A Dutch adventurer rowing from Australia to Africa was rescued from the Indian Ocean yesterday after his boat collided with a massive oil tanker, leaving him injured and fearing for his life.
Ralph Tuijn was well into his 9,000km, 120-day journey from Western Australia when his boat was swamped on Wednesday after it hit the tanker.
The rescue mission was triggered early yesterday when Tuijn activated his distress beacon and a Myanmar-flagged merchant vessel nearby was sent to the scene, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.
“We have recovered him, he is currently on board the merchant vessel,” an AMSA spokeswoman said.
“The master reported that he was injured, but we’re not sure of the full extent of his injuries just yet,” the spokeswoman said.
Ido Hurkmans, who spoke to Tuijn after the collision, said his friend saw the tanker when it was only 300m away, too late for him to avoid it.
“He was just on a collision course. So he was just like: ‘OK I am going to die,’” Hurkmans said. “Because surviving a crash from a tanker in a small rowing boat is not very likely.”
Hurkmans said Tuijn, whose boat is only 7m long, had told him that the tanker had dragged him for a long time, during which he overturned four or five times before he finally broke free.
The incident had left the adventurer anxious and in pain, with suspected cracked ribs and a broken finger.
However, Hurkmans said Tuijn was “back on his feet” on the merchant vessel, which was headed for Nigeria.
Australian authorities said the Dutchman was extremely lucky to have been picked up so soon from his remote location in the middle of the ocean, about 1,100 nautical miles (2,040km) west of the Cocos Islands.
“It’s a pretty well traveled stretch of water, but often merchant vessels can be three or four days away and this one was only a couple of hours away,” she said.
Tuijn, who has previously rowed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, left the Cocos on May 5.
Another friend of Tuijn, Geoff Charters, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the adventurer would bounce back from the experience.
“He’s a very experienced ocean rower and has dealt with a lot of different dangers on the ocean including lightning storms ... I think that was the worst,” Charters said. “He’s been attacked by sharks and had close encounters with tankers in the Pacific.”