Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Shark 'saves' fisherman adrift at sea for 15 weeks

A day after watching a film about being lost at sea, Toakai Teitoi was trapped in his own nightmare, drifting in a wooden boat for 15 weeks — before a shark helped to rescue him.

MAJURO, Marshall Islands // A day after watching a film about being lost at sea, Toakai Teitoi was trapped in his own nightmare, drifting in a wooden boat for 15 weeks – before a shark helped to rescue him.

The 41-year-old Kiribati policeman and father of six relived his harrowing voyage in the central Pacific when he arrived in Majuro on Saturday, on the Marshall Islands fishing boat that picked him up last week.

He told of sleeping next to the body of his brother-in-law, who died during the ordeal. When he was found he was suffering severe dehydration and praying to be discovered alive.

Mr Teitoi’s drama began on May 27 after he had flown from his home island of Maiana to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa to be sworn in as a policeman. After the ceremony, he watched a film about four men from Kiribati who were lost at sea. Only two survived after being washed ashore in American Samoa six weeks later.

It was then that he changed his mind about flying home and joined his brother-in-law, Ielu Falaile, 52, on what was supposed to be a two-hour sea journey back to Maiana in a 4.5-metre wooden boat.

But after stopping to fish along the way and sleeping overnight, they woke the following day to find they had drifted out of sight of Maiana and soon after ran out of fuel.

“We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink,” he said.

As dehydration took hold, Mr Teitoi, a Catholic, said he turned to prayer as it gave him strength. But Falaile’s health began failing and he died on July 4.

“I left him there overnight and slept next to him like at a funeral,” Mr Teitoi said. He buried his brother-in-law at sea the next morning.

Only a day after Falaile passed away, a storm blew into the area and rained for several days, allowing Mr Teitoi to fill two five-gallon containers with a life-saving supply of fresh water.

“There were two choices in my mind at the time. Either someone would find me or I would follow my brother-in-law. It was out of my control.”

He continued to pray regularly and on the morning of September 11 caught sight of a fishing boat in the distance, but the crew were unable to see him.

Dejected, he did what he had done most days, curling up under a small covered area in the bow to stay out of the tropical sun.

Mr Teitoi said he woke in the afternoon to the sound of scratching and looked overboard to see a two-metre shark circling the boat and bumping the hull.

When the shark had his attention it swam off. “He was guiding me to a fishing boat. I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with binoculars looking at me.”

When the vessel Marshalls 203 pulled Mr Teitoi on board, the first thing he asked for was a cigarette.

“They told me to wait. They took me to meet the captain, and they gave me juice and some food.”

With Mr Teitoi in no physical danger, the Marshalls 203 continued fishing for several days before returning to Majuro.

He was scheduled to fly from Majuro to Tarawa yesterday and would then fly to Maiana.

“I’ll never go by boat again. I’m taking a plane,” he said.

 

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Thai anti-government protesters blow whistles during a rally at the Metropolitan Electricity Authority in Bangkok, Thailand. Rungroj Yongrit / EPA

Best photography from around the world April 23

The NAtional View's photo editors pick the best of the day from around the world

 Iranian workers at the Iran Khodro auto plant in Tehran on March 18. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

Iran’s love of cars survives devastating sanctions

Sanctions and energy subsidy reductions might have hurt the Iranian automotive industry. But car makers at one factory are still optimistic, Yeganeh Salehi reports from Tehran

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Aiza Tonida puts out laundry amid the ruins of her parents home in Leyte province that was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines on November 8, 2013. Joey Reyna for The National

Filipinos seek Middle East jobs to rebuild lives after Haiyan

Work in the GCC seen as only hope for thousands left homeless and jobless after devastating storm in November.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National