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By Giff Johnson
Majuro - Three fishermen who survived more than 70 days adrift on the Pacific Ocean by drinking fish and turtle blood finally returned home on Tuesday after drifting to safety to the island of Majuro.
The men said they had set out on a day's fishing trip on May 4 from their home in Tarawa, part of the Micronesian atoll nation of Kiribati, near the Equator in the middle of the Pacific, but lost their engine.
It was the last time they saw land until this weekend, when they floated into the Arno Atoll in the Marshall Islands, more than 480km north of their starting point.
However, they were none the worse for wear after their 10-week ordeal, continuing the remarkable record of the Kiribati people for amazing feats of survival at sea.
Boat owner Karawaiti Abera said he had gone fishing for tuna with friends Teuru Beretiati and Kotua Tetaburi, and as they did not catch much they decided to move.
But as they motored back to Tarawa, their engine was knocked off by a large object floating underwater.
Abera said in the first week there was lots of rain for drinking water, which they collected by cleaning the fuel tank and using a piece of plywood as a funnel.
Onboard they had about 30 small yellow fin tuna and rainbow runner, a bread bun, their fishing lines and two litres of water.
But during the second week there was no rain, so they caught fish and drank the blood. For more than two months, nothing much changed.
"We fished and drank the blood and always we prayed for help," Abera said. "We caught turtle, shark and rainbow runner."
"We saw a lot of fishing vessels but we weren't close enough to wave to them," he added.
Finally, one night about two and a half months after setting out, the men saw a bright light and realised they were close to shore. They battled the strong current and wind for three hours and landed on a small island of Arno Atoll.
The next day they found one of the island's inhabitants.
"We went into one house and met a man just by himself and I spoke my language to him but he didn't understand at all. So I replied in English telling him that we've been drifting from Kiribati and he understood," said Abera.
The i-Kiribati people have a daunting survival record. In 1992 two fishermen from the atoll of Nikunau washed up in Samoa after 175 days adrift. A third man on the boat had died earlier.
During World War 2, a man from the same island taken prisoner by the Japanese escaped on a raft and spent over six months at sea before coming ashore in New Guinea in 1944. - Sapa-AFP