20 Jan 2015

Meet the islanders stranded at sea for four months

When a group of men from Papua New Guinea jumped in a boat and began a trip to a neighbouring island, they thought no further ahead than what they’d be eating for dinner.

When a small group of men from Papua New Guinea jumped in a boat with some building supplies and began a short trip to a neighbouring island, they did not think much further ahead than what they would be eating for dinner.


The Pacific ocean dished up something entirely unexpected however. Michael Bolong, 54, and Ambros Wavut, 28, along with Mr Wavut’s father-in-law Francis Dimansol, were caught up in a storm last year and became disorientated.

No long after, they ran out of fuel and began to drift. Imprisoned at sea and entirely along in their rickety craft, they had begun what would become an epic 16-week struggle for survival.

They had a little rice and flour with them, which they cooked using the sun’s heat – but it only lasted for two weeks.

After that, the trio fished with improvised spears made from a pot handle and nails, and they even managed to wrestle aboard a six-foot shark.

They also put the building materials they had brought along to good use. Sheets of tin roof were used to dry small pieces of fish and turtle meat, and they used the sheeting to capture fresh water when it rained.


From time to time, these reluctant seamen found coconuts floating in the water but they often went days without food, surviving instead on rain water – or salt water mixed with rain water.

It was all too much Mr Wavut’s father-in-law, who died after 13 weeks at sea.

Twice they came close to rescue, but a couple of fishing boats passed them by. The two men were unable to communicate that there were in trouble.

Mr Bolong and Mr Wavut were picked in December from the Pacific archipelago of Micronesia when a trawler spotted them, hundreds of kilometres from where they started.

They spent a brief spell in hospital in the Micronesian capital of Pohnpei before a collection of local charities rustled up clothes, food and a place to stay.

The pair also got the chance to phone home. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) provided funds for the two men to fly back to Papua New Guinea.

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