Castaways say 29 days living off coconuts at sea was a nice break from Covid

Two men from the Solomon Islands who were cast away at sea after their GPS broke down survived for almost a month on a few ranges and a few coconuts they found floating by.

Early on the morning of September 3, Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni set out in a small, single 60 horsepower motorboat from Mono Island, in Solomon Islands’ Western Province.

They were heading for the town of Noro on New Georgia Island, about 120 miles to the south. By hugging the coastline and occasionally checking their GPS it should have been an easy journey.

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

But the weather on the Solomon Sea, north-east of Australia, can be unpredictable. An unexpected storm blew in, making it impossible for the two men to see the west coast of Vella Lavella Island and Gizo Island to help them navigate.

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

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

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Drifting on the ocean currents, the pair survived on a few oranges they’d packed for the trip, along with coconuts they managed to collect from the sea. They used a square of canvas to collect enough rainwater to drink.

By the time they spotted a fishing boat and were able to signal for help, they had floated some 250 miles north-west towards Papua. New Guinea.

“We didn’t know where we were,” Nanjikana said, “but didn’t expect to be in another country,”

Their rescuers took them to the town of Pomio on New Britain – an island in Papua New Guinea. When the men, weak from malnutrition and exposure, were carried ashore on October 2 they had been adrift for 29 days.

They were taken in by local man Joe Kolealo, who told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation: “Now they live happily with us.”

Nanjikana has taken a positive approach to his near-death experience: “I had no idea what was going on while I was out there. I didn’t hear about Covid or anything else,” he said. “I look forward to going back home but I guess it was a nice break from everything.”

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