Alive after 42-day ocean drift

Safe after a six-week, 1,000 mile drift from Kwajalein Atoll to Namoluk Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia, from left: Godfrey Capelle and Benjamin Thomas. This photo was taken earlier this week after the they arrived on Weno, the capital of Chuuk state. They are awaiting repatriation to the Marshall Islands.

HILARY HOSIA

Old fashioned high-frequency radio beat modern gizmos in breaking the news of two Kwajalein fishermen who were found in Chuuk after 42 days lost at sea.

Chatter on high frequency radio between a radio operator on Namoluk Atoll in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, and a Marshallese residing in Hawaii unfolded the drama of the missing fishermen Godfrey Capelle and Benjamin Thomas, two of three fishermen who left Ebeye Island April 2 for a day-time fishing trip.

They washed up on isolated Namoluk last Thursday, a distance of over 1,000 miles covered in 42 days drifting.
According to Ebeye residents, the ocean was rough when the trio went out fishing April 2 and there were warnings from Kwajalein Atoll Local Government advising fishermen to wait out the poor ocean conditions.

Further communications between the Marshallese and the Chuukese identified the two fishermen with a vague statement about a missing third person. This was Junior Joram, who joined Godfrey and Benjamin for the ill-fated fishing trip on April 2. He was lost at sea on April 19, according to the survivors.

After the HF radio communication between Chuuk and Hawaii, a social media post about the discovery of the missing Ebeye men prompted the Journal to further investigate using contacts on the main island of Weno in Chuuk.

The Ebeye Criminal Investigation Division had informed family members on Ebeye, said the family of Godfrey Capelle.
“She is a woman of faith and perseverance,” were repeatedly said of Bina Capelle, Godfrey’s wife.

“We were going to hold funeral for them but the wife kept saying her husband is alive,” relatives told the Journal.
Monday this week, the two men were being transported by the FSM patrol boat from Namoluk to Weno where they will be medically assessed, RMI Foreign Secretary Anjanette Kattil told the Journal.

An option offered by the RMI of picking up the two Ebeye men with an Air Marshall Islands flight to Pohnpei was unsuccessful. Their repatriation is complicated by the Covid-19 travel restrictions imposed in Chuuk and Pohnpei.
FSM and RMI officials are looking at returning the Ebeye men by ocean transport.

“The plan for repatriation is if the survivors are healthy enough for a sea voyage from Chuuk to the Marshalls, the FSM patrol boat will take them to Majuro lagoon where they will be transferred onto our own Lomor vessel,” said Kattil. Details of repatriation plans were pending a medical assessment of the two men after they arrived in Weno.

Godfrey made contact with wife Bina and family Tuesday this week via a phone call. In the phone call, Godfrey told Bina that Junior Jarom jumped off boat on April 19. “The sea was rough and my husband kept telling Junior to remain on the boat, but he jumped from the front end of the boat,” Bina told the Journal, citing the phone conversation with her husband, who arrived safely on Weno Tuesday.

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