GREAT TALE OF SURVIVAL: We lived on sunned turtle meat, fish, wild birds and coconut
The six survivors of a 20-day sea ordeal lived on sunned turtle meat, fish, wild birds, coconut meat and rainwater as they revealed their miraculous survival story. Moreover they believed they were able to step on land again because of the power of their ceaseless daily prayers in the middle of the wild ocean.
The islanders from Tuwo village of the Reef Islands David Teveko, Elsie Lopabe, Janet Menubir, Godfrey Wale and Brown Meba landed safely on Ulawa Island on the 31st of July after what supposed to be a few hours trip on 11th July had turned into 20 days agonizing journey for the six, their relatives and friends everywhere.
After landing safely on Ulawa on Friday last week, the six arrived in Honiara this morning and after medical checkup at the NRH they were taken to a rest-house in the city where they are currently staying.
Speaking exclusively to SBMOnline Wale said they set off their journey to the Reefs around 8am on the morning of 11th July at Kala-bay and when they began to see the Reef Islands— a huge wave raced towards them— hit the boat and swept everything into the sea.
“I quickly made a decision and we agreed to throw the 40-hp into the ocean.
“I told them that if we wanted to survive we must throw the engine into the ocean and we only stuck to the canoe. And that’s exactly what we did,” he recalled.
Another survivor Meba who was the youngest and strongest amongst the six said they started to float and headed towards Tinakula Island where they managed to stay around for two days.
“We filled containers with sea and succeeded to paddle against the current hoping to stay around Tinakula for rescuers to find. At one stage we were like 100 meters away from Tinakula and we all agreed to swim to the island – but one of us, the oldest male, told us that he was unable to swim that distance – so we all agreed to stay on board and after sometime we drifted faraway from Tinakula and into the unknown,” he recalled.
That completed their first five days in the wild ocean.
“We had not eaten anything in the first five days. We lived on prayer only,” he said.
As they drifted into the ocean one morning a small turtle swam towards their canoe and they managed to catch it with ease.
They operated the turtle and chopped it into small pieces then put it for sun to dry the meat, said Meba.
In the ocean, they caught fish, wild birds and also put them for the sun for drying before eating. The only food they ate with the protein was dry coconut meat.
Meba recalled that any dry coconut that floated in the ocean which they could not reach he would swim to get it then used his teeth to husk it.
He stated that at one stage they had no water so they prayed and there was a huge rain that filled the entire boat. They loaded their drinking containers and enough for shower that day.
Meba said as they drifted into the 15th day they could see lights during the night and those probably came from Makira.
“We were so close at night but in the day time it was very hard for us again to see any islands. We could not do anything but just purely following the current and where it had taken us to,” he said.
“We saw ships but we could not stop them,” he said.
Meba said in the last few days they were floating around Ulawa and South Malaita.
“Three days before we landed on Ulawa, I woke everybody and told them that soon we would land on land. But as the day went by the current carried us away from Ulawa and out towards South Malaita.
“We could have puddled but our bodies were too tired and we didn’t have the enjoy so we basically sat helplessly as the current carried us. We moved closer to Malaita but then the current took us close to Ulawa again,” he said.
Meba said on the morning of 31st July (last Friday) they drifted towards Ulawa and very close to the point where they landed an old man appeared and showed them the passage.
“That was it. That morning was fine there was no current so we paddled towards Ulawa and safely landed,” he said.
“We were all exhausted. I was one of the persons who had heavily involved in our journey. Being young and strong they turned to me for almost everything.
“If we had floated for two more days I would be the first to die as I was the one doing most of the work like paddling and husking coconut with my teeth,” he said.
Asked what was their weapon of survival, he replied: “prayer, prayer and prayer.”
He said one of the things they experienced was they never got hungry as there was always food but fatigue was showing just before they landed safely on Ulawa.