Miracle at Sea
Miracle At Sea: Bay of Islands man and first mate on F/V San Nikunau, Tai Fredricsen (R), with Edward Nasau, 14 (L), Filo Filo, 15, and Samuel Pelesa, 15, and the vessel's observer Erika Lete
Boys' clothes 'rotted to rags'
Lindy Laird | 27th November 2010
A Bay of Islands man said he wouldn't believe a remarkable story of survival at sea if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
Yesterday Tai Fredricsen, first mate on New Zealand tuna vessel San Nikunau, told the Northern Advocate about finding three Tokelauan boys, starving, dehydrated and only just alive after drifting in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean for 50 days.
Mr Fredricsen had been at the helm of the San Nikunau, north east of Fiji on Wednesday, when he spotted a tiny aluminium dinghy a way off the bow.
As the vessel nudged closer, Mr Fredricsen and crew members who had gathered on deck saw three "skeletons" with mile-wide smiles waving at them.
Samuel Pelesa and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14, went missing from the Tokelau atoll Atafu on October 5. The boys, who had drifted 1300 kilometres across the South Pacific, had been given up for dead by their families. In recent weeks memorial services have been held for the boys.
During their ordeal they ate a couple of fish they were able to catch, and a seagull. The boys eked out rainwater when they could collect it but had resorted to sipping sea water, Mr Fredricsen said.
They would only have lasted a couple of more days, he said.
"They were nothing more than skin and bone. It would break your heart to have seen them... but their mental strength was incredible, their spirit and will to live was just unbelievable."
Mr Fredricsen said the boys were in such bad physical condition they had no veins strong enough to get an IV fluid line into. The crew trickled life-giving water into their mouths and gave them soft food over a few hours, tiny amounts at a time.
"They started to respond really well even within a couple of hours," Mr Fredricsen said.
Authorities and the vessel's owners, Sanford, were alerted and arrangements made for a Fijian coastal patrol vessel to rendezvous with the San Nikunau. Clothes were found for the lads whose own clothes had rotted to rags.
Then Mr Fredricsen carried out a task every bit as rewarding as coming across the missing boys had been.
"I managed to get some phone numbers off them. For instance Samuel was able to give me his grandmother's contact details and I was able to track the others' down," Mr Fredricsen said.
"I'll never forget telling their families they were alive and were coming home. There was all this ecstatic crying and elation at the other end of the phone."
The boys were on the San Nikunau for 48 hours before being transferred to the Fiji coastguard yesterday morning at 4.30am our time. Before saying goodbye Mr Fredricsen told them that, no matter where or when, any time they needed him all they had to do was call.
"They're in my life now. They and their experience touched the whole crew."
A second miracle was the Sanford-owned San Nikunau even being in the area. Having been asked to bring its catch to New Zealand instead of unloading at a Pacific port, the vessel was on a course it had never taken before.
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Miracle at Sea: Teens Rescued From Pacific Make It to Land
Teen Boys From Tokelau Islands Survived Nearly Two Months at Sea, Were Reportedly Thin and Sunburned but Healthy
By SARAH NETTER
Nov. 27, 2010
The three Pacific island teenagers rescued this week after 50 days adrift at sea in a small boat have landed in Fiji, where they are receiving medical attention.
Survival at Sea
Other than looking thin and reportedly suffering from dehydration, the teenagers appeared in good health. They smiled and waved for the cameras that were awaiting for them in Suva, the Fijian capital where they were taken by the tuna vessel that rescued them.
The three teens -- Edward Nasau, 14, and 15-year-olds Samu Perez and Filo Filo -- were found Wednesday adrift in their small aluminum boat northeast of Fiji, the BBC reported.
"I thank God for keeping us alive all this while, while were drifting out in open sea," Nasau, 14, told The Associated Press. "We prayed every day that someone will find us and rescue us."
Natives of the Tokelau Islands, a New Zealand territory in the south Pacific, the teenagers had been presumed dead. At least one of their families had even held a memorial service for him.
They told the tuna vessel operators that they survived on nothing but coconuts, water trapped by a tarpaulin and a seabird that landed on their boat.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Tai Fredricsen, first mate of San Nikunau, the tuna vessel that spotted the teens, said they spent the time on his ship listening to music and watching cartoons.
"In the physical sense they looked very physically depleted," Fredricsen told Radio New Zealand but said their spirits were high as they repeatedly thanked their rescuers.
Samu Perez's aunt told the BBC after her nephew's rescue that the boy's family had already held a memorial service for him.
"My mum, she cried very day and every night," Fekei said. "We believed he was still alive anyway. We thought that God was still with them."
The woman told the BBC that the teens may have been trying to sail to Australia or the United States. She has spoken by phone with Perez, she told the BBC, and said he was asking for forgiveness.
"I think they did learn a big lesson," she said.
The boys told the tuna vessel workers that after losing their way during a sporting event, they used the nightly rains to catch drinking water, Fredricsen told the radio station. But during the past two days of their ordeal, they were forced to drink seawater, which rapidly dehydrated them.
"They said they had last eaten almost two weeks prior to us rescuing them," Fredricsen said, relaying how the boys described to him catching and killing a seabird.
Fredricsen said he told the boys they were smart to eat the bird rather than trying to catch fish, which would have further dehydrated them.
Once onboard Fredricsen said he and his crew were careful to give the boys just small amounts of liquid at a time to prevent them from becoming ill, and then small amounts of food such as pieces of an apple.
Fredricsen called the rescue "very morale up lifting" and noted that the boys were found in an area that sees little to not boat traffic. Even Fredricsen's boat rarely travels that way but did this time.
"There's a lot of living left in them," he told the radio station.
The boys are expected to be taken to Samoa on Monday, where they will wait two weeks for a boat to take them home, New Zealand's TV3 reported, according to The Associated Press.
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61 days adrift
Saturday, November 27, 2010
One of the three Tokelau teenagers rescued after drifting for 61 days, Etueti Nasau, 14, is escorted by Fiji Navy officers and military doctor at the Naval Base in Suva yesterday. Picture: IVAMERE RASABASABA
AFTER 61 days of drifting at sea and numerous search and rescue missions, three Tokelau teens were finally rescued when a New Zealand fishing vessel spotted them early this week.
In a media briefing yesterday afternoon, Fiji's navy commander Francis Kean said they successfully transferred Etueni Nasau, 14, Samu Pelesa and Filo Pelesa, both 15, from the San Nikunau, on to the naval vessel, Kula, at 4am yesterday in Fiji's exclusive economic zone.
"The boys had left their homes in Atafu Village on September 24 in an aluminium boat to visit relatives at Nukunonu, a neighbouring island in Tokelau. Along the way they ran out of fuel and the boat started to drift," he said.
Commander Kean said the boys had drifted over an extensive area.
"With the rainfall we have experienced, one can only imagine the state of the seas they endured during the journey. Even the commanding officer of the Kula is in awe of how they survived the 61-day ordeal," said Mr Kean.
He said the teens lived on flying fish, a seagull and sea and rain water.
"A doctor who accompanied them to shore has been injecting fluids into their bodies to rehydrate them. The doctor has said it is still not the right time for them to eat solid foods so they will continue to take in fluids until their bodies are ready.
"I thank God for the second chance given to the three teenagers," Commander Kean said.
He said the boys' families had been informed and that immigration issues would need to be sorted between the New Zealand High Commission and the Immigration Department before they could return home to Tokelau.
Also present at the Stanley Brown naval base in Walu Bay yesterday to receive the boys were officials of the New Zealand High Commission, including Phillip Taula, the acting head of mission. The boys are undergoing medical treatment at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.