Jose Salvador Alvarenga, born in 1975, is a Salvadoran fisherman who was found on January 30th, 2014, on the Marshall Islands after spending 14 months adrift in a fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean.
He survived on a diet of raw fish, turtles, small birds, sharks and rainwater.
Seeing land, he swam to shore where 2 locals found him naked, clutching a knife and shouting in Spanish. He was treated in an area hospital before flying home to his family on February 10th.
He is the only person in recorded history to survive in a small boat lost at sea for more than a year.
Jose set out off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico on November 17th, 2012. He was accompanied by a coworker named Ezequiel.
Jose was a skilled sailor and fisherman. He had planned on a 30-hour shift of deep sea fishing. His normal partner couldn't come, so he brought Ezequiel.
Shortly after taking off, their 23-foot boat was blown off course by a 5-day storm, and the motor and a lot of other materials were damaged. They had caught nearly 1,100lb of fresh fish, but had to dump it in order to make the boat more maneuverable in the harsh conditions.
He called his boss to let him know what happened, but his battery died while talking to him. The boat didn't have sails, oars, and anchor, running lights, or any other way to contact shore. And so, they began to drift. Most of their gear was lost or damaged in the storm, and they had few supplies and even less food.
A search party was organized by his boss once he realized they were in trouble, but they stopped looking after 2 days due to poor visibility.
As days became weeks, they learned how to scavenge food from wherever they could find it, typically grabbing birds or fish with their bare hands. For liquids, they tried to drink rainwater, but sometimes resulted in drinking turtle blood or their own urine.
Ezequiel lost hope after about 4 months, as he was becoming extremely sick from all of the raw food. He died from refusing to eat anymore. Jose contemplated committing suicide after he died, but decided against it due to his strong religious beliefs.
Ezequiel had asked him not to eat his corpse after he died. He kept it around and kept his promise, even talking to him, but eventually threw the corpse overboard when he realized he was beginning to go crazy.
Throughout the next 10 months, he saw a few boats but could never get to them or alert them that he was there. On January 30th, he saw a tiny patch of land and ditched his boat to swim to it. There he was found by 2 people, and he was safe after 438 days.
REACTIONS AND LIFE AFTER SEA
Jose had not bee in contact with his parents for years before he went missing, and they actually had thought he may be dead before he even set sail. When they found out he was missing, they said they prayed for him and dreamed about him. His daughter said she couldn't wait to hug and kiss him.
Due to the extreme nature of his tale, many people didn't believe it. Beyond that, names in the paper were mis-reported, ultimately being chalked up to Jose going by different names. However, the basic details were able to be corroborated, and researchers modeled the path he went on and found that where he landed was where he likely would have given the wind and weather conditions. He also took a lie detector test and passed.
He stayed in the hospital for 11 days and returned to El Salvador after. He was diagnosed with anemia, had trouble sleeping and developed an intense fear of water.
Ezequiel's family sued him for $1,000,000 after a book about his story was published, accusing him of cannibilizing their relative to survive, but he has repeatedly denied this and nothing came of it.
Surviving any length of time adrift at sea is an incredible feat, but surviving for over a year is almost unthinkable. To set out to fish one day in 2012 and not be found until 2014 is a truly unbelievable situation, and horrifying to think about. Jose Salvador Alvarenga's strength, perseverance and will to live is insane, and it is truly wonderful that he was found 6 years ago today.