From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story? - SailNet Community

   Search Sailnet:

 forums  store  


Quick Menu
Forums           
Articles          
Galleries        
Boat Reviews  
Classifieds     
Search SailNet 
Boat Search (new)

Shop the
SailNet Store
Anchor Locker
Boatbuilding & Repair
Charts
Clothing
Electrical
Electronics
Engine
Hatches and Portlights
Interior And Galley
Maintenance
Marine Electronics
Navigation
Other Items
Plumbing and Pumps
Rigging
Safety
Sailing Hardware
Trailer & Watersports
Clearance Items

Advertise Here






Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
 Not a Member? 


Like Tree4Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 02-03-2014
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Atlanta
Posts: 22
Thanks: 1
Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
Rep Power: 0
hasher is on a distinguished road
From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

By NICK PERRY

The Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand —

It's a story that almost defies belief: A man leaves Mexico in December 2012 for a day of shark fishing and ends up surviving 13 months on fish, birds and turtles before washing ashore on the remote Marshall Islands some 5,500 miles (8,800 kilometers) away.

But that's the story a man identifying himself as 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga told the U.S. ambassador in the Marshall Islands and the nation's officials during a 30-minute meeting Monday before he was taken to a local hospital for monitoring. Alvarenga washed ashore on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the Pacific Ocean last week before being taken to the capital, Majuro, on Monday.

"It's hard for me to imagine someone surviving 13 months at sea," said Ambassador Tom Armbruster in Majuro. "But it's also hard to imagine how someone might arrive on Ebon out of the blue. Certainly this guy has had an ordeal, and has been at sea for some time."

Other officials were reacting cautiously to the Spanish-speaking man's story while they try to piece together more information. If true, the man's ordeal would rank among the greatest tales ever of survival at sea.

Armbruster said the soft-spoken man complained of joint pain Monday and had a limp but was able to walk. He had long hair and a beard, the ambassador said, and rather than appearing emaciated he looked puffy in places, including around his ankles. Otherwise, he added, Alvarenga seemed in reasonable health.

Armbruster, who speaks Spanish, said the survivor told the following story:

He's a native of El Salvador but has lived in Mexico for 15 years and fishes for a man he knows as Willie, catching sharks for 25 pesos ($1.90) per pound.

On Dec. 21, 2012, Alvarenga left Mexico in his 23 foot (7 meter) fiberglass boat for a day's fishing, accompanied by a teen he knew only as Ezekiel, who was between 15 and 18.

A storm blew the fishermen off course, and soon they were lost and adrift.

"He talked about scooping up little fish that swam alongside the boat and eating them raw," Armbruster said. "He also said he ate birds, and drank birds' blood."

After about a month, Ezekiel died, the survivor told officials.

Alvarenga also talked about eating turtles. Once near Ebon, he swam ashore.

"He thanked God, initially, that he had survived," the ambassador said. "He's very anxious to get back in touch with his employer, and also with the family of Ezekiel. That's his driving motivation at the moment."

Armbruster said the man said he had no family in Mexico but he does have three brothers who live in the U.S., although he could not immediately provide officials with contact details.

Gee Bing, the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, said he was somewhat skeptical of Alvarenga's account after meeting with him Monday.

"It does sound like an incredible story and I'm not sure if I believe his story," Bing said. "When we saw him, he was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past. I may have some doubts. Once we start communicating with where he's from, we'll be able to find out more information."

Bing said the man had no identification with him and other details of his story remained sketchy, including the exact location of his departure from Mexico.

The survivor's vital signs appeared good except that his blood pressure was a bit low, Bing said. After doctors give him the all-clear, Bing said, officials hope to repatriate him to Mexico or whatever country is appropriate. Bing said the Mexican ambassador in the Philippines, Julio Camarena, has been involved in the case. Camarena could not be contacted immediately.

Erik van Sebille, a Sydney-based oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, said there was a good chance a boat drifting off Mexico's west coast would eventually be carried by currents to the Marshall Islands. He said such a journey would typically take 18 months to two years depending on the winds and currents, although 13 months was possible.

"The way that the currents in the Pacific work is that there is a very strong westerly current just north of the equator and that basically drives you directly from Mexico all the way toward Indonesia and in the path, you go right over the Marshall Islands," he said.

There have been other cases of people surviving for months adrift in the Pacific. In a case with similarities, three Mexican shark fishermen in 2006 said they were lost at sea for nine months before being rescued near the Marshall Islands. In 1989, four men survived nearly four months in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand after their multi-hulled boat capsized.
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #2  
Old 02-03-2014
Cap-Couillon's Avatar
Noah's Bosun
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 102
Thanks: 2
Thanked 16 Times in 16 Posts
Rep Power: 2
Cap-Couillon is on a distinguished road
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Just as an aside... I have followed this story in a number of forums, and the great number of folks who doubt the veracity of the story. My question is why would he lie?.. Fact is, there is not much east of the Marshals except the coast of North/Central/South America. Where else would he come from and why? As to his reasonably good condition, if you manage to survive the first 60 days, and have a reasonably tight boat... you probably have the system down. Catch food, collect rain-water stay under some sort of shelter. How long you keep it up depends on your own mind set. Steven Callahan made it for 76 days in an LR and his biggest problem was the condition of the raft. In a watertight hull maybe not such a problem? Just because the story is extreme, does not mean it's not true....

