Lost to the Sea of Life


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Lost to the Sea of Life 

By Hwaa Irfan

We can only judge when something happens, how equipped we are for any given situation, but most of us live our lives in fear of the unknown. Despite all the blessings of modernity, we find ourselves less able, not more when a situation arises. If we are blessed, we will have all our senses, and our limbs, but at the ability to think for ourselves is something we learn on the way.

It might not have happened if they were raised in the extravagant West – those three boys were lost in the Pacific Ocean for so long, that their families and relatives thought they were dead. For 50 days, no one knew that they were still in this plane of existence.

From the island (atoll) of Atafu, north of Samoa.Two boys, Samuel Pelesa, and Filo Filo aged 15, and their cousin Etueni (Edward) Nasau aged 14 set out for an inter-island trip of Tokelau, an archipelago of 3 atolls includinf Atafu, in an aluminium boat. Running out of fuel for their motor, they drifted out to sea out of sight of their island home. uth only a small supply of food on board, and between them, whatever understanding they had, a new one was to form out of the need to survive. They had survived on one seagull, which presented itself on their boat and whatever flying fish that also hopped on board. Without means of cooking, what they ate was eaten raw. For water they drank rainwater. Canadian Indians would collect their drinking water from melted snow before the country was industrialized, so there was no real health risk.

They were even searched for by the New Zealand air force, and fearing the worst, a memorial service was held for them by 500 townsfolk. The boys in their aluminium boat drifted 1300 km into a part of the Pacific Ocean where there is little sea traffic, until they drifted into the tuna boat racing home of Auckland, San Nikunau. Before that, they had seen ships that could not see them. 

As time passed, the boys had no drinking water, has there was no rainfall, and resorted to sips of seawater 2 days before they were found. Death was on their minds, and they prayed everyday to be found.

Away from their normal route, the tuna fishing vessel with First Mate Tai Fredricsen was passing through San Nikunau after deciding not to unload their catch in American Samoa out of a desire to get home. They were just trying to take the quickest route home, when in the distant they noticed a small boat Fredricsen told Stuff. Curiosity got the better of them because something was not quite right about it all. As they approached the boys started to wave to. As the fishing vessel drew close up, the crew saw three physically fit, but very skinny boys. 

On board the fishing vessel, Fredricsen, a medical officer put the boys on an intravenous drip, but to his surprise the only medical treatment the boys were in need of was sunscreen lotions. They were able to sip water, and were eager to eat some real food. They had not eaten for 2 weeks prior to being found! After phoning home, the boys were treated to a kiwi breakfast, lunch, cartoons and music by the crew – what an adventure! 

Severely sunburned, but otherwise in good health, the tuna vessel has dropped the boys off in Suva, the capital of Fiji where a hospital check up is waiting for them before flying to Samoa, then a boat trip to Tokelau.

Life Lessons

In the U.K.’s “Wellbeing Challenge” involving 10,000 teenagers, and 400 schools, the youth were asked to complete the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Test before and after the challenge. It was found by removing 21st century material trappings, gadgets, and make-up, that their self esteem rose by 20%. Psychologist Emma Kenny commented:

The results from the Wellbeing Challenge were astonishing for such a short period of time. It is clear that there is a correlation between increased self-esteem and teens being freed from the trappings of modern day pressures, particularly those affecting their appearance.

“In truth, we are robbing children of their childhood by showing unrealistic images of models and celebrities everyday, which are unachievable. In actual fact make-up is simply a mask for their unhappiness and by removing it we are liberating them from these social expectations, creating resilience and strength.

“David Cameron is taking a lead in investigating what makes us happy as adults. If the Simple Wellbeing Challenge in schools proves anything it is that money is not everything, but that appearance plays a huge role. With increased self-esteem we will foster a new happier generation.”

