A police officer told today how a shark guided him to a rescue boat after he had drifted helplessly in the Pacific Ocean for 15 weeks.
Mr Toakai Teitoi’s brother-in-law had perished from dehydration and the 41-year-old policeman knew it was only a matter of time before he, too, succumbed to the elements.
But he said today that two unexpected events led to his eventual rescue – a tropical downpour that provided him with drinking water and the extraordinary encounter with the shark.
Trouble in paradise: Mr Teitoi and his brother-in-law were travelling from the Kritibati capital to their home on a nearby atoll when their boat went adrift
‘Just as I was giving up all hope of being rescued after one boat had passed me by in the distance something very strange happened,’ Mr Teitoi said after being brought ashore in the Marshall Islands by the fishing boat which found him.
‘I was cowering from the sun under a piece of cloth I had stretched across the front of the boat when I felt a big bump, followed by some scratching.
‘I looked over the side and saw a six-foot shark circling my boat, but it was mainly bumping against the hull.
‘It definitely caught my attention because I had been fast asleep. Then, because I was now awake, I looked around me and saw the stern of a ship.
‘I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could just make out the crew who were looking at me through binoculars.
Shark rescue: Mr Teitoi say he was saved by a shark who alerted him to a nearby rescue boat by bumping into his vessel when he had fallen asleep
‘Of course I was able to wave frantically at them and they came and picked me up. If that shark hadn’t nudged me awake the crew of the boat might have thought I wasn’t in trouble and might have carried on sailing past me.’
He and his brother-in-law had flown from their home on the island of Maiana to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa so that Mr Teitoi could be sworn in as a policeman.
By a curious coincidence, following the swearing-in ceremony, he watched a film depicting a true story about four men from Kiribati who had been lost at sea, with only two surviving after they were washed ashore in American Samoa six weeks later.
When it was time for Mr Teito and his brother-in-law, Ielu Falaile, 52, to return to their home they boarded a 15ft wooden boat for what should have been a two hour voyage.
They stopped to fish along the way and then dozed off – and when they awoke they found they had drifted out of sight of Maiana. Soon afterwards, they ran out of fuel.
‘We had plenty of food and we could catch fish, but the problem was there was nothing to drink,’ said Mr Teito.
‘I left him there overnight and slept next to him, like at a funeral,’ said Mr Teitoi. In the morning, he lowered the body of his brother-in-law over the side.
Just 24 hours later, life-giving rains fell during a storm – rains that fell for several days – and Mr Teito was able to fill two five gallon containers of water.
‘There were two choices in my mind at the time. Either someone would find me or I would follow my brother-in-law in death. I was running out of water. It was out of my control,’ he said.
He prayed every morning and several weeks later he caught sight of a fishing boat, but the crew failed to see him. So he continued praying, drinking water and eating raw fish he was able to catch, doing his best to keep out of the tropical sun by sleeping under the cloth awning he had erected.
Weeks went by – and then came that bump. The bump of a shark which woke him and alerted him to a boat that was close enough to see his frantic waving for help.
Shortly before leaving Majuro today, Mr Teitoi said: ‘I’m flying home. I’ll never go by boat again.’
Attribution: Daily Mail