'Given up for dead': How Ballina man helped save 6 lost boys
THROUGH Peter Warner's binoculars, he noticed a burnt patch on the otherwise green cliff face on the island of Ata. It was enough to spike his curiosity so he sailed across to investigate.
The Ballina man's curiosity led to the most remarkable discovery, one he hopes to have immortalised in film.
What Mr Warner found on the supposedly deserted island was astounding; six Tongan boys, naked with wild, overgrown hair yet all possessing perfect English.
"I thought that was unusual, bushfires don't start in the tropics … so I said 'let's go in closer' and have a look," Mr Warner said.
"All we could hear was the breakers and the screaming birds and then one of my crew in the Crows Nest said 'I can hear a human voice' and I said it was rubbish, then we saw a little brown figure jump from the cliff face … and start swimming towards the boat."
That boy was followed by five others who approached the boat which is when it set in just how remarkable this discovery was going to be.
"The boy said 'my name is Stephen, we think we've been here for two years' and I didn't believe that … by this time the other boys had swum out and entered the boat, I thought they might be pirates.
"I got onto Nuku'alofa Radio … twenty minutes later, this tearful operator said 'you've found them, they've been given up for dead, funerals have been held and here you are'," Mr Warner said.
Saving the boys was one thing, but Mr Warner wants their story of survival and strength to live on in film.
"We want to find a good film company which will give us some control over the content because we want to push the moral story behind the episode of how successful some people can be if they've got the spiritual element to get through it," Mr Warner said.
It was, and remains, an extraordinary tale from the Ballina resident, who decided it should not be lost to history and set about writing two autobiographies, ASTOR Adventures Ashore and Afloat and Ocean of Light.
Such was the interest in Mr Warner's story following international recognition from the Guardian, Oceans Light sales spiked beyond his wildest imagination.
"It took my fourteen years to write that book (Ocean of Light) but it gave me a sense of fulfilment and I thought that story and others in the book have some lessons for life,"
"I didn't expect anyone to read the bloody thing but now it's gone wild," Mr Warner said.
If you want to purchase a copy of Ocean of Light, go to https://www.amazon.com/Ocean-Light-years-Tonga-Pacific/dp/1721185305.