Castaways Found on Remote Pacific Atoll After 33 Days
By M. Johanson | December 1, 2011 6:27 AM EST
Two castaways from the remote island nation Kiribati turned up on a tiny Pacific atoll 300 miles away from their home last Thursday after 33 days at sea.
The remarkable tale of survival began over a month ago on Oct. 22 when the two sailors, aged 53 and 26, went missing.
"The boat had been reported missing and at the time a three-day air and sea search was undertaken, controlled by U.S. Coast Guard in Honolulu, in coordination with officials in Kiribati," Marshall islands Sea Patrol adviser Lieutenant Commander George McKenzie told AFP. The U.S. team used computer modeling to predict the currents to try and estimate where the men might be, while Australia sent a C130 Hercules on a marathon mission to comb the Pacific.
33 days later, they were rescued by U.S. coastguard officials on Namdrik Atoll in the island state of the Marshall Islands.
According to Lt. McKenzie, arrangements were made to take the men to the Marshall Island's capital, Majuro, and then home to Kiribati. However returning home could prove difficult. The aircraft that flies once a week from Namdrik to Majuru is currently grounded due to maintenance.
While few details have emerged of the men's long journey from home, it's understood that they are both sick and weak, but in reasonable condition.
Locals claim these long, unplanned voyages have become increasingly common in the region.
"As odd as it may seem, the Marshall Islands hosts Kirabas drifters quite frequently," Giff Johnson, editor of the Marshall Islands Journal, told ABC's Radio Australia Pacific Beat program.
"Let's just say that people from Kiribati are very hardy individuals," he added. "They get lost in a little tiny boat, and somehow they manage to persevere, like these two guys who were found in Namdrik, it's an amazing thing."
Namdrik Atoll is approximately 300 miles from Kiribati's main island, Tarawa.
Kiribati is an island nation composed of 32 widely-dispersed atolls in the central Pacific about 2,500 miles from Hawaii.
The search for another Kiribati fisherman who went missing last week has been suspended. He was onboard a similar boat with two friends, who went diving. When they surfaced, their companion and his vessel had disappeared.
In 2006, three Mexican fishermen were reportedly lost at sea for an entire year. They drifted from San Blas across the Pacific to the Marshall Islands, nearly 5,000 miles away.
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