By MICHAEL FIELD - Stuff.co.nz 18/11/009
A boat from Papua New Guinea has been rescued after drifting in the Pacific for two months, but three of its passengers have died.
An American fishing boat Ocean Encounter landed seven survivors in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands.
One of the rescued men died on board Ocean Encounter soon after rescue and another yesterday.
An eighth passenger of the small boat, a 17-year-old, was washed overboard and lost at sea during a storm last Friday.
An eyewitness said the survivors had to be stretchered off and were now in emergency care in hospital.
"They were just skin and bone," he said.
They had left Tabar Island in the New Ireland area of Papua New Guinea on September 14 seeking to reach Lihir, 50 kilometres away.
When they ran out of fuel the boat drifted 1600 kilometres east to near Nauru, where they were picked up by the Ocean Encounter.
It is not uncommon for castaways to drift from the New Ireland area into the central Pacific.
The latest incident of 62 days adrift is far from the record.
Several years ago four men from Lihir spent 89 days drifting before they reached Niulakita in Tuvalu.
During World War Two a man called Nabetari escaped Japanese occupied Banaba, Kiribati and drifted for just under seven months before coming ashore on the Admiralty Islands in PNG.
In 1992 three i-Kiribati men came ashore in Samoa after drifting in a dingy for 175 days.
Six Indonesians, including a child, spent three months adrift in the Central Pacific, lost between Morotai in Indonesia and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.
One of the best known survival stories was Captain William Bligh, who as a result of a mutiny on Bounty, was put into a small open boat with 18 men. Cast adrift near Tonga he sailed 5700 kilometres in 77 days to reach Kupong Bay in Timor with the loss of six men.