This Guy Survived being Stranded in the Ocean for More than a Year

Have you heard the story of the fisherman from El Salvador who was stranded at sea for more than a year? Oh, it’s true.

Credit: CNNMexico / YouTube

In November of 2012, José Salvador Alvarenga decided to go on a fishing trip. When his original traveling partner couldn’t make it, he brought along Ezequiel Cordoba. 

Credit: CNNMexico / YouTube

Originally from Garita Palmera, a coastal town in El Salvador, the 36-year-old Alvarenga had been living in Chiapas, Mexico for some 15 years. His mother said that he moved to Mexico to pursue shark fishing, and that his family had lost contact with him about eight years prior, when he stopped making visits.

During their fishing trip, Alvarenga and Cordoba drifted from the coast of Mexico some 6,000 miles east of the Marshall Islands. It was a trip that ended up lasting about 13 months.

Credit: Univision Noticias / YouTube

During a raging storm around December 24th, the two got lost. Days became weeks and the pair went through their emergency food.

According to Alvarenga, after four months of drifting on the high seas, Cordoba passed away. Alvarenga said Cordoba didn’t survive because the 22-year-old couldn’t stomach eating raw animals.

Credit: Univision Noticias / YouTube

Alvarenga says he blamed himself for Cordoba’s death. Alvarenga survived on fish, birds, turtle blood, his own urine, and rainwater.

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Alvarenga also said being alone at sea made it difficult to keep hope alive.

“I thought I was going to end up going crazy,” he told Agence France-Presse. “I didn’t think about dying, I thought I was going to get out of there, strong. But there were two occasions when I wanted to die, grabbing a knife when there wasn’t any water or food.”

Inflamed, dehydrated, and only wearing tattered underwear, he eventually stumbled onto the shores of Ebon, a small chunk of land belonging to the Marshall Islands. Here are the Marshall Islands:

Credit: Google

That’s a long way from Mexico.

Alvarenga was lucky. Although he landed in one of the most remote places on earth, someone spotted him right away.

Credit: Primer Impacto / YouTube

A married couple who live on the island, Emi Libokmeto and Russel Laikidrik, took Alvarenga into their home. Libokmeto told The Guardian: “As I’m looking across, I see this white man there. He is yelling. He looks weak and hungry. My first thought was, this person swam here, he must have fallen off a ship.”

Suffering from anemia and infected by parasites, Alvarenga just wanted to go home. But many were skeptical about his story.

Credit: Univision Noticias / YouTube 

Alvarenga’s story appeared to check out. He didn’t feel he needed to prove anything, and his mind was already onto other things: “I first thought of eating, I thought about tortilla, egg, chicken, I was imagining food,” he told La Jornada. He also said he was anxious to see his 14 year-old daughter, Fátima. When he finally returned home, Alvarenga’s daughter made a wreath out of palm leaves to welcome him.

An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea, an in-depth account of Alvarenga’s journey by journalist Jonathan Franklin was published last year.

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