Three teenagers who survived at least 50 days adrift in the Pacific in an aluminium dinghy said on Wednesday their odyssey began when they went searching for more vodka after partying on the beach.
The boys, from the remote territory of Tokelau, who lived off rainwater and a seagull they captured during the ordeal, said they talked constantly about food as they prayed for rescuers to find them.
Edward Nasau (14) denied reports that he and Samuel Perez (15) and Filo Filo (15) had set off to find a girl from a neighbouring island who they had met earlier in the day.
“No, they are just rumours,” he told reporters in Samoa, where the trio are waiting to return home later this month after a New Zealand fishing boat last week plucked them from the water.
“We were drinking and I was hanging out with other kids,” he said. “Then they (Perez and Filo) came and we decided to go look for some more.”
The boys, whose survival has been hailed as a miracle, said it was not until they had been at sea for two weeks that they admitted they were lost.
They were eventually found about 1 420 kilometres from their island home.
Nasau said while they saw no land while they were adrift, they did spot a boat one night “but it was too far to make the effort to wave them down”.
Perez said his greatest fear was that his grandmother would become sick with worry and have a heart attack.
“Otherwise we slept most of the time, did some swimming and we talked”, he said, prompting Nasau to interject: “And the talking was mostly about food.”
They said they were looking forward to a meal of coconut crab and taro, a potato-like vegetable, when they got back to Tokelau, a New Zealand-administered territory of about 1 400 people.
Their home island of Atafu held memorial services in their absence, assuming they were dead and Nasau said a huge welcome party was planned for their return.
It was initially believed the boys left Atafu on October 5, based on search reports, but the Fiji navy, which transferred them from the fishing boat, said it could have been as early as September 24.
Nasau’s uncle Kuresa Nasau, a senior official in Tokelau, said everyone at home was overjoyed at their survival.
“The reality that they are here with us is a miracle,” he said.
He said the boys initially feared they would be censured over the teenage escapade that went wrong so dramatically.
“Meeting the boys for the first time was a joyous occasion. But there were moments of awkwardness,” he said.
“Before they came to the room to see us for the first time, they were scared because of what they did. They were expecting me to give them scorn but there was never any of that we were just glad they were found.”
The trio received treatment for severe dehydration in Fiji after their rescue but Kuresa Nasau said he was concerned the ordeal had left mental scars.
The boys would be taken to each village in Tokelau after their return so they could acknowledge the islanders’ prayers and support for them, he said.
The official said he hoped everyone had learned a lesson from what had happened.
“It is something we do not wish to encourage,” he said. — Sapa-AFP