20 Stories About Modern People Who Were Lost at Sea

Getting lost at sea: It’s not just for ancient explorers anymore. Tales of nautical horror happen even in modern times. Plenty of people in this lifetime have found themselves floating without supplies, a map, or hope of rescue.

Some of these hapless mariners survived after being adrift for months, while others succumbed before being rescued, and still others simply disappeared on the high seas. In one notable example from 2014, José Salvador Alvarenga claimed to have made it through 13 months adrift in a fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean.

Who is the most famous person who was lost at sea? In 2007, world-renowned computer scientist Jim Gray got lost on a solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands to scatter his mother's ashes. He was never found. Others were made famous by their improbable survival or nightmarish demise.

How long do you think that you could survive alone in the ocean? Compare yourself to these intrepid souls who found themselves fighting for their lives at sea.


  • Aldi Novel Adilang

    Aldi Novel Adilang
    Video: YouTube

    On July 14, 2018, the fishing hut Aldi Novel Adilang worked on drifted far from the Indonesian coast. Normally, a rompong — the fishing hut — is tethered to the seabed by ropes. Due to strong winds, however, Adilang's hut snapped, and the Indonesian teen was sent adrift

    The teen, who hails from the island of Sulawesi, spent 49 days adrift. He ended up thousands of miles away from his home, close to Guam. A Panamanian vessel rescued him. Before he was rescued, Adilang survived by cooking fish he caught with wood he broke off his vessel. He repeatedly tried to wave down passing ships, but none of them stopped or saw him.

    Finally, when he saw the MV Arpeggio, he sent out an emergency radio signal, and the Panamanian boat saved him. The crew took him to Japan — where they were already heading — and then Adilang flew back home on September 8. 

    "He is now back at home and he will be 19 on September 30 — we're going to celebrate," his mother told the BBC.

  • Jennifer Appel And Tasha Fuiaba

    Jennifer Appel And Tasha Fuiaba
    Video: YouTube

    Honolulu residents Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava set sail for Tahiti in the spring of 2017. But their boat's engine died in May, and despite their efforts to sail the rest of the way, the women found themselves hopelessly lost in the ocean. Luckily, Fuiava and Appel had prepared for a long journey, so they had plenty of provisions. Sharks were a problem, however, and none of the flares they set off brought help.

    Finally, the ship was spotted by a Taiwanese fishing boat in October. The women were found to be healthy. In all, they spent almost five months at sea.

    The story garnered a lot of attention, but strange details began to emerge. Appel said they never turned on their emergency beacon, since she understood it was only to be used in life-or-death situations. The women also claimed most of their instruments had failed at once, and that they were caught in a storm, but no such storm was recorded.

  • The Crew Of ARA San Juan

    The submarine ARA San Juan disappeared off the Argentinian coast on November 15, 2017, with 44 crew members on board. A sound like an explosion was heard in the water shortly after the sub went under; it has not been seen or heard from since.

    After two weeks of searching for the lost submarine, Argentine officials announced they were shifting their focus to a search-only mission. The decision implies there's little to no hope of the crewmen being found alive.

  • Three Men Stranded On Remote Island

    A US Navy surveillance aircraft picked up this plea for help by three men who found themselves stranded on the deserted island of Fanadik in April 2016. The men had set out from Pulap in the Federated States of Micronesia (approximately four miles away from Fanadik), but their boat capsized after a few hours at sea.

    They spent a night swimming toward the island, and then waited three days to be discovered. They were finally rescued thanks to the large "HELP" sign they made from palm leaves.