Meet Aldi Novel Adilang, The Teen Who Got Lost At Sea Three Different Times

As much as it's depicted in movies and storybooks, very few people can say they've been lost at sea — or at least, very few people can say they've been found at sea. The very idea of being stranded in the middle of a vast ocean with no sense of direction or idea where the next meal or even drink of water will come from is enough to make one's stomach churn. If imagining being swept out to sea once is difficult, try picturing it happening not just once but three times. That's what happened to Aldi Novel Adilang, who was trapped adrift on the ocean all alone three separate times, all while still in his teenage years. The scenarios were all unique in their own ways, but they each started out in a similar fashion.

Adilang's job working on a rompong required him to be up to 75 miles from the Indonesian shore, according to The Guardian. A romping resembles a floating hut and is tethered to the ocean floor. At night, those working on the rompongs — each occupied by one person — light up a string of lights connecting the floating huts. These lights act as a lure, bringing in fish to be trapped. Spending a few months on a rompong might not seem too bad, but what happens when the tether holding your hut securely to the ocean floor snaps? Adilang knows all too well.

He took a job on the ocean before he could even swim

At 16 years old, Aldi Novel Adilang took a job on a rompong before he even knew how to swim. He and his friends would spend months out at sea in their huts before returning to shore. According to the BBC, the company he worked for would bring supplies of food, water, and fuel every week while also coming to collect whatever fish Adilang had trapped. Not long after starting, Adilang had his first bout of drifting out to sea. In the first incident, he spent a week drifting in the water before the owner of his floating hut rescued him. The second occurrence was much shorter, and Adilang was only adrift for two days before the owner saved him once more (per BBC).

For most, the first occurrence of floating out to sea would be enough to keep them away from the water for a little bit, but for Adilang, even two mishaps didn't sway his extreme work ethic. So, after his two adventures, he headed back to the rompong.

The panic of being lost at sea was slow to set in

July 14, 2018,  Aldi Novel Adilang felt something while on his rompong — it was the rope anchoring his hut to the ocean floor breaking. Adilang was 18 years old but didn't panic when he realized he was floating out to sea. Instead, he tried to radio his friends on the other rafts to tell their boss and send help. However, help didn't come for 49 days.

Adilang told The Guardian after his time at sea, "On the first day, I was okay. I wasn't stressed or panicking. I knew they would send a boat, but I was worried it would have to turn back because the winds and the waves were strong. It was after more than a week that I started to get very scared." His supplies on his rompong got Adilang through the first weeks of being stuck at sea. At first, he would catch what fish he could and grill them before eating them, but eventually, when his fuel ran out, he had no choice but to eat the fish raw. Even more distressing was that he ran out of water and was forced to drink ocean water just to stay even slightly hydrated. According to The Guardian, Adilang used his clothing as a makeshift filter, hoping it would keep him from consuming too much of the salt the ocean water holds.

After three times lost at sea, land is a beloved friend

Adrift in the vast ocean with no supplies or navigation, Aldi Novel Adilang didn't receive his first hope of rescue until a few weeks had passed. When an Indonesian ship was passing, Adilang communicated with the captain through his radio. The captain said he would return for Adilang but never did (via The Guardian).

Adilang's mental health began to decline, and he got through the days by reading the Bible (per the BBC). It wasn't until August 31, when a passing ship carrying coal heard his calls for help over the radio, that Adilang was rescued. In a YouTube video published by The Guardian, the ship's crew can be seen rescuing Adilang and giving him water and blankets, but after so many days of exposure to the elements, Adilang wasn't in good health. According to the BBC, his journey took him from Indonesia all the way to the waters of Guam. After a week aboard the coal ship, Adilang was brought to Japan and flown back to Indonesia just a few days later.

For Adilang, when it comes to being lost at sea, the third time's a charm, and his sailing days are a thing of the past. After almost two months of fighting to survive while coming face to face with uncertainty and being circled by sharks and other sea life, staying on land would seem pretty wonderful.