Always stay on the boat
__________________
"I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before." (H. Finn 1884)

Onboard - Solitaire
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #3  
Old 02-03-2014
ericb760's Avatar
Been there, done that...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Long Beach, CA
Posts: 990
Thanks: 12
Thanked 8 Times in 8 Posts
Rep Power: 3
ericb760 is on a distinguished road
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cap-Couillon View Post
Just as an aside... I have followed this story in a number of forums, and the great number of folks who doubt the veracity of the story. My question is why would he lie?.. Fact is, there is not much east of the Marshals except the coast of North/Central/South America. Where else would he come from and why? As to his reasonably good condition, if you manage to survive the first 60 days, and have a reasonably tight boat... you probably have the system down. Catch food, collect rain-water stay under some sort of shelter. How long you keep it up depends on your own mind set. Steven Callahan made it for 76 days in an LR and his biggest problem was the condition of the raft. In a watertight hull maybe not such a problem? Just because the story is extreme, does not mean it's not true....

Always stay on the boat
I am a nurse and I have several problems with his story. Number #1 on the list is the description of his physical appearance. There is no conceivable way that he was able to take in 2000+ calories every day for him to appear to be well nourished. The "puffiness" that was described is most likely due to hypernatremia, or, too little free water in his system, elevating the salt ratio to dangerous levels. This would lead to severe electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, lethargy, and seizures. Eventually you lapse in to a coma and die. Thirty days I could buy. Maybe even 60 or 90, but not SIXTEEN MONTHS, essentially in an open row boat.
__________________
1969 S&S Yankee Dolphin 24 "Avri Ellis"
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #4  
Old 02-03-2014
billyruffn's Avatar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,269
Thanks: 3
Thanked 25 Times in 17 Posts
Rep Power: 10
billyruffn will become famous soon enough
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericb760 View Post
I am a nurse and I have several problems with his story. Number #1 on the list is the description of his physical appearance. There is no conceivable way that he was able to take in 2000+ calories every day for him to appear to be well nourished. The "puffiness" that was described is most likely due to hypernatremia, or, too little free water in his system, elevating the salt ratio to dangerous levels. This would lead to severe electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, lethargy, and seizures. Eventually you lapse in to a coma and die. Thirty days I could buy. Maybe even 60 or 90, but not SIXTEEN MONTHS, essentially in an open row boat.
First, it was 13 months, not SIXTEEN. And probably not an open row boat at 23 feet LOA -- most likely a sturdy, outboard powered boat with a high bow to take ocean swell -- you see a lot of this type of boat in the Caribbean and along the CA coast. They routinely go 30-50 miles out to fish. Lose the engine that far off shore and you have a problem.

8800 kms =4750 nm/13*30=12.7nm per day or 0.5kts/hr average over the 13month period. Sounds about right to me. After you escape the Central American wind shadow the NE trades are reasonably steady at 15 kts or so. That would move a open fishing boat 25 or so miles a day. The North Equitorial Current would kick in another 10 miles per day. So top speed would be something on the order of 35 nm / day. If the tale is true, I'll bet he spent at least 50% of the time getting out of the CA wind shadow and south to the trades/current.

With a very, very low level of activity do you need 2000 calories a day to survive? To remain "well nourished" perhaps, but to survive? Wouldn't the body adapt to lower caloric intake.

How many calories in a 1 pound fish? In a 10 pound mahi mahi? Probably enough to keep you going. It's not a balanced diet, that's for sure. But remember, he is a fisherman and so knows fish and how to catch them, what parts to eat and what not to eat.

Puffy? Dehydrated? Low BP? Entirely consistent with his circumstances. With luck, you get enough rain the trade wind belt to survive, but you may not get enough to keep body fluids at normal levels.

That said, thirteen months is a long time. If he's got his head screwed on straight and his will to survive was strong, all sounds plausible to me. My guess is that it's the mental challenge that's the greatest.

Last edited by billyruffn; 02-03-2014 at 05:30 PM.
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #5  
Old 02-03-2014
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Narragansett Bay
Posts: 8,630
Thanks: 10
Thanked 109 Times in 104 Posts
Rep Power: 6
Minnewaska will become famous soon enough Minnewaska will become famous soon enough
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

An earlier new article did say 16 months, so I expect that's where it came from. The fact that those on the ground are saying he doesn't looking emaciated, like other survivors before him, causes me the most skepticism. It will be interesting to hear what they learn.
ericb760 likes this.
__________________

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

Jeanneau 54DS

In the harsh marine environment, something is always in need of repair. Margaritas fix everything.
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #6  
Old 02-03-2014
ericb760's Avatar
Been there, done that...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Long Beach, CA
Posts: 990
Thanks: 12
Thanked 8 Times in 8 Posts
Rep Power: 3
ericb760 is on a distinguished road
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Quote:
Originally Posted by billyruffn View Post
First, it was 13 months, not SIXTEEN.

