WATCH: Incredible video of ocean rescue as shark circled
A MOTLEY oil tanker crew have become overnight heroes following their incredible efforts to find and rescue two men who spent a night clinging to a piece of wood in the Torres Strait.
The MT Godam's pilot, who managed to spot the tiny speck of a waving arm amid a swirling angry ocean early on Thursday morning, has shared the crew's courageous bid to swing their huge tanker around and recover the pair who would have undoubtedly otherwise drowned.
Captain Ritesh Bhamaria said they initially struggled to keep the pair in sight in shocking visibility, high winds and a three-metre swell.
The ship's master Rohit Upadhyay then made the decision to swing the massive tanker around in a narrow channel to go back for them.
"We wanted to save their lives," Capt Bhamaria said.
"It was a very, very difficult call but the crew was so motivated and so happy."
Capt Bhamaria, who lives in Redlynch, works for Torres Pilots and has more than 20 years of experience at sea, said his greatest fear as they turned back was accidentally running over the men.
They saw a large hammerhead shark circling the men and watched them swim towards the smoke signal they deployed before managing to pull one from the water and assisting the rescue helicopter to winch the other.
Mr Bhamaria credited the miraculous rescue to, not just the skill of the crew, but his faith.
"I believe in God and God showed us the way, God guided us and God wanted these men to live," he said.
The survivors, aged 37 and 47, are both from tiny Warraber Island in the Torres Strait, which has a population of about 250 people, and had been on a crayfishing trip to Dugong Island about 100km away.
They were rescued about 10km southeast of home and had spent about 15 hours in the water by the time they were rescued about 9am on Thursday.
Warraber Is councillor Kabay Tamu said they were expected to be away for several days so no one was even aware they were missing.
"(But) especially this time of year the conditions change really quickly so they must have been trying to get back earlier," he said.
Cr Tamu said the younger man was his close cousin and a well known musician in the Torres Strait, while the oldest was his uncle and a grandfather.
"It's such a miracle they got found," he said.
"How did they seen them? They were only floating with a petrol drum and a piece of wood from the seat."
Cr Tamu said his island had suffered a fair share of tragedy at sea and he had been named after an uncle who lost his life.
"We've had two people from the island pass away in similar circumstances so that's why it was pretty scary for us," he said.
"I think about the parents and the families and how that would have been for them."
The incident comes just over a year after the tragic deaths of a family, including a nine-year-old boy, from Dauan Island who were lost at sea.
Cr Tamu said the pair were in the same type of vessel - a five-metre banana boat.
Authorities believe the boat became swamped due to the big swell and sank.
Amazing the men were unharmed and were treated briefly in Thursday Island Hospital before being released on Thursday afternoon where they were able to be reunited with Capt Bhamaria and the tanker crew.
Originally published as Incredible video of ocean rescue as shark circled