Indonesia submarine crew sang unwitting farewell

Naval officers throw a flower garland into the sea at the port of Semarang on April 26, 2021, as sign of respect for the submarine that cracked into pieces on the seafloor with all 53 crew killed in the disaster. (Photo: AFP)
Below deck on their submarine, Indonesian sailors crowded around a crewman with a guitar and crooned a pop song called “Till We Meet Again.”اضافة اعلان

Weeks later, the same sailors vanished deep beneath the Pacific Ocean while descending for a torpedo drill, setting off a frantic international search. Indonesian military officials said Sun-day, four days after the vessel disappeared, that it had broken into three pieces hundreds of me-ters below the surface, leaving no survivors among the 53 crew members.

Now, the video of the submariners singing is resonating across Indonesian social media, in a nation where many people are jaded by a steady stream of bad news: devastating earthquakes, erupting volcanoes and sinking ferries.

“If land is not where you are destined to return to, there is a place for you in heaven,” members of the band Endank Soekamti, who composed the song, wrote on Instagram below a clip of the sailors’ performance.

The clip went viral after the Indonesian navy released it Monday. Lt. Col. Djawara Whimbo, a spokesman for the Indonesian military, said in an interview Tuesday that the video had been recorded last month to honor the outgoing commander of the navy’s submarine fleet.

The video has hit a nerve online, in part because the song — which describes a reluctant good-bye — sounds especially poignant in the wake of the accident.

Some social media users speculated that the sailors had a “hunch” about the looming accident and were singing about their own fate. Whimbo said that was a reflection of “cocoklogi,” an Indonesian phrase that describes looking back at people’s lives to find clues to explain seem-ingly random events.

People in the Muslim-majority country, from remote villagers to senior politicians, often rely on faith and superstition to understand current events. A succession of Indonesian presidents have paid their respects to the spirit world, consulting with seers or collecting what they be-lieved were magic tokens. In the years after the 2004 tsunami that killed 230,000 people in Indonesia and elsewhere, many Indonesians blamed the disaster on then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, saying that he carried the shadow of cosmic misfortune.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a former spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster management agency, told The New York Times in 2018 that he made a point of incorporating local wisdom and tradition-al beliefs while communicating the science of disasters.

“The cultural approach works better than just science and technology,” Sutopo said. “If people think that it is punishment from God, it makes it easier for them to recover.”

The latest disaster struck last week, when a 44-year-old submarine, the Nanggala, disappeared before dawn during training exercises north of the Indonesian island of Bali. Search crews from the United States, India, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore later helped the Indonesian navy hunt for the vessel in the Bali Sea.

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