Castaway From Mexico Found in the Marshall Islands 16 Months Later


Sounding like a script for a film similar to Castaway starring Tom Hanks, a Norwegian researcher has found a shipwrecked man from Mexico on one of the atolls in the Marshall Islands.

The man set out on his trip, along with a friend from Mexico, intending to travel to El Salvador, back in September 2012 and has apparently been missing ever since.

Ola Fjeldstad from Norway is an anthropology student and had been doing research in the Pacific islands when he came across a very emaciated man, with long shaggy hair and a long and tangled beard, his only clothing a pair of ragged, sun-bleached underpants.

The man apparently only speaks Spanish and has said that his name is Jose Ivan.  Ivan explained that he and his friend has left Mexico in their 24ft. (7.3m) fiberglass boat in September 2012, planning on heading to El Salvador.

While few details are available, it seems that things went badly wrong for the pair, with Ivan’s friend dying along the way.

Stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Ivan survived by catching fish, turtles and birds to eat.  When there was no rain for drinking water, he apparently drank turtle blood to keep hydrated.  There was even a turtle found in the boat when he was discovered.

Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands

Ivan then drifted over 8,000 miles (12,500 kilometers) until his boat ended up being caught on the reef surrounding Ebon atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Fjeldstad said that the the man’s health is not great.  Ivan apparently is suffering from low blood pressure and is extremely thin, but is getting better every day.

According to Fjeldstad, the fiberglass boat is “really scratched up and looks like it has been in the water for a long time.”  He added that there was no fishing tackle in the boat, so apparently Ivan had caught his food using his hands.

Ivan was apparently taken by some of the island residents to the closest island that actually has a phone line and contact with the outside world.  The residents then reportedly phoned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands.

Ivan will be unable to leave the island just yet, however, as apparently the only plane capable of landing there is currently under service and will not be available until next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Ivan will be living in what will, to this well-traveled castaway, surely be the absolute lap of luxury with a local family in the islands. Fjeldstad said that he is staying in a local council house and that the family is feeding him well, adding, “We’ve been giving him a lot of water, and he’s gaining strength.”

The Marshall Islands are located in the north of the Pacific ocean and have around 60,000 inhabitants in total, spread among 24 separate atolls, most of which are only around two meters above sea level.

A Google map is included below which will show just how far Ivan has drifted, with A being Mexico and B giving an idea of the location of the Marshall Islands.  The distance was around 8,000 miles (12,500 kilometers).

When considering the sheer distance to the Marshall Islands and the fact that he was found 16 months later, this castaway from Mexico is a lucky and strong man indeed.

Map showing how far the castaway had drifted.

By Anne Sewell


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