A stunning tale of survival is unfolding in the Marshall Islands since Mexican National Jose Salvador Alvarenga washed up on the shores of the remote and tiny outer island Ebon in the Northern Pacific. After an estimated 1 year and 4 months adrift at sea, Jose crawled from his 24 foot boat in the dark of night to collapse on a random spec of land in a vast ocean. He would then be awaken in the mornings golden light by the strange sounds of chickens and young children. Covered in red sun-bleached hair and naked, he uttered his first words “tortilla, tortilla” calling for a simple food made of corn from a far away home. While some locals rushed to his aid with coconuts, fresh fruit and water, others secured his barnacle-layden, boat containing the remains of turtles that nourished him and a small fiberglass wheel mount that shaded him and kept him alive during his 8,000-mile journey in the sun and saltwater waves. Lacking a phone or Internet on Ebon, the islanders radioed for assistance and a few days later he stepped off the Marshall Island Patrol boat back into civilization in the capital of Majuro.
Doctors stated he had low blood pressure, acid reflux and other symptoms from an extended ocean journey but allowed him to leave the hospital for a hotel where he would sleep in a bed and shower for the first time in over a year. As his mind began to recover from the traumatic event, his lengthy beard and hair was cut away to reveal the 36-year-old man weathered but now recognizable by his parents on the other side of the planet. On Friday, February 7, 2014 he will board a plane headed for his homeland, his daughter, his parents and a lifetime of media curiosity as he is perhaps the longest castaway known to man.
By Jeffrey Barabe