An El Salvadorian fisherman , Jose Salvador Alverenga, washed up on the shores of Marshall Island after being lost at sea for 13 months. He told the authorities he was sailing on a fishing trip from Mexico in December of 2012 but a storm took their boat out into the ocean.
Alverenga was spotted on an isolated part of the island a bit dazed near the 22-foot fiberglass boat he had been living in. After finding him authorities took him to the capital of the islands in the city of Majuro. He had been lost at sea for 13 months and traveled roughly 6500 miles before the El Salvadorian fisherman washed up on the beaches of Marshall Island.
Thomas Armbruster, the U.S. Ambassador in the Marshall Islands, said in a press conference; “It was supposed to be a one-day fishing expedition, but they were blown out to sea.”
Once arriving in the capital, he was assisted down the gangplank by a nurse and then taken to the hospital for further examination. One witness said he looked very skinny and was having trouble walking, and it did look like the El Salvadorian fisherman had been without basic needs for quite some time, having the castaway look about him.
He also told reporters that he lived off of fish, birds and bird blood. “When there was nothing, I would eat nothing,” he said “I would drink my urine. I spent a lot of time without eating.” He was forced to drink his own urine due to lack of fresh water.
Many area fishermen are surprised that Alverenga made it so long. “It’s a great surprise,” Belarmino Rodriquez told Reuters last Thursday, “Nobody survives more than two or three months in those conditions.” However, the El Salvadorian fisherman did survive for over a year lost at sea before beaching on Marshall Island.
Alvarenga was not alone at first; the teenage son of a co-worker had joined him on the trip. However, the boy died from hunger and thirst about four weeks after the storm. The teenager could not handle the strange diet necessary for survival. After the boy died, Alvarenga threw the body overboard.
There is a twist to this otherwise happy story, some people speculate as to whether the fisherman’s story is true. Armbruster commented on this saying that Alvarenga did not fit the usual profile of a person who has been adrift at sea for months on end.
“If he did survive on fish and turtles and birds he did a pretty good job of keeping himself fed,” Armbruster said, “He has a story that can be verified so those are the next steps, to find out when he left Mexico and then add up the evidence and the information he had provided. But certainly if what he is saying is true, he is one of the best survivalists around.” Although Armbruster is a skeptic, at this point he does agree that there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.
His family is just happy to have him back. He had been out of their lives for a long time before the fishing trip that left the El Salvadorian fisherman lost at sea for 13 months.
“Everybody is so surprised,” said Carlos Orellana, Alvarenga’s father, “Everybody is so happy. But we need to find out more.”
Find out more they will, Mexico has received his fingerprints and is working on verifying the El Salvadorian fisherman’s identity who washed up on the shores of Marshall Island with a claim to have been lost at sea for 13 months and survived.
By Adam Stier