When there is no illusions of trust, we connect with what is always ever-present, Our Creator. We stand tested to the trials that present themselves as a means of defining who and what we really are – what distracts us, and what confuses us. These boys did not grow up street-wises with all the confusing trappings of boyhood in the city – they have grown up in the traditional ways of their people on the Atoll of Atafu, which one of three which makes up Tokelau. They would not have known what it is like to be without a community for a family, and to be couped up indoors out of fear for the outdoors. They would not have spent endless hours in front of books, homework, and T.V. and video games. They would have explored their environment, and in the process learn lessons that would equip them for life. 

“Take a ship from the Samoan capital Apia and travel north for 28 often stomach-churning hours through the South Pacific ocean — an empty expanse except for flying fish and the occasional pod of dolphins — and you’ll reach Tokelau” South Asian Women’s Forum. 

Under the administrative management of New Zealand, the islanders are free to live according to their traditions – they are aiming to become self governed. Wait for a barge to take you, the post, and supplies to any of the atolls of Tokelau where there is no capital  to confuse you, no airports, cars, television, and the village chiefs take turns each to be the leader of this tiny nation.

“There is no other place I can catch a yellowfin tuna 100 metres from home,” says Mika Kalolo, 31, a government employee who went to school and worked in New Zealand for many years before returning home to Atafu, the northernmost atoll.

Drinking water comes mainly from the rain, which when it falls is held in large storage tanks beside/under each home. Times are changing though, as the open huts, are being taken over by concrete and timber buildings, which are built according to custom, i.e. a single large room. 

“When I came back after getting used to luxury five star living in New Zealand for 11 years, it was a culture shock for me in terms of privacy and sharing, returning to communal facilities and activities,” -Mika Perez, a 45-year-old government official on Nukunonu atoll.

 It is no wonder the boys survived, as they come from a people not ingratiated with excess in lifestyle including food, as the atolls have little soil to grow produce on, so the islanders live on bananas, breadfruit, taro, coconuts, pigs and chicken. Fishing is the main occupation, and this is done as a social activity, as everyone shares in the catch, just as everyone shares in the building or the fixing of a home.

As for national security, it consists of two police officers who have only the odd dispute to deal with, and there is no prison. However, that might change as the young who have lived in New Zealand return with lifestyles from the mainland including individualism and hence competitiveness. May God give them the grace of insight for where individualism sets in there is loss of common values, the values that have made the people of Atafu into one big family. They know little of what it means to be not accepted, to be unimportant, and to always waste energy with the kind of negative emotions that sets one person up against the other, to be a commodity, a value/value-less, to have meaningless passed onto their children, to always be in doubt of who and what you are, and for each individual to fight/find their way through the sea of life.


Barber, D. “Boys Alive After 50 Days Adrift in the Pacific.” http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-world/boys-alive-after-50-days-adrift-in-pacific-20101125-188l1.html

Field, M. “Miracle Survival of Three Boys.” http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/world/4386825/Three-boys-miracle-survival

South Asian Women’s Forum. “Tokelau Clings to Traditional Ways in South Pacific Isolation.” http://www.sawf.org/newedit/edit03202006/places.asp

“Teen Happiness at All Time Low.” http://www.responsesource.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=61061&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ReleaseWireChildrenAndTeenagers+%28Release+Wire%3A+Children+and+Teenagers%29

 “Three Boys Adrift in Pacific Ocean for 50 Days Found Alive.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11836284

“Teenager Found Adrift in Pacific Describes His Ordeal.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11854426

Relate Topics:

Happiness Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

The Missing Link in the Education of Our Boys

Taking Control of Your Family

Climbing the Mountain

The Echo of Life

Mindfulness and Adolescence

AHome or a House!

Live to Work or Work to Live!

The Lesson That Cannot Be Taught!

Nature Helps Our Brain Connect!

Reliving the Art of Communication

Preparing for Life!

What Frequency Am I Traveling on Right Now?

Children Need the Outdoors Like Earth Needs Rain!

Paid in Full

4 thoughts on “Lost to the Sea of Life

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