Handheld Radio Saves Adrift Indonesian In Pacific

Aldi Novel Adilang’s handheld transceiver was key to his rescue on the high seas.

Aldi_Novel_Adilang_rescue_rompong_MV_Arpeggio.jpg
Illustration: “Adilang Rescued by Arpeggio” mashup by B. Crystal, 2018, entered into public domain Creative Commons CC0

Adilang was adrift for 49 days in the Pacific after the floating rompong fishing hut he was working on lost its anchor line. It broke loose from its origin, 77 miles (125 km) off the Sulawesi Island coast, during high winds in northern Indonesian waters on 14 July 2018. After a week, he ran out of food, lived on fish, and when it didn’t rain, he drank drips of sea water he wrung from his clothing.

Using his generator-driven light and a makeshift white flag, he had tried to attract the attention of many passing ships, but either they didn’t see him, or they ignored him. He drifted northeast with the winds and current over 1200 miles (1900 km). Then, when the huge bulk carrier ship MV Arpeggio passed within a mile of him, he tried to visually attract them. But, the ship appeared to continue along.

He got out his handheld transceiver (HT), and tuned it to a frequency that a friend had told him to use if he got in trouble [probably 156.800 MHz FM, Marine VHF Channel 16] .

“It was early morning on Aug. 31 when I saw the ship and I lighted up the lamp and shouted HELP! using the HT. The ship had passed about one mile but then it turned to me. Might be because I used the English word. Then they talked on the HT,” Adilang said.​

Raw video of rescue (no audio)

The crew of the MV Arpeggio, which rescued Adilang off Guam, contacted the Indonesian consulate in Japan when it docked. He was returned to Indonesia by airline on 8 September 2018.

Video of rescue with some audio

Background:
A rompong is a floating fishing trap with no engine, anchored to the seabed with a long rope. Rompongs are a traditional form of trapping fish in Indonesia, but are often not occupied by an attendant.

Aldi Adilang’s job was to keep the rompong’s lamps lit to attract fish. Its owner would reportedly come by weekly to drop off food, clean water, fuel and other supplies.

This is the 3rd time Aldi Adilang had to be rescued at sea. The first two times, he didn’t drift very far, and was picked up right away by the rompong owner’s boat.

Adilang said he no longer wants to work on a rompong.

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