Chuuk Foursome Survives Six Weeks At Sea

CHUUK, FSM (Marianas Variety): April 10, 2003 - Two men and two women departed Weno, Chuuk on Feb. 5 for their home island of Nema, about 60 miles away. Given up for dead, they spent more than six weeks adrift at sea before a Philippine fishing boat spotted them and brought them to safety.

Among other supplies, their boat was equipped with some cases of pineapple juice for relatives on Nema who rarely have a taste of pineapple juice.

Nema is a flat island and, according to legend, it sits atop a mushroom shaped coral and guarded by a big fish. The fish is always well-fed for it promised the natives that it would chip away at the coral if no food is given to it.

The four Nema natives, whose ages range from 36 to 49, were believed to have been dead after all rescue efforts were called off three weeks after they were lost.

The rescue involved the U.S. Coast Guard and the government of Chuuk.

On Feb. 7, a military plane spotted an object in the middle of Nema's surrounding ocean. The plane immediately radioed Chuuk to send a boat. Out of fuel, Chuuk authorities postponed the rescue mission for the next day and instead, went on a political campaign, public-funded outer island trip.

On March 21, a Philippine fishing vessel plying the international fishing waters spotted the boat with the weak and dehydrated drifters.

Immediately, they were picked up and for another 10 days, traversed the sea before they finally arrived at General Santos City in Mindanao. On the ship, they were promptly given food and basic health care and medication.

According to Walter Tim, a relative of the four, they are now recovering in Mindanao.

How did the four survive 57 days drifting in the middle of the ocean? "Oh, by the grace of God," Tim said.

Apparently, the pineapple juice played a vital role in their survival.