Story of the Tokelau teenagers lost in the ocean for 51 days

May 10, 2011

It's just happenstance that I'm linking to two lost-at-sea stories back-to-back, but trust me, they're both worth it. Read the previous story about the Mexican fishermen before you read this one.

As the author here notes, these kids probably experienced the most arduous and trying trip in recorded history (and he does take into account the tale of the Mexican fishermen, among other dire stories).

What makes the Tokelaun narrative particularly terrifying is the utter lack of food and other necessities, and their young ages (one was 14 and two were 15). It truly is the stuff of nightmares, and kudos to the author for helping us to even attempt to imagine the horror.

Anyway, throw this and the earlier article onto your Kindle, grab a nice Scotch, fall into your favorite reading chair and be thankful you're warm, dry and (hopefully) not thinking about eating your best friend for breakfast.

By the next morning--day six--the three were well aware that they'd made a terrible mistake. But what could they do? They sat on the benches, facing each other. They had no watch. Nothing to read. No pen or paper. They tried to distract themselves with conversation, but they had little to say. […]

In anguish, Samu clamped his jaw on one of the boat's wooden benches. It was two inches thick. Eventually he gnawed a piece off. He chewed for many minutes. He swallowed. They all joined in. The front bench was slightly softer than the rear one--it got wetter--so that was the one they ate. They ate lots of it. They ate some of the hair that fell off their heads. They ate bits of their fingernails. They were dying.

When rescued:

They were naked and emaciated. Their skin was covered with blisters. Their tongues were swollen. They had no food, no water, no clothing, no fishing gear, no life vests, and no first-aid kit. They were close to death. They had been missing for fifty-one days.

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