How Six Kids Survived Being Shipwrecked for 15 Months

EWU History

In 1966, sailor Peter Warner was shocked when he came across a naked teenage boy on an uninhabited island near Tonga. Unlike anything he had seen on his journeys before, he saw this boy dive into the water from a cliff and then swimming out to a boat. To his disbelief, five more boys followed suit.

He later learned that the boys, aged between 13 and 16, were Sione Fataua, Fatai Latui (known as Stephen), Tevita Fifita Sioloa (known as David), Kolo Fekitoa, Mano Fotau and Luke Veikoso.

The boys were there—shockingly so—for 15 months before Warner rescued them. They ended up there after they stole a boat and ran away from their Catholic boarding school in the Tongan town of Nuku‘alofa.

Their plan was to sail to Fiji, which was about 500 miles away. However, during their journey, a storm hit that left them stranded. They were not the most experienced of sailors, so when they hoisted the boat’s sail, it was quickly destroyed.

With no food and water (except a few bananas and coconuts they took with them), the boys had to get creative to survive. It’s said that they’d eat the meat off seabirds, and drank their blood when they couldn’t find fresh water (which they got by catching rain in empty coconut shells). All the while they were there, their families were holding funerals for them believing they were dead.

In May 2020, Rutger Bregman published his book “Humankind: A Hopeful History,” which recounts the wild story that these boys endured.

The story might sound eerily similar to the fictional tale of Lord of the Flies. However, in this story, no one fell to violence. In fact, the boys—now known as the Tongan Castaways—they were mostly in good spirits. That was, in part, thanks to a guitar they made fro a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires that they salvaged from their boat. Each day, the boys would sing a song and a say a prayer.

There was even one incident where one of the boys broke their leg after falling off a cliff. However, the others went down to get him and then carried him back up before making a splint for his leg from sticks and leaves.

It’s truly a miraculous story—one of friendship and survival! You can hear the whole thing in the video below.

Can you believe these boys were able to survive after 15 months of being stranded? What do you think you would’ve done in their situation?