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Did 'Pacific Castaway' Really Survive A Year At Sea?

A man says he spent more than a year in the Pacific Ocean before washing ashore.
Posted at 10:04 AM, Feb 03, 2014

It’s an amazing story of survival. A man says he spent more than a year in the Pacific Ocean before washing ashore.

A man identifying himself as 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga told officials he and a companion left Mexico in December 2012 for what was meant to be a one-day fishing trip. (Via The Telegraph

Speaking through a translator, Alvarenga told the Daily Mail his boat had encountered engine trouble and he was unable to keep it from drifting further and further out to sea. 

He reportedly ate fish and turtles and drank turtle blood and rainwater to stay alive. As for the other man on the boat, Alvarenga says he died four months into the voyage, and he dumped his body overboard. 

The BBC describes Alvarenga as “emaciated and wearing only ragged underpants” when his boat washed ashore on the island of Ebon Atoll.

According to The Telegraph, he appeared to be in healthy condition and good spirits, despite his ordeal. Alvarenga told the paper, “I only knew the sun and the night… I never saw land.”

Now, it should be noted there are some discrepancies in his story. Alvarenga initially told authorities his name was Jose Ivan, and he also couldn’t explain to them why there was no fishing gear on a boat meant for a fishing trip.  

A man who teaches survival techniques to sailors told The Guardian those aren't the only reasons to be skeptical. "It just doesn't sound right to me. There are 1,001 hazards that would make his survival for so long very unlikely. One would want to know a lot more."

Radio Australia reports authorities have taken Alvarenga’s fingerprints to help establish his identity.

Using a list of names Alvarenga gave authorities, NBC contacted his family members who recognized photos of him. They told NBC they hadn't seen him in years and feared he was dead. 

As remarkable as Alvarenga’s story of survival may be, it wouldn’t be a first. In 2006, three Mexican fishermen were rescued off the Marshall Islands after spending nine months at sea.