The food and water had run out days ago. The sun beat down relentlessly, burning skin that was already covered in agonizing rashes. There was no relief on the horizon, just the deep blue ocean stretching out endlessly in every direction. Incredibly, this was the situation that three young teenagers found themselves in. Against all the odds, though, somehow they survived.
It was an impulse, fueled by vodka and tales of similar exploits, that led 15-year-old Filo Filo, his cousin and best friend Samu Tonuia, also 15, and another cousin, 14-year-old Etueni Nasau, to set out to sea that day. The trio had been drinking and smoking, hanging out in their local clubhouse on the Pacific island of Atafu, when Samu had the idea of stealing his uncle’s boat and heading for the next atoll. Atafu is one of three islands that make up the isolated New Zealand territory of Tokelau.
There were rumors that the boys set off looking for love, but they themselves claim a much more down to earth motive. “We were drunk,” Etueni later confessed to The Daily Telegraph, “we were drinking.” According to the boys it was as simple as that. The atoll they were purportedly headed for, Nukunonu, was 62 miles away.