Life and death on the high seas

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  • Published 20120306
  • ISBN: 9781921922008
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

ON A SULTRY mid-December day an Indonesian fishing boat manned only by its skipper chugged out of the port of Muara Angke, in north Jakarta, and headed west along the Javanese coast towards the Sunda Strait, the waterway that separates Indonesia’s main island from its larger neighbour, Sumatra. The fishermen and market vendors in the bustling harbour probably noticed nothing unusual about the Janga, except the sound of its engine revving like a tractor. It was a wooden vessel about eight metres wide and thirty-five long, with a blue tarpaulin rigged up on deck for shade. The boat had undergone repairs before it left but the motor remained faulty; perhaps its owner was unwilling to spend more on a boat he knew would be impounded and destroyed when it reached its destination. A close observer might have noticed that all its fishing gear had been removed.

The Janga‘s first stop that day was a smaller port at the western end of Java, where it recruited three crewmen for the journey. One was a sixty-year-old fisherman, Abdul Rasjid, who had known the skipper for three years. Abdul Rasjid had never sailed this route before, but the down payment of a million rupiah (about A$108) with the promise of a further nineteen million was too good to refuse – more than a year’s income for a poor fisherman. The second recruit, a 32-year-old named Supriyadi, was an experienced fisherman but a novice on boats, with no knowledge of engines. Little is known about the third crewman, except that he was twenty-two and his name was Hardi Hans.

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About the author

Sally Neighbour

Sally Neighbour is a freelance journalist and former reporter with ABC TV’s Four Corners who has won three Walkley awards for excellence in journalism.Her most recent...

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