8800 kms =4750 nm/13*30=12.7nm per day or 0.5kts/hr average over the 13month period. Sounds about right to me. After you escape the Central American wind shadow the NE trades are reasonably steady at 15 kts or so. That would move a open fishing boat 25 or so miles a day. The North Equitorial Current would kick in another 10 miles per day. So top speed would be something on the order of 35 nm / day. If the tale is true I'll be he spent at least 50% of the time getting out of the CA wind shadow. and south to the trades/current.

With a very, very low level of activity do you need 2000 calories a day to survive? To remain "well nourished" perhaps, but to survive? Wouldn't the body adapt to lower caloric intake.

How many calories in a 1 pound fish? In a 10 pound mahi mahi? Probably enough to keep you going. It's not a balanced diet, that's for sure. But remember, he is a fisherman and so knows fish and how to catch them, what parts to eat and what not to eat.

Puffy? Dehydrated? Low BP? Entirely consistent with his circumstances. With luck, you get enough rain the trade wind belt to survive, but you may not get enough to keep body fluids at normal levels.

That said, thirteen months is a long time. If he's got his head screwed on straight and his will to survive was strong, all sounds plausible to me. My guess is that it's the mental challenge that's the greatest.
For the purposes of keeping my response short, I didn't even go in to other metabolic disturbances that he would be suffering from. With a thirteen month diet of raw seafood and bird blood, he would be expected to be suffering from severe Haemochromatosis, or Iron Overload. That, coupled with hypernatremia, is a death sentence, and is probably what killed his shipmate. I concede that every part of his story EXCEPT the timeframe, is plausible. But, that timeframe makes the whole story suspect in my mind.
MarkofSeaLife likes this.
__________________
1969 S&S Yankee Dolphin 24 "Avri Ellis"
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #7  
Old 02-03-2014
Minnesail's Avatar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 761
Thanks: 95
Thanked 27 Times in 26 Posts
Rep Power: 2
Minnesail is on a distinguished road
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

I say it's all an elaborate endurance stunt by David Blaine.
__________________
Catalina 22
on a starboard tack
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #8  
Old 02-03-2014
billyruffn's Avatar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,269
Thanks: 3
Thanked 25 Times in 17 Posts
Rep Power: 10
billyruffn will become famous soon enough
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnesail View Post
I say it's all an elaborate endurance stunt by David Blaine.
Nawh, it's probably an attempt to sneak past border security in the Marshalls. (Ops, that's probably not PC. My bad.)
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #9  
Old 02-03-2014
MarkofSeaLife's Avatar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 1,943
Thanks: 22
Thanked 39 Times in 36 Posts
Rep Power: 4
MarkofSeaLife is on a distinguished road
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

I don't buy it for one moment. He hasnt been interviewed by a competent police investigator trained in murder investigations.


He has a myriad of reasons to lie.

One lie is the kid on board with him. He never existed.

Why do i say that? Because if you were stranded on a boat for a month with someone you would know their age.

At the very least.
MastUndSchotbruch likes this.
__________________
Sea Life
Notes on a Circumnavigation:
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
  #10  
Old 02-03-2014
poopdeckpappy's Avatar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: San Diego
Posts: 5,518
Thanks: 23
Thanked 38 Times in 32 Posts
Rep Power: 9
poopdeckpappy has a spectacular aura about poopdeckpappy has a spectacular aura about
Re: From Mexico to the Marshall Islands - True Story?

Well one thing is curtain, he got from A to B somehow in a 23' boat. Verify point A and the story holds water. If the kid died in the first 30 days, it would be understandable not remembering the exact age 1 yr later considering all other events.

As far as drinking water goes, there are ways to desalinate sea water though evap and condensation in addition basic condensation recovery and rain water recovery

I think the story plausible
__________________
1978 Tayana 37

Freedom comes when you’re ready to sail away. True freedom comes when you don’t have to return


Cut off from the land that bore us, betrayed by the land we find, where the brightest have gone before us and the dullest remain behind, .......but stand to your glasses, steady,.......tis all we have left to prize, raise a cup to the dead already, hurrah for the next that dies
Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools

 
Posting Rules
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may post attachments
You may edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Available: Anyone sailing from Cancun, Mexico to any Caribbean islands? mikeywillcox Crew Wanted/Available 0 02-25-2013 06:43 PM
VIDEO: Surfer Steals Boat in Marshall Islands & Sails to Guam - Pacific News Center NewsReader News Feeds 0 01-27-2012 12:00 PM
The Dog Watch. True Story RobGallagher General Discussion (sailing related) 10 11-28-2011 12:16 AM
The true story of the Santa Margarita (Saipan Tribune) NewsReader News Feeds 0 02-26-2007 10:15 AM


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 10:56 PM.

Add to My Yahoo!         
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
SEO by vBSEO 3.6.1
(c) Marine.com LLC 2000-2012