Aldi Novel Adilang’s harrowing tale began in mid-July when the 18-year-old was working solo on a fishing hut anchored about 125 kilometres off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.
His job was to keep the vessel’s lamps lit to attract fish. Its owner would reportedly come by weekly to drop off food, clean water, fuel and other supplies.
The floating fishing trap, known as a rompong, had no engine or paddles and was anchored to the seabed with a long rope, but heavy winds knocked it off its moorings and sent Adilang out to sea, local media said.
Rompongs are traditionally used to trap fish in Indonesia, but are often unmanned, secured by buoys and ropes.
Local media reported that the owner of Adilang’s rompong had as many as 50 moored in the surrounding waters
“His boss told my husband that he went missing,” Adilang’s mother Net Kahiking said from her home in Sulawesi.
“So we just surrendered to God and kept praying hard.”
The teen, who only had enough food to last several days, survived by catching fish, Mirza Nurhidayat, the Indonesian consul general in Osaka, who oversaw his eventual return, told the Jakarta Post.
After Adilang ran out of the cooking gas, “he burned the rompong’s wooden fences to make a fire for cooking,” he said.
“He drank by sipping water from his clothes that had been wetted by sea water.”
Another diplomat at the consulate, Fajar Firdaus, told the paper that “Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift”.
“Every time he saw a large ship...he was hopeful, but more than 10 ships had sailed past him. None of them stopped or saw (him),” Firdaus was quoted as saying.
The malnourished teen eventually changed the frequency on a portable radio and his distress call was picked up near Guam by a Japan-bound Panamanian-flagged vessel on August 31, according to the Post.
“I was shocked when his boss told us” he had been rescued, Adilang’s mother said.
“I was so happy.”
Adilang is the youngest of four siblings and arrived back home on September 8, in good health despite his ordeal.
“He is now back at home and he will be 19 on September 30 – we’re going to celebrate,” his mother said.