News / Americas

Marine Survival Trainer: Story of Man Lost at Sea 'Is Possible'

Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Ivan and later told that his full name is Jose Salvador Alvarenga walks with the help of a Majuro Hospital nurse in Majuro after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll, Feb. 3, 2014.
Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Ivan and later told that his full name is Jose Salvador Alvarenga walks with the help of a Majuro Hospital nurse in Majuro after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll, Feb. 3, 2014.
VOA News
A 37-year-old fisherman from El Salvador has washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, telling authorities he survived a 13-month journey across the Pacific Ocean by drinking his own urine and eating raw turtles, fish and birds.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga says he set sail from southern Mexico in December 2012 for what was supposed to be a one-day shark-fishing expedition. When his seven-meter fiberglass boat lost power, he claims he began drifting, and kept drifting, until he landed nearly 11,000 kilometers away. He says he was forced to throw his teenage companion overboard after the young man died because he could not handle the diet they were forced to eat.

Authorities have not confirmed the story, and some have raised doubts about its plausibility.

But marine survival trainer and former U.S. Navy diver Terry Crownover said Alvarenga's ordeal is entirely believable. "In the world today, anything is possible. You'll have people that will give up within the first hour, and you've got some people that are just not going to give up. And it's just staying focused. And his big advantage was being out of the water and having some means of protection from the sun and loss of fluids, but I believe it is possible because you look back at case studies of people who have gone almost that duration in open life rafts."

And Crownover [Director of Training at the Marine Survival Training Institute at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette] is not alone.

Longtime Marshall Islands resident and filmmaker Jack Niedenthal interviewed Alvarenga on Monday for CNN. He told VOA Tuesday that 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.

Dire straits

Alvarenga 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.

"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," said Niedenthal.

Niedenthal said Alvarenga allegedly drank turtle blood and 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 said.

Marine survival trainer Crownover said Alvarenga was in an area of the ocean that does appear to have a food supply chain that would enable him to capture rain water, as well as water from fish he might have caught.

Survival skills

Crownover said Alvarenga also was on what he called a "good platform" for survival, in that he was on a vessel rather than a raft. Crownover said that would allow him to stay dry and minimize the risk of hypothermia and threats from creatures in the water.

And there is a precedent for such a journey. In 2006, three Mexican fisherman were rescued after spending about nine months adrift.                      

Maria Alvarenga, the mother of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, is comforted by relatives during an interview inside her home in the village of Garita Palmera, El Salvador, Feb. 4, 2014.Maria Alvarenga, the mother of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, is comforted by relatives during an interview inside her home in the village of Garita Palmera, El Salvador, Feb. 4, 2014.
x
Maria Alvarenga, the mother of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, is comforted by relatives during an interview inside her home in the village of Garita Palmera, El Salvador, Feb. 4, 2014.
Maria Alvarenga, the mother of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, is comforted by relatives during an interview inside her home in the village of Garita Palmera, El Salvador, Feb. 4, 2014.
Members of Alvarenga's 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 he now wants to return to Mexico. Diplomats from there, the United States and El Salvador are discussing his relocation.

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.

And it's that mental will to live that Crownover said is the key to survival. "You stay focused, you [can] accomplish anything. The human race has gotten this far on that kind of thought."

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

UN Tackles Illicit Wildlife Poaching Amid Cecil the Lion Uproar

The 193-member General Assembly adopts its first resolution on the issue following a two-year campaign by Germany and Gabon More

Trump Tops Poll as Rivals Battle to Make Debate

Donald Trump jumps into a big lead in Republican presidential race, according to latest poll More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: tom from: florida
February 12, 2014 12:12 PM
When will this guy make the Late Night Talk Show rounds, like the Chilean Miners.

by: Joshua Folstad from: Charlotte
February 06, 2014 4:34 PM
Can we all at least agree he probably ate his friend?
In Response

by: JJ from: Canada
February 18, 2014 11:00 AM
I agree. He threw the body over to conceal the truth.
In Response

by: casas543 from: tx
February 10, 2014 6:22 AM
Thats what im thinking plenty of jerky to survive

by: Paul Nathe from: Fishkill, NY
February 04, 2014 3:23 PM

Alvarenga prayed, believed and did not give up. Inspirational. Too many people believe that someone who goes to church is a religious zealot, that prayer is irrational, and that giving up in the face of certain failure is being realistic. We are lucky to have men and women prove to us our true capacities.
In Response

by: JJ from: Fever
February 18, 2014 10:58 AM
Praying gave him comfort and nothing more. Why is it that religious nuts glom onto any story that references praying, as proof of their beliefs. If praying really wired, he would have been found the next day. Or it would have rained pizza, beer and hookers. (because thats just as believable as an invisible man in the sky)

This is a story about courage and survival; not your make believe idol of worship.

by: Micheal from: San Juan
February 04, 2014 3:02 PM
Well at least he survived everything the Ocean threw at him and God was the key no matter what anyone says! Plus they cant make a movie of this cau its already been done! LEAVE THE MAN ALONE NOW, IM SURE HE WANTS TO RECONNECT WITH HIS FAMILY NOW!

by: Frank Burns
February 04, 2014 2:47 PM
Finally the voice of reason. People who think that this poor fisherman somehow got his boat towed to the other side of the world need to get real.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Brazil Nuclear Leader's Arrest May Stymie Atomic Ambitions

Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva arrested Tuesday for allegedly taking 4.5 million reais in bribes from engineering firms working on long-delayed Angra 3 power plant
More

Chileans Spooked by Crime, Demand Government Action

Hundreds took to streets of affluent Santiago neighborhoods Wednesday to protest what they say is explosion in crime in one of South America's safest nations
More

Bright Colors, Patterns Prevail at Colombiamoda Fashion Shows

Designers and brands show off a plethora of creations on catwalks in Medellin this week
More

Report: Rio's Filthy Waters Far From Ready for Olympics

An AP investigation found extremely high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues for swimming and boating
More

Peru Forces Raid Coca Region Rebel Slave Camp

Special forces rescue 26 children, 13 women, some of whom had been held captive for three decades, when they raided jungle camp of Shining Path rebels
More

Having a Baby Becomes Mother of All Battles in Scarcity-hit Venezuela

Currency controls, flailing local production fuel worsening shortages that are now a blight of daily life for many Venezuelans - especially those expecting a child
More