Offbeat

Chopper pilot finds two Pacific castaway boats

MAJURO, Marshall Islands: A helicopter pilot scanning remote northern Pacific waters for tuna was stunned to find not one but two boats carrying castaways who had been adrift for weeks, it was reported Thursday.

The pilot, operating the chopper from a trawler off the Marshall Islands, came across the boats by chance last week, leading to the rescue of three fishermen and a teenage boy, the Marshall Islands Journal reported.

It said both boats had set off from Kiribati, about 650 kilometres (400 miles) away.

The one with three fishermen aboard had been adrift for 28 days, while the lone 14-year-old in the other had been lost for 11 days.

Ocean currents had brought both boats within eight kilometres of each other but they were unaware of the other’s existence until they were spotted and rescued.

The trawler Kwila888 picked up the drifters and cut short its tuna fishing trip to drop them in the Marshalls’ capital Majuro last weekend, the Journal reported.

The trawler’s captain Yuan Tsai Chen said the teenager had not eaten during his 11-day ordeal and the fishermen survived by catching sharks and fish.

They were taken to hospital after arriving in Majuro and pronounced healthy, with one person suffering mild dehydration.

Epic tales of survival are not uncommon in the northern Pacific, where tiny islands are separated by vast expanses of ocean.

In January 2014, Salvadoran fisherman Jose Alvarenga washed up in the Marshalls, more than 13 months after he set off from Mexico’s west coast with a companion, who died during the voyage.

 

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