Journal article

Life and death on the high seas

24 Feb 2012

This Griffith Review article explores the conflicting narratives of the Janga, the boat, its crew and its passengers involved in the Christmas Island tragedy of December 2010.


On a sultry mid-December day an Indonesian fishing boat manned only by its skipper chugged out of the port of Muara Angke, in north Jakarta, and headed west along the Javanese coast towards the Sunda Strait, the waterway that separates Indonesia's main island from its larger neighbour, Sumatra. The fishermen and market vendors in the bustling harbour probably noticed nothing unusual about the Janga, except the sound of its engine revving like a tractor. It was a wooden vessel about eight metres wide and thirty-five long, with a blue tarpaulin rigged up on deck for shade. The boat had undergone repairs before it left but the motor remained faulty; perhaps its owner was unwilling to spend more on a boat he knew would be impounded and destroyed when it reached its destination. A close observer might have noticed that all its fishing gear had been removed...

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