Two men lost at sea for nearly a month in the Solomon Islands were rescued this week, after heavy storms left them completely stranded. Livae Nanjikana and his friend, Junior Qoloni, optimistically described the trip as “a nice break from everything.”
Leaving their home on Mono Island, part of the Solomon Islands east of Papua New Guinea, Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni set sail in a tiny, 60-horsepower motorboat with only a sack of oranges to eat. The two men planned a 124 mile trip (200 km), south to the town of Noro on New Georgia Island. It was a trip that they had done together in the past, but not under such heavy rains.
A rough storm reportedly brought some trouble to their navigation system, so the two turned off their engine and hoped to just conserve fuel and wait out the torrential downpour. Heavy wind ended up pushing their small boat way off of course, and their GPS system never recovered either.
“We encountered bad weather that came with heavy rain, thick dark clouds and strong winds on our way – for about an hour,” Nanjikana told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC).
Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni floated roughly 248 miles (400 km) northwest of their starting point on Mono Island, in the complete opposite direction of their intended destination.
“We didn’t know where we were but did not expect to be in another country,” said Livae Nanjikana. He alleged that he and Junior Qoloni survived the 29 days lost at sea solely on rainwater and their sack of oranges. He told reporters that the pair also collected coconuts that wandered to their boat and were scooped up out of the sea.
Remarkably, the two men ended up crafting a kind of sail made from “canvas” that they had on board. “After several days, because we prayed, God gave us this thought of constructing a device to sail,” Nanikana said. “So, we constructed a mast-like structure using paddles and canvas and set sail following the direction of the wind.”
Spotted by a fisherman, Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni were eventually rescued on Saturday, Oct. 2, after nearly a month of being stranded at sea. The fisherman was able to bring them to the town of Pomio, in New Britain, Papua New Guinea, where they were treated by local doctors.
“The fisherman was a nice man,” Najikana told the SIBC. “When we reached land, our bodies felt weak, so we were carried by men to the house. We were later fed with good foods such as taro, pawpaw and other vegetables which made us regain our strength. We are now well kept and fed with the people here, they are nice people.”
The two men are currently residing with Joe Kolealo, a good citizen of the Pomio District who took them both in out of the kindness of his heart. “I went and picked them from the health center on Sunday morning and now they live happily with us,” said Kolealo.
Many people in the town of Pomio were absolutely amazed that the two were able to survive for so long on so little. Island officials, such as Mary Walenenea, the chief desk officer for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are currently working with the two rescued men to help them get back home to Mono Island safely.
Reflecting on the scary days trapped at sea, Livae Nanjikana said the he “had no idea what was going on” with the outside world for nearly a month.
“I didn’t hear about Covid or anything else,” said Nanjikana “I look forward to going back home but I guess it was a nice break from everything.”