Survivors at sea

We check out five amazing survival at sea stories from around the world.

In what seems a lot like a too-close-for-comfort Life of Pi type story, South African surfer Brett Archibald went missing at sea in Indonesia on Wednesday after being swept overboard a boat called the Naga Laut en route to the Mentawaii Islands off Sumatra.

Amazingly he was found alive, though a little worse for wear, 27 hours later holding onto a log drifting towards shore some 12 nautical miles east of Sipura Island... not even wearing a life jacket!

Details of Brett's ordeal were posted to a Facebook page started by his wife, Anita.

"WE Found Him! We Found him! ..and he's Alive!!... A boat named the Baren Joey had picked up Brett out of the deep blue open expanse of Ocean.... The jubilation from 8 close mates and the boat crew aboard the Naga Laut boat was indescribable. Grown men dancing ,hugging, high Fiving...and crying all at the same time," part of the post read.

During his ordeal he nearly drowned eight times, was stung by jelly fish, and almost had his eyes plucked out by seagulls while drifting off the coast of Indonesia, News24 reported.  His hours at sea left him dehydrated and slightly sunburned, but otherwise in good health and good spirits, so much so that he has insisted on completing the surf trip before returning home.

With Brett's incredible story fresh in our minds, we take a look at five other amazing lost at sea survival stories.

Poon Lim - 133 days in the South Atlantic, 1942

Poon Lim's raft. (Wikipedia)

As a 25 year-old, Chinese seaman, Poon Lim, was appointed as the second steward on a British Merchant ship. Interestingly, Poon's nightmare journey started in Cape Town. His ship, with a crew of 25, left the Mother City on 23 November 1942 only to be torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat a couple of days later. As the boat sank at a rapid rate, Poon decided to jump overboard in an effort to save himself. After a few hours of being bashed around by waves, he spotted one of the ships inflatable life rafts and hauled himself on board.

Along with the life raft he found a metal water jug, some tinned biscuits, some flares, an electric torch and a small supply of fresh water. Poon managed to bring variety to his diet by catching fish using the wire from the torch as a hook and a piece of biscuit as bait. When he captured a fish, he would cut it open with a knife he fashioned out of a biscuit tin and dry it on a hemp line over the raft. Once, a large storm hit and spoiled his fish and fouled his water, so he caught a bird and drank its blood to survive.

His ordeal came to an end on 5 April 1943 when three Brazilian fisherman caught sight of him near a river inlet. During his ordeal, Poon Lim had lost 9 kg, but was able to walk unaided upon being rescued.

Three Mexican fishermen - 9 months at sea, 2006

Salvador Ordonez, Jesus Vidana, and Lucio Rendon, pose for photos outside the Carnival Las Palmas Latin Restaurant 23 August 2006 in Honolulu. (Marco Garcia/Getty Images/AFP)

Just before sunrise, on October 28, 2005, Lucio Rendón, Salvador Ordóñez and Jesús Eduardo Vidaña, along with two other companions, set forth from the Mexican port of San Blas, Nayarit, to catch sharks 48km south of the Islas Marías in a 8 metre fiberglass boat. Unfortunately the fishermen exhausted their fuel and strong easterly winds cast them adrift for more than 8 000km west in the Northern Equatorial Current.

Following their ordeal, the three survivors told how the owner of the boat, known only as Juan David, and another fisherman, called "El Farsero," died of starvation and were thrown overboard. Their trio stayed alive catching and eating raw fish and seabirds. They weathered storms, and staved off dying of thirst by collecting winter rainwater.

After 9 months adrift, they were finally rescued on August 9, 2006 when their boat was spotted on the radar of a Taiwanese tuna fishing vessel called Koo's 102. The captain ordered the crew to sail towards the signal to investigate, thinking it was too strong to be a group of sea gulls. Soon they reached the stranded boat and picked up the three surviving fishermen who were reported to be "very thin and hungry, but otherwise healthy". They were kept aboard the vessel for 13 days until they could disembarked in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Ice box Survivors 25 days at sea, 2009

Watch the footage on YouTube.

On 23 August 2009, a 10 metre wooden Thai fishing boat ferrying 20 crew members broke into pieces and sank in rough water. Most of the crew were forced overboard and were never seen again. Two men hung onto a large icebox which was used to store fish as the boat went down. They managed to climb into the icebox as it started floating, but there was no way for them to help any of the other crew members.

It is believed that the icebox was hounded by 50 knot winds caused by cyclone Charlotte, and it was by pure luck that the icebox did not capsize in the extreme weather conditions. The weather was both a blessing and a curse though, as the men would never have made it without the monsoon rains which provided them with fresh drinking water almost daily. They floated like that, with only some old fish that was left in the bottom of the icebox and the rainwater which the icebox caught until the 17th of January. 

Luck was on their side as they were spotted by a routine customs search plane which radioed a rescue chopper. They were taken to Thursday Island where they were treated for severe dehydration, starvation and extreme sunburn and later sent home to their surprised families after 25 days in the sea.

Steven Callahan - 76 days, 1982

A raft similar to Callahan's. (Shutterstock)

An avid sailor, naval architect and inventor, Steven Callahan planned to sail from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic to the Bahamas in a 6.5 meter self-built boat. About a week into his journey his boat was damaged during the night in bad weather possibly a whale. He was forced to abandon ship but managed to rescue his emergency supplies like food and water rations from the boat and inflate the life raft before the boat sank. 

Knowing that no one on land was expecting to hear from him for a few weeks, his survival instincts kicked in. Over the next 76 days he drifted with the south equatorial current and the trade winds while eating mahi-mahi, tiger fish and flying fish. 

On the 76th day at sea, he was able to spot land for the first time in months, Callahan finally reached his destination as he was picked up by fishermen off the coast of Guadalupe. He was taken to a local hospital, but didn't even stay the night; instead he spent a month recovering on the island and then proceeded to hitchhike on boats through the West Indies.

The Robertson family - 38 days, 1972 

Robertson family (Survive the seven seas)

It was a tale beyond belief when a family of five including two 10 year old boys surviving for more than a month in the Pacific on a tiny life-raft with almost no food or water. The Robertson's were sailing on their round the world voyage in 1971 across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Upon hearing an unusual sound, Douglas Robertson wrenched up the floorboards of the family's boat to see what was wrong. He found himself gazing at a massive hole punctured by a killer whale through which water was pouring in with torrential force. It became clear that nothing could be done to save the metre pleasure craft, it was sinking fast. Their survival was entirely in their own hands.

The boat was filled with water and Robertson managed to release the stricken yacht's little dinghy named Ednamair and salvaged some food and supplies, within minutes, the Lucette had slipped beneath the surface of the Pacific beginning an ordeal which lasted full 38 days with no food or water.

They were saved on day 38 by a Japanese vessel called Toka Maru II and touched land four days later at Balboa in Panama.  

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