Backpackers Shipwrecked off the Island of Komodo in Indonesia.
Above Photo: Komodo island is home to the Komodo dragon, a huge lizard that can grow up to three metres (10 feet) in length.
For a modern-day take on Adventure Backpackers trekking into the Vietnam War-torn jungles of Asia, and the perils that may await them, see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/
I’ve been in and on many dangerous seas on my travels.
I’ve been swept out to sea and left bobbing in the water for two and a half hours after a dive in Cambodia, smashed onto a reef by a strong tidal surge on a remote atoll in Ponapae, Micronesia, and dragged through an opening in a reef, cutting myself to pieces, in Saipan, but I can honestly say the scariest sea I ever saw was off the coast of the Indonesian island of Komodo, a few years ago, when I was travelling around the world on a backpacking trip.
I’d taken a clapped out public boat from the island of Lombok, heading east, to see the Komodo Dragons. When we arrived, I had to transfer to a small canoe in open sea by walking down a narrow plank, trying to balance a heavy rucksack as I went.
I still remember it vividly.
I looked at the sea, which was like a washing machine with fast-moving currents merging and forming vortexes and whirlpools and thought, “I really don’t want to fall into that…I’ll be dead in seconds.”
It felt like the end of the world: far from civilization and even further from any kind of help. There was something genuinely frightening about being there. I have never worked out why I felt like that at the time, but I did.
So it was with dismay that I recently read reports of the sinking of a tourist boat off the same islands, when a boat lacking navigational equipment struck a reef at night and sank, leaving 25 people, including Britons, Kiwis, French, Spaniards, Dutch and Germans to fend for themselves in high seas with little hope of immediate rescue.
Some embarked on a six-hour, 3 kilometers swim through rough seas to an uninhabited island where they ate leaves, drank their own urine and had to contend with an erupting volcano.
By the time they arrived, they’d already been in the water for 18 hours, and they were eventually picked up by a passing fishing boat.
The others were in a lifeboat, with some survivors floating in the water, holding on to the lifeboat, for many hours.
Fortunately they had life jackets, and this group in the water were eventually picked up in the sea 100 km (60miles) off the coast.
Bertrand Homassel, a Frenchman who was among the group of swimmers, said the ferry started sinking after it was damaged in a storm.
“Six people were in the lifeboat. The others climbed on to the roof of the boat, which had not completely sunk. We waited until midday on Saturday. We were 5km from the coast – there were many big waves separating us from the coast. People started to panic.”
The engine of the boat failed in the middle of the night, about 14 hours after setting off from Lombok. Attempts to fix it had failed and the boat had been blown onto a reef by strong winds. It turned upside down and sank.
One of the rescued tourists criticized the lack of emergency equipment. “On the boat there was no security. No radio, no GPS, no navigation equipment. There was nothing. Only a life jacket…If you’re in the middle of the ocean with a life jacket, what happens? Nothing. Because the most important thing when you have an accident in the sea is to call the rescue team and to use the radio, GPS or something. They had nothing. In the morning, the crew said ‘No one is coming to rescue us.'”
Unfortunately, two backpackers are still missing.
For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia, see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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