An 18-year-old who tried to cross New Zealand’s Cook Strait in a motorized dinghy was rescued by police on Thursday morning after the dinghy broke down in perilous waters at night.
Police said the teenager started his journey in Kenepuru Sound on New Zealand’s South Island at around 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday, moving through Pelorus Sounds before crossing the Cook Strait.
The Cook Strait separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand and is about 14 miles wide at its narrowest point.
Perilous currents and strong storms mean that navigation through the strait is often hazardous, while both shores are flanked by steep, imposing cliffs.
At around 9 a.m. on Thursday (5 p.m. ET Wednesday), the man contacted the Harbour Master to say that he had broken down off the Mana Coast, though he was unsure of his exact location, New Zealand police said in a statement.
After authorities used the man’s cell phone data to geolocate him, they found him 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of Mana Island, and rescued him – cold, but not hypothermic – and in “reasonably good condition.”
Senior Sergeant Dave Houston warned in a statement that only capable seafarers with proper equipment should make the coastal voyage, and that people should remember that the Cook Strait is a dangerous body of water.
Houston said that the man was not an experienced seaman, and had not checked the weather conditions.
“If it wasn’t for him ringing and us being able to locate him from his phone data it could have been a very different outcome,” Houston said.
“The battery on his cell phone was becoming flat. If we didn’t have the mobile locate we would have had a massive search. The mobile locate literally saved his life,” Houston added.