News / Asia

Lost at Sea for a Year, Man Washes up on Marshall Islands

Jose Salvador Alvarenga sits on a couch in Majuro in the Marshall Islands, after he was rescued from being washed ashore on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 3, 2014.
Jose Salvador Alvarenga sits on a couch in Majuro in the Marshall Islands, after he was rescued from being washed ashore on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 3, 2014.
VOA News
A 37-year-old fisherman from El Salvador has washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where he told authorities he survived a 13-month journey across most of the Pacific Ocean by eating raw turtles and drinking his own urine.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he set sail from southern Mexico in December 2012 for what was supposed to be a one-day shark-fishing expedition. When his 7-meter fiberglass boat lost power, he claims that he began drifting, and kept drifting, until he landed nearly 11,000 kilometers away. Authorities have not confirmed the story.

He was found last week on the beach - almost completely naked and hungry, but in relatively good shape, by two women on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the southern Marshall Islands. Longtime Marshall Islands resident and filmmaker Jack Niedenthal interviewed Alvarenga Monday for CNN.

On Tuesday, he described Alvarenga's condition to VOA. "When he arrived, he appeared very bloated, he's got a very big beard and shaggy hair... he looks exactly like Tom Hanks in Castaway," he said.

Niedenthal said that Alvarenga was initially very hesitant to speak with the media about his ordeal. But he eventually opened up, describing an almost unbelievable story.

Alvarenga claims he was able to survive by eating the raw flesh of sea birds and fish.

Niedenthal said Alvarenga's young companion, a teenager named Xiguel, was unable to survive because he could not handle the diet. "Every time the young man would take a bird to his mouth, he would throw up. So he couldn't stomach that, and after a while, like I said, four months, he died, and he just had to throw him overboard," he added.

Niedenthal said Alvarenga allegedly drank turtle blood, and sometimes his own urine, in order to stay alive. "He said the biggest thing was the water. When there wasn't water, he just drank his urine a little bit at a time, just to keep himself somewhat hydrated. And then he said it would pour rain and the boat would fill up with rain water, and that's what he would drink," he explained.

Niedenthal said Alvarenga's initial reluctance to talk to the media and his state of exhaustion following his rescue lead him to believe the story is not a hoax.

There is a precedent for such a journey. In 2006, three Mexican fisherman were rescued near the islands after spending about nine months adrift.

Alvarenga says he wants to return to Mexico, and diplomats from the United States, Mexico and El Salvador are discussing his relocation.

Members of his family, in Silver Spring, Maryland, expressed relief at his rescue. While some had given him up for dead, his mother, who remains in El Salvador, insisted he was alive.

Alvarenga said while on his journey he considered committing suicide several times, but survived by praying to God, thinking about his family, and dreaming of eating his favorite food - tortillas.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
    Next 
by: spongey from: NYC
February 19, 2014 11:34 AM
I'm not buying it. He doesn't look like he spent a year at sea. He should be gaunt. Fishy story.

by: Dr hw looi from: Malaysia
February 12, 2014 8:33 AM
After more than 4 weeks he should start to show signs of Vitamin C deficiency i. e. Scurvy. But he looks too well to have been out at sea for more than a year. Sun induced pigmentation should also have developed after such a long time.

by: mirella from: California
February 11, 2014 5:57 PM
People need to Stop freaking Judging. Everyone is so judgmental now a days... It's sad. God does this so those who have little faith believe, that b holding yourself by the hand of God our lord... He can make miracles in our lives. So everybody shut up and keep all you negative comments to yourself. This man survived, I think eh cares less if people believe him or not.

by: NopeNotAgain
February 09, 2014 3:54 PM
Well when I first read a brief post about this man and saw his pic I called bs. Here it is days later and I decided to read as much as I can about it and I'm still calling bs. Maybe he was stuck at sea but for 13 months and having to put up with some major storms. His younger partner didn't survive because he didn't want to eat raw bird. They didn't have any matches to start a fire to cook the birds? His story is a little suspicious and when he was found on land he was naked? his hair isn't bleached out from the sun, he survived a summer on a boat with no sufficient access to water and food yet the teen (24 year old) only survived 4 months. With him clean shaven he still looks the same. I'm not saying that he wasn't at sea for awhile but I'm doubting that it was for 13 months surviving on turtle blood, rain water and piss. My ancestors travelled by motor less boats all over the seas but this man's story isn't doing it for me. His boat looks like it should've flipped over in the raging seas and not just float away. Hair grows about 6 inches in a year and his hair is shorter than that in is photo. When his motor first died why didn't he and the young man try to head back home instead of allowing themselves to drift away? How far off of the coast would they have to go in order to shark fish? turtle blood isn't scarce at sea but fish itself is and you're a fisherman? Looks like he made his adventure with a blue metal equipment box aboard his boat. Which he claimed to use to shield him from the sun...that would shield you and heat you up at the same time right? I think he went to go fishing with this guy and killed him. Whether or not it was his intention or if something happened to trigger him to do it while they were fishing is up in the air. I think they went fishing, he killed the guy, he hid out for a while maybe not at sea but somewhere else. Things were starting to get "hot" for him and he had to try to find refuge somewhere else and maybe during that time he spent most of his time at sea before landing where he did. If people shot anymore holes through this man's story they would only be a corner left. Just drinking turtle's blood but not eating any part of the turtle? The overwhelming access to turtle blood and not fish baffles me. Surely the young man would've ate raw fish it's just sushi and lots of fishermen eat some of the catch raw. How did he catch the birds? So many questions and not enough answers.

by: John from: Us
February 09, 2014 2:30 AM
This man reminds me of Odysseus

by: Ed from: Us
February 08, 2014 3:51 AM
That would put him in the middle of all the horrible storms and tsunamis for the past year which have been numerous.

by: RB from: OREGON
February 07, 2014 5:14 AM
He has a dishonest look in his eyes - as if he were hiding something. What did he do with Wilson?!

by: Wayne from: Louisiana
February 06, 2014 8:07 AM
WOW, this dude is an amazing fella if this story is true. My belief is that irs very possible to survive such a horrowing un-wanted trip across the southern Pacific ocean. The man above has good plans for him. Im so sorry for his young friend that didnt make it. Congrats to this man tho.

by: Michael from: Johnson
February 06, 2014 4:27 AM
We'll you can tell the authorites that "Jose Salvador" can see a lot of transparency in his own stories and isn't too happy about it.

by: malone from: australia
February 06, 2014 4:12 AM
Why are you guys fixated on his fingernails? Ive see hobos with better nails than that. I will admit he looks a bit chunky though. Could be from malnutrition. All you have to do is look in those eyes and you know he has been on a journey. Im just gonna say it, that dude is a survivor, straight up. Maybe he will someday admit that he ate the other dude. So what? Id eat him too. When a person gets hungry enough, believe me they will eat anything, a-ny-thing!
Comments page of 3
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs