Top 10 people who have been lost at sea the longest

The sea, the ocean, the immensity, the dead calm, the storms, the dark depths… I don’t know what you think about it, but it’s bloody scary, isn’t it? So imagine having to survive there for hours, days, weeks, even… a year. Impossible, you say? For you and me, maybe fine, but not for these few warriors. Stories as impressive as they are frightening, incredible survivors, a mind of steel. Just out of respect for their courage, and to go to bed much less stupid, you are obliged to read this top. Right now. GO, GO, WE HURRY, A THOUSAND THUNDER FROM A THOUSAND PORTS!

1. Lisala Folau, 27 hours

The year 2022 begins with a drama, on the Tonga Islands. A violent tsunami ravages the land. Lisala Folau, a 57-year-old retiree, living on the island of Atata, takes refuge at the top of a tree, despite a disability affecting her walking. Carried away by a 6m wave, he stayed in the water for more than a whole day before swimming to Tongatapu, located almost 8km. An incredible performance that earned him the nickname “Aquaman” in the local press.

2. Harrison Odjegba Okene, 3 days… Underwater!

An unbelievable story. This Nigerian cook survived 60 hours in the hull of his tugboat, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. BUT HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?? An air pocket in the wreckage. Imagine the faces of the rescuers, when a hand grabbed them, when they were no longer expecting any trace of life… Unfortunately, the other members of the crew perished in the accident.

3. Fifteen survivors, 13 days at sea: the true story of the jellyfish raft

Back in time, we are on July 2, 1816. La Méduse, a large ship carrying 400 passengers, fatally ran aground on a sandbar off the coast of Mauritania, in the Atlantic. The command orders its evacuation (good shitty advice, since the boat does not sink immediately. Those who remain there will even be rescued!) 150 people therefore take refuge on the raft, originally built for the gear. From the first day, all the food is eaten. The next day, about twenty people have already disappeared. Between depressions, brawls, hunger and climatic hazards, the deaths are linked. After two weeks, the ordeal is coming to an end: a ship, leaving for Senegal, saves the survivors. They are then only 15… It is this scene that represents the famous painting by Théodore Géricault!

4. Two men, a woman, and a child, 32 days

It was in December 2020, off Papua New Guinea. On the 22nd of the month, twelve people, originating from the city of Buka, embark on a small boat, destination the islands of the Carteret atoll. Unfortunately, they capsized. The survivors manage to right the boat, and take refuge there. They feed on a few coconuts, found on the surface of the water, and save the shells to collect rainwater. After this month of ordeal, a fishing boat spots them and brings them back to Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands. Only 3 adults and a 12-year-old girl returned safe and sound from this tragedy.

5. Tami Oldham Ashcroft, 41 days

Tami Oldam and Richard Sharp set off on a sailboat in 1983. The couple of navigators had plans to connect Tahiti to San Diego, California. On October 13, after three weeks of idyllic sailing, it’s a descent into hell: they are surprised by a hurricane, the waves reach 15 meters high, the wind blows at more than 250 kilometers per hour, and… their boat capsizes. The 23-year-old lost consciousness. She only wakes up 27 hours later, alone, in the middle of the ocean. Her boyfriend disappeared in the storm. Despite bereavement and head trauma, survival takes precedence. She builds herself a makeshift sail with a broken pole, recovers some food from the debris, and sails on instinct. After six weeks, she finally arrives on solid ground: the ordeal is finally over. In 2002, she wrote her story in a biography entitled Red Sky in Mourning: A true story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea. It is also from his story that the film “A ladrift” is taken, released in theaters in 2018.

6. Louis Jordan, 66 days

The 30-year-old American went to sea on January 29, 2015, in search of fish. Out of the current Golf Stream, he capsizes and breaks his shoulder. The mast of his boat is broken, and all his electronic equipment is giving up the ghost. Out of the question for the man not to see his family again. He’s fighting. Building a makeshift mast, fishing with his bare hands, collecting rainwater: he survived, despite his injury and his slow progression. Finally, it was a German tanker that spotted it off North Carolina, more than 320 km from the American east coast.

7. Steven Callahan, 76 days

End of 1981: Mitterrand is president, Bob Marley and Brassens have just left us, Steven Callahan, a 29-year-old American, sets out on a sailing trip. In January, he is on the Canary Islands and takes the road to the Antilles (about 5000 km, that is, a maximum of one month of crossing.) Finally, that is on paper. After a week of navigation, the weather deteriorates, the waves pierce his boat, the ship sinks. He retrieves his survival bag, and takes refuge in his lifeboat. It is in the middle of the Atlantic. The drift will last for many weeks. He will manage to convert salt water into fresh water, thanks to a distiller on board his survival bag, he will use a fork as a patch for his deflated makeshift boat and fish as best he can. After 76 days, when he thinks he is doomed, the fate changes: he sees an island offshore! He has just reached Marie-Galante, fishermen come to rescue him, he is finally only a few kilometers from his initial objective: the island of Antigua. He then wrote his story in the book Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea.

8. Poon Lim, 133 days

Originally from China, he was only 25 in 1942, when he was hired on an English ship. He was sailing off Cape Town when the ship was torpedoed by the Nazis. The young man jumps into the water to save his skin, wearing a simple life jacket. The only survivor of this terrible assault, he manages, after two hours in the water, to find a lifeboat. On board: some biscuits and a little water. These few foodstuffs, a bit of fishing, rare sea birds and rainwater will allow him to survive. He was finally found by fishermen, not far from Brazil (!), after more than 4 months of survival.

9. Lucio Rendon, Salvador Ordonez and Jesus Eduardo Vivand, 9 months and 9 days

They were five fishermen to leave the port of San Blas, in Mexico, in October 2015. While they were to return a few days later, only three of them found the mainland, after long months adrift. According to the survivors, the two other companions would have died of starvation, after having refused to eat raw fish and turtles… For some, these deaths could be more a matter of cannibalism… CREEDY. Those who have traveled 9000 km on a makeshift boat totally deny this theory (YOU AMAZING ME!).

10. Jose Salvador Alvarenga, 14 months

November 17, 2012, the Salvadoran fisherman goes to sea with his buddy, Ezequiel Cordoba. On the program: 30 hours of navigation to fish off the Mexican coast. Finally, the two men experience a real nightmare: first, a storm. Their boat is damaged, and their GPS destroyed. Despite everything, they manage to get closer to the coast. While they have land in sight, the engine fails. They grab their radio to call for help: it drops in turn. As if that weren’t enough, the storm isn’t calming down. She shakes them for 5 days, and brings them back to the middle of the ocean, without radio, without GPS and without life. To survive, they fished with their bare hands, ate raw, found bits of food in trash on the surface, and ended up drinking their own urine. After 4 months, Córdoba dies, of malnutrition and depression. Salvador therefore remains alone for another 10 months. He finally found the ground, on the island of Tile, on January 30, 2014, that is to say… 438 days after his departure. A horrifying story, worthy of a movie script, which commands (really) respect. Today, he is still nicknamed the “castaway of the Pacific”.


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