Papua New Guineans to Return Home After Pacific Odyssey


Micronesia - Two Papua New Guinean men picked up drifting in the Pacific, will soon set foot in their homeland for the first time in six months, after their planned 60-kilometre journey turned into an epic 16-week tale of survival on some of the world’s remotest waters.

Michael Bolong and Ambrose Wavut have been in Pohnpei, the capital of Micronesia, since November 29th, after being picked up by a Micronesian tuna-fishing boat.

After a brief stay in hospital, IOM, together with local groups including the Salvation Army, Pohnpei State Hospital staff, the Pohnpei Fishing Club and the Australian Embassy, found them temporary housing, food, and enabled them to phone home. 

On Thursday they will begin their homebound flights, completing their amazing journey, thanks to tickets purchased via IOM’s Humanitarian Assistance for Stranded Migrants (HASM) fund.

Bolong and Wavut, together with Wavut’s father-in-law Francis Dimansol, who died three weeks before their rescue, set out from Tanga Island, in a remote archipelago off the north coast of Papua New Guinea on August 15.

They were making for Litir Island, which on clear days is visible from their home island. Their small boat, carrying building supplies, was caught up in a storm. The seamen soon became disorientated and their craft ran out of fuel.

They survived on some rice and flour they had brought with them, which they cooked using the sun’s heat. That lasted for two weeks, after which they survived on fish (including a six-foot shark which they wrestled aboard) and turtle, which they caught using improvised spears made from a pot handle and from nails.  The fish and turtle meat were cut up in small pieces and dried over the tin roofing materials on board, which they also  used to capture rain water.

From time to time, they found coconuts floating in the water.  Sometimes, they would go three days without food, and survive only on rain water or salt water mixed with rain water, until they caught another fish.  Twice they came close to rescue, but were missed by two passing fishing boats.

Although primary responsibility for the repatriation of stranded migrants rests with national governments, there are many instances where additional assistance is required.  HASM was established in 2005 to allow IOM to better respond globally as a provider of last resort to urgent requests from national governments to assist with the repatriation of stranded migrants.

For further inquiries, please contact

Stuart Simpson

IOM Micronesia

Email: [email protected]

Tel. +691 320 8735.