'It was bad': How two men survived 29 days lost at sea

·2-min read

Two men rescued off the coast of Papua New Guinea have shared their epic tale of survival after spending 29 days lost at sea in a small motorboat.

Experienced seamen Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni from the Solomon Islands set sail from the country’s western province at the beginning of September with plans to travel 200 kilometres south to the town of Noro.

“We have done the trip before and it should have been OK,” Nanjikana told the Guardian newspaper.

But their routine trip took a frightening turn just a few hours into their journey.

Heavy rain and strong winds made it near impossible for the men to navigate the coastline they were supposed to be following and caused their GPS tracker to stop working.

“When the bad weather came, it was bad, but it was worse and became scary when the GPS died,” he said.

“We couldn’t see where we were going and so we just decided to stop the engine and wait, to save fuel.”

A photo of Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni who spent 29 days lost at sea after their GPS tracker stopped working. Source: SIBC News/YTTF
Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni spent 29 days lost at sea after their GPS tracker stopped working. Source: SIBC News/YTTF

Men survived on fruit and rain

They had no idea where they were or how long their ordeal would last.

For the next nine days, they ate only oranges which they had packed as snacks for the trip, according to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

A map showing their route during the 29 day ordeal. Source: SIBC News
A map showing their route during the 29 day ordeal. Source: SIBC News

Mr Nanjikana told SIBC News they survived on “rainwater and coconuts and our faith” when their fruit ran out.

They collected the coconuts from the ocean and trapped rainwater using a piece of canvas - all while floating around 400 kilometres north west.

Pair rescued by PNG fisherman

After 29 days lost at sea, they were extremely weak by the time they were spotted by a fisherman off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

“We didn’t know where we were but did not expect to be in another country,” Mr Nanjikana told the Guardian.

They had to be carried off the boat when they arrived in the country's Pomio District on October 2.

An aerial photo of the north-eastern coastline of Choiseul island, Solomon Islands. Source: Getty Images
The men are awaiting possible repatriation home to the Solomon Islands. Source: Getty Images

The pair are now in Port Moresby awaiting possible repatriation home to the Solomon Islands.

Reflecting on their month-long mishap, they told the Guardian it was a “nice break” away from the chaos of a global pandemic.

“I had no idea what was going on while I was out there. I didn’t hear about Covid or anything else,” Mr Nanjikana said.

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