Nanjikana and Qoloni epic survival story
We survive by floating coconuts, rainwater and faith in God: Nanjikana
Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni beat incredible odds after a 29 days sea ordeal in open waters spanning more than 400 kilometers from where they left to where they were rescued.
The men are now safe in Pomio district, West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The trip which was destined for Noro in western Province from Mono in the Shortland Islands on September 3, 2021 landed them in Papua New Guinea waters. They were rescued by a fisherman at about 9pm on Saturday October 2, 2021.
The men were travelling on a 23 feet ray boat powered by a 60-horsepower out-board motor engine when they encountered this daunting experience of their lifetime.
“We encountered bad weather that came with heavy rain, thick dark clouds and strong winds on our way – for about an hour,” Nanjikana told SIBC News from Pomio through a phone interview.
Their GPS tracking device battery was dead and because of intense rough weather, they had lost their usual means of calculating distance. They could hardly see anything around them so they decided to stop as night was approaching.
Darkness shrank their world with heavy rain and high swells relentlessly battered their boat wave after wave as strong wind intensified and drove the men farther out to sea.
“Our estimated time to reach land has lapsed, and without seeing any island, we decided to stop the engine and just stay afloat, we still have some fuel left,” he said.
The bad weather later calmed.
For the next nine days the duo survive on orange fruits they got from Mono but when they run out of oranges, they have to find other means to survive on as they continually pray to God for strength and guidance.
Waking up in the middle of nowhere day in and day out, the men remain focused and maintain their strength both physically, mentally and spiritually as they traverse the unknown.
When SIBC News asked how they managed to survive that long, Nanjikana replied, “Only on rainwater and coconuts and our faith in God because we pray day and night.”
He recalled they trapped rainwater by using canvas and whenever they saw a floating coconut from a distance, they would start the engine and drive towards it and pick it into their boat.
The men used a small axe they brought with them and the boat’s anchor to cut open the coconuts for their food each day.
“After several days, because we prayed, God gave us this thought of constructing a device to sail. So we constructed a mast-like structure using paddles and canvas and set sail following the direction of the wind,” said Nanjikana.
With the wind’s help and without their knowledge, they navigated towards PNG territorial waters and on the 27th day, they saw an island in the distance. The island is New Britain island – a largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago, part of the Islands Region of PNG.
Livae Nanjikana speaking to Jared Koli of SIBC’s News and Current Affairs
The men tried all means to reach the island that day and the next day but could not manage to make it as nature was not on their side.
It was late on the evening of the 29th day that they made it close to the island, by then only a little amount of fuel they preserved was left on their fuel tank.
From the distance they saw a fisherman in his wooden canoe, they waved but were not noticed.
With the little amount of fuel, they started the engine and throttled towards the fisherman until their fuel ran out and could not move them anymore.
“It was then that we shouted and continually waved our hands to the fisherman that he saw us and paddled towards us.
“When he reached us, we asked, where are we now? And he replied, PNG, ohhh we are now safe,” Nanjikana recollected their gasp of relief.
The fisherman towed their boat to the shore where they were fed and later taken to a Health Center at Pomio to receive medical treatment.
“The fisherman was a nice man. 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,” said Nanjikana.
The men are currently residing with a Pomio District local by the name of Joe Kolealo.
SIBC News also spoke with Mr Kolealo via phone yesterday.
Kolealo relayed that the president of Solomon Islands PNG Community has talked with him and will arrange with the Solomon Islands High Commissioner Office in Port Moresby or the Solomon Islands Government on repatriating the two Solomon Islands locals.
“I went and picked them from the health center on Sunday morning and now they live happily with us,” said Kolealo.
Joe Kolealo speaking to SIBC’s Jared Koli
The story of the two men speaks to our deep fears of being adrift. Having gone through hunger and extreme hardship, these men’s unlikely survival of the weeks-long ordeal is truly remarkable.
One thing that keeps them going is a strong and positive state of mind, hope and faith in God. They have indeed beat incredible odds.
by Jared Koli