Usually, a shark fin circling your boat is the last thing you want to see when you’ve become lost at sea. But according to one man, who had been aimlessly set adrift for 15 weeks, it was a shark — not a dolphin, whale or seabird — which miraculously beckoned him to safety.
Toakai Teitoi, a 41-year-old policeman from the island nation of Kiribati, became stuck on his 15-foot wooden boat after running out of fuel. He had set off with his brother-in-law from the island of Tarawa in late May, on what was supposed to be a 2-hour journey to the nearby island of Maiana. The pair had decided to stop and fish along the way, and eventually turned it into an overnight trip. By the time they woke the next morning, however, they had become lost and were perilously low on fuel.
“We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink,” explained Teitoi, to Sky News.
Dehydration began to take hold immediately, though the two men were able to survive together for over a month by curling up under the bow of the boat to stay out of the sun. Tragically, on July 4th, Teitoi’s brother-in-law succumbed to the dehydration. Teitoi, in mourning, still slept beside his perished brother-in-law overnight, until granting him a burial at sea the following day.
Teitoi knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would follow his companion into the sea. Just a day after the funeral, however, something miraculous happened. Clouds rolled in. A storm brewed, and it rained for several days. This allowed Teitoi to fill up two 5-gallon containers with life-saving water.
Though he was saved for now, Teitoi was still lost at sea somewhere in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. Then, on September 11th, he glimpsed a sign of hope: a fishing boat, far on the horizon. They were too far to see him, however, and he eventually retreated back underneath the shaded bow of the boat, feeling teased and dejected by fate.
That’s when he began to notice the circling shark. It was not the omen he was hoping for. But nature works in strange and unpredictable ways.
Teitoi began to notice a curious pattern with the shark. It would bump and scratch at the hull of the boat, and circle around until it caught his attention. Then, once he emerged to see what it was doing, the shark would swim off, almost like a dog trying to beckon its owner to follow it.
“He was guiding me to a fishing boat,” believed Teitoi. “I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with binoculars looking at me.”
After over a hundred days lost at sea, Teitoi was saved, and he gives a lot of credit to that shark for keeping him alert and hopeful.
There are many life lessons Teitoi likely took from his harrowing ordeal. For instance, he isn’t likely to ever judge sharks the same way ever again. But there was one message that stood out most:
“I’ll never go by boat again. I’m taking a plane,” he professed.