Adilang. When it didn’t rain for days, “I had to soak my clothes in the sea, then I squeezed and drank the water.”
His father, Alfian Adilang, is angry with his employer. It was the third time the teen’s raft had drifted. The previous two times it had been rescued by the owner’s ship, the boy said.
“I thought I will never meet my parents again, so I just prayed every day,” he said.
Adilang’s portable radio, known as a handy-talky or HT in Indonesia, would prove to be a lifesaver.
“It was early morning on Aug. 31 when I saw the ship and I lighted up the lamp and shouted ‘help’ using the HT,” he said. “The ship had passed about one mile but then it turned to me. Might be because I used the English word,” he said.