KIRIBATI - A man who survived while adrift in the Pacific for 106 days is crediting a shark for helping to save his life.
Toakai Teitoi, 41, a policeman from the Central Pacific island nation of Kiribati, had been traveling with his brother-in-law on what was supposed to be a short voyage, beginning May 27, from the Kiribati capital of Tarawa to his home island of Maiana.
But the mariners decided to fish along the way, and fell asleep during the night. When they awoke they were far at sea and adrift in their 15-foot wooden vessel. They soon ran out of fuel, and were short on water.
"We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink," Teitoi told Agence France-Presse news service.
Dehydration was severe. Falaile, the 52-year-old brother-in-law, died on July 4. That night, Teitoi slept next to him, "like at a funeral," before an emotional burial at sea the next morning.
Teitoi shared scant details of the ordeal after arriving in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, on Saturday. He said he prayed the night Falaile died, and the next day a storm arrived and, over the next several days, he was able to fill two five-gallon containers with fresh water.
Days and weeks passed, however, and Teitoi, a father of six, did not know whether he'd live or die. He subsisted mostly on fish and protected himself against the searing tropical sun by curling up in a small, covered portion of the bow.
It was on the afternoon of Sept. 11 that he awoke to the sound of scratching against his boat. A six-foot shark was circling the boat and, Teitoi said, bumping against its hull.
"He was guiding me to a fishing boat," Teitoi said. "I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with binoculars looking at me."
The first thing he asked for after he was plucked from the water was a cigarette, or "a smoke." He was given food and juice and his rescuers continued to fish for several days before delivering him to Majuro.
Teitoi, who seemed in good health, said he booked flights back to his home island, adding, "I'll never go by boat again."