Castaway Found After 13 Months Lost in the Pacific

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 A castaway who has  been lost at sea for 13 months is now safely back on land.

Marshall Islands Cast awayThe man who identified himself as Jose Ivan Alvarengo turned up in a heavily damaged boat on a remote coral atoll in the Marshall Islands.  He claims that he had been living off fish and turtles he had caught and relying on rainwater, and sometimes his own urine, to drink.

Alvarengo claims to have set off from a port near the southwestern Mexican city of Tapachula, about 140 miles south of where the Mexican government says he is from and near the border with Guatemala.  According to reports, he was accompanied by a teenager named Xiquel, described as the son of one of his co-workers. The trip was supposed to be a one-day expedition to catch sharks on Dec. 21, 2012.

The Mexican government issued a statement Monday confirming Alvarengo’s identity and saying he was an who was living in Tonala in Chiapas state.

According to authorities, there are  many questions which have yet to be answered as they attempt to determine the veracity of his story.  First and foremost, on the minds of many is  how he could have lived  and survived on his small boat for so long as it drifted across the Pacific Ocean .

He was found last Thursday  on Ebon Atoll which is the southernmost of the Marshall Islands’ atolls.   Ebon,  is sparsely populated  has only 2.2 square miles of land, one phone line and no Internet service.

The government airplane that services the area was not working when the man was found…Therefore, Alvarengo did not make it to Majuro until Monday morning.A Video taken in Majuro shows Alvarengo walking a gangplank  with a medical assistant  as he made his way from a government boat to an  ambulance.   He was reportedly in good spirits as he waved to those gathered around the dock.   Once in the ambulance, he reportedly gave a thumbs ups.Alvarengo,  whos says he is 37, is now in a local hospital recovering from his ordeal.U.S. Ambassador Tom Armbruster, said in a news brief that the man is  “in much better shape than one would expect after such an ordeal.”   According to Armbruster, “He is not fully coherent.  He is hungry, swollen, in pain and wants a haircut.”

In a hospital-bed interview with The Telegraph of London, Alvarengo told of how he hit land.

Castaway From Mexico Found in the Marshall Islands 16 Months “I had just killed a bird to eat and saw some trees,” he is quoted as saying.

“I cried, ‘Oh, God.’ I got to land and had a mountain of sleep. In the morning, I woke up and heard a rooster and saw chickens and saw a small house. I saw two native women screaming and yelling. I didn’t have any clothes; I was only in my underwear, and they were ripped and torn,” The Telegraph quotes Alvarengo as saying.

According to Judson Jones, a producer for  CNN Weather,  the conditions in the Pacific make the timeline of Alvarengo’s journey plausible.

People on the island where he was found Thursday say the 26-foot fiberglass boat was in very bad condition, covered in barnacles and with the carcasses of several turtles littering the deck.

He claimed that he and a teenage companion were blown off-course by northerly winds and then caught in a storm, eventually losing use of their engines.

Man found in Marshall IslandsAccording to Anjenette Kattil of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alvarengo said that four weeks into their drift, he lost the young man because he refused to eat raw birds. There are no details on what Alvarengo did with the young man’s body.

Alvarengo told the Telegraph his companion’s death had him contemplating suicide.  He said “For four days, I wanted to kill myself. But I couldn’t feel the desire; I didn’t want to feel the pain. I couldn’t do it.”

Kattil said Alvarengo worked for a company named Camaroneras de la Costa in Mexico. He has told authorities that he is a citizen of El Salvador but has lived in Mexico for the past 15 years and wishes to be repatriated back to Mexico.

Armbruster, the U.S. ambassador, said Alvarengo indicated that he had relatives living the United States and U.S. officials would attempt to locate them.

Government officials have been in contact with Mexico’s ambassador to the Marshall Islands, who is based in the Philippines, concerning Alvarengo in hopes he can contact El Salvadoran authorities.

The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying it has sent personnel from its embassy in the Philippines “to learn directly about the case.”

If Alvarengo’s story proves true, the trip across the Pacific would have taken him across roughly 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) of open ocean before ending in the Marshall Islands, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, in the northern Pacific.

Amazing journey’s of survival aren’t unheard of in the small Pacific nation.  In 2006, three Mexican fishermen made a similar drift voyage that lasted nine months. Those men lived off fish they caught and rainwater, and they read the Bible for comfort.

INFO:  The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean.

The islands are located north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia, and south of the U.S. territory of Wake Island, to which it lays claim.

The country consists of 29 atolls and 5 isolated islands.  The atolls and islands form two groups: the Ratak Chain and the Ralik Chain (meaning “sunrise” and “sunset” chains). 24 of them are inhabited.

The uninhabited atolls include:

  • Ailinginae Atoll
  • Bikar (Bikaar) Atoll
  • Bikini Atoll
  • Bokak Atoll
  • Erikub Atoll
  • Jemo Island
  • Nadikdik Atoll
  • Rongerik Atoll
  • Toke Atoll
  • Ujelang Atoll

A majority of the islands’ land mass is at sea level.

In October 2011, the government declared that an area covering nearly 2,000,000 square kilometres (772,000 sq mi) of ocean shall be reserved as a shark sanctuary. This is the world’s largest shark sanctuary, extending the worldwide ocean area in which sharks are protected from 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,042,000 sq mi) to 4,600,000 square kilometres (1,776,000 sq mi). In protected waters all shark fishing is banned and all by-catch must be released. However, the ability of the Marshall Islands to enforce this zone has been questioned.

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