Sea survivor tells incredible story; Is it too incredible?

This is an extraordinary claim. But is it real?


It’s a story that almost defies belief: A man leaves Mexico in December 2012 for a day of shark fishing and ends up surviving 13 months on fish, birds and turtles before washing ashore on the remote Marshall Islands some 5,500 miles (8,800 kilometers) away.

But that’s what a man identifying himself as 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga told the U.S. ambassador in the Marshall Islands and the nation’s officials during a 30-minute meeting Monday before he was taken to a local hospital for monitoring. Alvarenga washed ashore on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the Pacific Ocean last week before being taken to the capital, Majuro, on Monday.

As officials note, they are having a hard believing he was able to survive for 13 months. They are being cautious before claiming this incredible tale of survival is genuine, interviewing the man and trying to piece the story together. He seemed to be in reasonable health, not particularly thin. He said he drank bird’s blood but is that enough fresh water to sustain him? This is a doubtful story indeed and we must reserve judgement before accept this as true.

Tip: Takashi Toyooka

  9 comments for “Sea survivor tells incredible story; Is it too incredible?

  1. One Eyed Jack
    February 3, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    I cry foul… or is that fowl?

    There are some well documented cases of survivors drifting at sea for months. One that I remember is a British couple, MAuric and Maralyn Baily. They were at sea 117 days, roughly 4 months.

    There are stories of longer survival, but I would want to see more details on this specific story before accepting it.

    Typically, people that survive extended periods adrift also have a means to catch rain water. The article doesn’t mention this, and I don’t seen anyone surviving on just fish and bird blood for hydration. Vitamin deficiencies would also be a major factor, and the article describes him as in good health.

  2. spookyparadigm
    February 3, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    This has also happened between Mexico and the Pacific before. I was just listening to the Caustic Soda podcast episode about Lost at Sea, and they cited a very similar case (I don’t think it was the same one), which I am sure they got from wiki

  3. spookyparadigm
    February 3, 2014 at 2:38 PM
  4. HeatherTwist
    February 3, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    The peoples who routinely spent a lot of time on small boats, claimed that they could survive without fresh water pretty well. They squeezed fresh water from fish. Some people have tested the idea:
    It was possible to collect limited supplies of rainwater, and to squeeze a thirst-quenching lymph liquid from the ever present raw fish.
    Bombard reports he survived by fishing (and using fish as source of both fresh water and food) with a self-made harpoon and hooks and harvesting the surface plankton with a small net. He also drank a limited amount of seawater for a long period on his trip.

    Fresh fish literally leapt into the boat … makes you wonder why the Europeans had such a hard time of it. Which doesn’t mean this particular instance isn’t a scam.

  5. Lagaya1
    February 3, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    The pictures I’ve seen of him he’s not very tanned, and he’s quite robust. I cry fake!

  6. February 4, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Some additional details from the BBC:

    He is described as “emaciated,” so maybe the camera is making him look more robust than he is.

  7. February 4, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    Very unlikely, but, we’ll see how this turns out. He might just be mistaken about how long he was out there. He still might have been half-crazed from his ordeal when he told the initial tale. The first pics made me think he looked too good, but, a wider angle one linked above has me rethinking that.

  8. February 5, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Marshall Islands officials: Unclear how long castaway spent adrift –

  9. February 9, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    simple science principle: fantastic stories demand fantastic proof.

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