A 30-minute boat ride turned into a day-and-a-half struggle for survival.

At eight o’clock in the evening on 27 August, passengers were boarding a ferry that would take them from Fukuoka Prefecture’s Hakata Wharf to Shikanoshima with a stop at Saitozaki along the way. Among the passengers was a 53-year-old businessman, Hisateru Soejima, who was in store for the ride of his life.

The entire trip was to take about 30 minutes, and roughly 20 minutes after the ferry set sail, the businessman went onto the deck in order to take some pictures of the beautiful twilight vista his coastal course provided. The combination of having had a few drinks and focusing too much on his smartphone caused him to accidentally topple overboard.

▼ Route taken by Soejima’s ferry

The combination of panic from the sudden fall, the frigid water, and the darkness would have been extremely disorienting, but Soejima somehow managed to keep his head above water and began to do the only thing he could – swim.

Since there were no witnesses at the time of the fall, it is unclear how far he swam, but he was probably attracted by the bright light beaming from Hashima (literally “End Island”) and headed in that direction. Unfortunately for him, its unmanned lighthouse and hundreds of trees were the only things on that island.

▼ Hashima (not to be confused with the more famous “Battleship Island” of the same name)

When Soejima arrived on the Hashima shore he was too exhausted to even call out for help. With no food or water available, he simply spent the entire next day lying down and recovering what little strength he could. Meanwhile, despite there only having been 28 passengers on board the ferry, no one noticed Soejima was missing and went about their lives as usual.

With no one looking for him, Soejima waited and rested until he could begin searching for help by himself. Luckily, on the morning of the 29th, he saw a recreational fishing boat pass by and waved it down.

The waters around Hashima were too shallow for the boat to come close enough, but one of the fishermen on board swam over to him, bringing a bottle of sports drink which he chugged down in an instant.

The fishing boat sent word to the Coast Guard who arrived shortly after in a vessel small enough to pick up Soejima and bring him back to civilization. A medical check revealed no injures and he was able to return home that same morning.

Despite his disappearance going unnoticed, Soejima experienced an extraordinary stroke of luck similar to that of a 2014 incident when a man swept away by the current survived 20 hours at sea by finding a discarded life preserver floating in the water.

These stories are few and far between though, and anytime someone gets lost at sea their chances of survival drop drastically. So, be sure to take as much caution as possible when traveling by boat or swimming in the ocean. Not wandering around the deck drunk is a great start.

Source: NHK, Sankei News West, Nishi Nippon Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Chihaya Sta
Insert images: Wikipedia/Chihaya Sta (edited by SoraNews24)