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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 
by: mark from: york pa
February 05, 2014 8:30 PM
U people sound dumb the poor man sufferd and all u can say is its a hoax he probly bit his nails and if your feet is wet u can peel ur toe nails he is probly bloated from being in salt water and exposed to heat and some peoples facal hair grows differnt and hes nit burnt cuz hes mexican poor guy now he will apaciate life better

by: tessie from: monterey ca
February 05, 2014 5:35 PM
I want to know more about the young boy that was with him and what really happened. Sounds too suspucious to me..

by: pokerface from: brazil
February 05, 2014 11:34 AM
come on!!!!! his hair looks better than mine!

by: Gayle Reinholtz from: Framingham
February 05, 2014 5:31 AM
They must of had great nail clippers there and toe nail clippers notice his hair is long than nails
In Response

by: smartass from: My house
February 05, 2014 10:54 AM
It's called biting your nails

by: Clay from: 37087
February 04, 2014 9:57 PM
NAH, as a Survival instructor for the military, this guy looks to Damn good and well fed to have been at sea for a YEAR? Beard and Hair to good as well. BS don't care what ANYONE says
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 07, 2014 11:18 PM
The clipped nails? He probably bit, tore or broke them. He's out at sea with absolutely nothing to do and you expect him to wash up with long nails.
In Response

by: Gayle Reinholtz from: Framingham
February 05, 2014 5:36 AM
Love the clipped nails!!! LOL

by: Frank Burns
February 04, 2014 3:38 PM
Why all the doubt? Apparently sea turtles are nutritious. And if it is a farce, a poor fisherman would need a team with plenty of financing helping him, to transport his boat 8,000 miles, and give him a place to hide out for a year, and keep his friend still in hiding -- don't you think after all that effort they would have thought enough to make sure he lost a lot of weight? So you see, his good condition actually goes to disprove any conspiracy here. Are people jealous maybe, that they don't look as good, even though they live in the US, with lots of food and opportunities? I don't get the doubt, unless it's for this.

by: dominant from: nj
February 04, 2014 1:53 PM
he may have contracted parasites eating raw, uncooked food. hence, reasoning for appearing bloated

by: igofdkfmsd;a from: london
February 04, 2014 12:57 PM
looks like Pi has some competition.

by: Gary from: NC
February 04, 2014 12:31 PM
How could he not be sun burned ?
In Response

by: romy from: CA
February 05, 2014 1:25 PM
people all around the world do bite there nails and eat there nails that's a pretty dumb thing to say where he got nails clippers from and his nails look all dirty and bitten not all nice like he got a manicure and clipped his nails.
In Response

by: Gayle from: Framingham
February 05, 2014 5:37 AM
where he get nail clippers???? lol
In Response

by: Polarbear52 from: Vancouver, Canada
February 04, 2014 4:30 PM
He had the cover of a nice 21 foot boat. He was not stranded on some log in the middle of the ocean.

by: J. Brown from: norcal
February 04, 2014 11:20 AM
I know that urine is thought to be semi-sterile, but there must be a lot of calories in piss, turtle blood and raw seagull wings. This fisherman does not look at all starved or emaciated. I can't wait for the book and movie. I don't think Tom Hanks can't play the lead. He's too thin.
Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More