I'm sketching a scene in a story involving a castaway washing up on the shore of Papua New Guinea. It would work best if he made an involuntary ocean voyage from a long way away, perhaps having been fishing near some other shore when blown out to sea by a storm.

I'm trying to figure out where are the realistic options for where he could've come from.

Looking at diagrams of the currents in the Pacific, e.g. https://oceantracks.org/library/the-north-pacific-ocean/major-currents

If I am understanding the above correctly, New Guinea is at the destination end of the North and South Equatorial Currents together, which means my castaway could basically come from anywhere on the west coast of the Americas; he could have been fishing off the coast of California or Peru, been blown out to sea by a storm, and the only issue is having enough food and water to keep him alive until the current takes him to New Guinea. Am I missing something or is that accurate?

If I am indeed understanding it correctly, roughly how long would it take for the current to carry him across the Pacific?

  • 1
    I remember reading a book by Alain Bombard about his travel, although the action takes place in the Atlantic Ocean, you may learn something interesting from his story. A 2700-mile journey took him ~65 days. He used a 15 ft inflatable boat for this. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Bombard.
    – oleksii
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 0:05
  • 3
    This question might be well received on worldbuilding.stackexchange.com and could get more creative answers.
    – chicks
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


He wouldn't have made it.

It's next to impossible to cross the pacific ocean just by drifting and survive that. Crossing the pacific ocean in a sailboat (so with steering, and with a defined course) takes - without any breaks - in the order of 50 to 70 days at least. Your "drifter" will probably not go faster than 2-3 knots or so, so we'll be at roughly 3 times that.

The sea probably provides enough food, but the problem will be water. While some people have survived long drifts in life rafts, it's a big fortune if you do.

And then, depending on the size of the boat, your guy could have died from bad weather and other dangers of the ocean as well.

Update While it doesn't answer the question about how a shipwrecked would make it across the pacific, I just found this article about a man who was alegedly adrift for almost four months and survived.

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    The question already mentions the issues with food and water, so one imagines that they intend to address or ignore them within the story. Perhaps the person is overly cautious and always carries a few months' worth of water on the boat, for instance.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 15:24
  • @Obie2.0 I kind of overlooked that part, but I still think it wouldn't work, because the drifting current goes in circles. One would need to closely look at possible paths. I think it's more realistic to assume he only shipwrecked close to where he stranded. But then, one doesn't normally sail non-stop over the pacific. It's just to beautiful there (so they say).
    – PMF
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 16:45
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    When drifting, the protagonist might end up in one of the two Pacific Ocean garbage patches. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 17:36
  • ...idea: the protagonist found food and water there, and the means to make a mast and sail. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 19:14
  • 2
    ... so perhaps a tarpaulin or an actual sail can be found. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 19:42

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