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By Damien Gayle Last updated at 4:14 PM on 13th December 2011
When Pacific Islanders Uein Buranibwe, 53, and Temaei Tontaake, 26, found themselves adrift, with their GPS locator broken, they feared they would meet the same end as their long-lost uncle, Bairo.
He had cast off from their island home, Kiribati, to go fishing one day in the Fifties and had never returned. He was assumed drowned in the vast expanse of the South Pacific.
But neither Mr Buranibwe nor Mr Tontaake could have imagined how closely their fate would mirror that of their missing relative.
Kiribati fishermen Uein Buranibwe, right, 53, and Temaei Tontaake, centre-left, 26, who survived a 33-day drift on the ocean sit together after arriving in Majuro
After drifting nearly 600km across the ocean, the pair finally ran aground on a remote atoll home to just 600 people where, remarkably, they bumped into uncle Bairo's descendants.
'Now we know what happened to my uncle,' Mr Tontaake told AFP.
Mr Buranibwe and Mr Tontaake's odyssey had begun when they lost their way during the 50km journey home from a neighbouring atoll where they had gone to catch fish.
With their GPS out of batteries they drifted for weeks in the Pacific, surviving on what little fish they could catch and resorting to drinking brine when their water supplies ran out.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard mounted a search, but without success. 'We heard the sound of a plane, but we didn't see it,' Mr Tontaake said.
After 33 days adrift their fishing boat was washed into Namdrik, where the first residents they came across took them to the only person there who spoke their language.
They were astonished to discover that she was a descendant of uncle Bairo, who like Mr Tontaake and Mr Buranibwe, had ran aground on the atoll.
Unable to contact home to tell them he was okay, he stayed and married into the community. Bairo has since died, but his story has raised hopes about others who have been lost at sea.