A Castaway’s 13 Month Ordeal

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Jose Salvador Alvarengo, with his scraggly beard and tangled hair, arrived amidst thousand curious onlookers at a dock in Majuro city, capital of Marshall Islands. The inquisitive gazes he drew were the result of his 13 month survival saga at Pacific Ocean. The 37 year old guy claimed that he set out on a shark-fishing expedition in December 2012 from Mexico. He took a 24 foot fiber-glass boat for day’s fishing with another young guy named ‘Ezekiel’ and was blown off course by a storm.

He has said to have drifted across 5,500 to 8,000 miles of treacherous seas and has remarkably fought to stay upright under the furious weather conditions. Their attempts to reach out for other fishing vessels didn’t give any fruitful results. Ezekiel, a teenager, is said to have died after four weeks because of digestive problems. Alvarengo, himself, have claimed that he managed to survive by catching birds, fish, turtles, and drinking turtle blood and his own urine when there was no rainwater. He has forgotten many things, but is certain that he has a wife and 10 year-old daughter in El Salvador. However, he cannot remember the name of his village or their contact numbers. When asked how he had kept his sanity in this ordeal, the survivor said, he was never bored, was rarely scared and constantly prayed to god, though he claimed to have not belonged to any specific religious order.

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Alvarengo has eventually saw land, when he ran onto a reef. He swam ashore and shocked two native women with his unkempt appearance. He was taken to a local hospital and later met the US ambassador, Tom Armburster. Both the officials and the Ambassador have reacted cautiously to Alvarengo’s because of some discrepancies. “It’s hard for me to imagine someone surviving 13 months at sea, 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” said Mr. Armburster.

Alvarengo has seemed in reasonable health, and, rather than appearing gaunt, he looked puffy in places. This has caused a lot of skepticism on survivor’s story. Gee Bing, the secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands claimed: “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.” Some doctors say that the well-fed looks of Alvarengo may be caused by edema — swelling from excessive accumulation of serous fluid in tissue (brought on by too much salt and sun). A Sydney-based Oceanographer named ‘Erik van Sebille’ stated there was a good chance that a boat drifting off Mexico’s west coast would eventually be carried by currents to the Marshall Islands. He also added that reaching shore after drifting for 13 months is very much possible.

Officials in Marshall Islands still gathering information and are planning to contact overseas officials for his repatriation. His mother, María Julia Alvarenga said, “We thought that he must be dead. I cannot find the words to describe how I feel, as his mother, to know that he has been found.” If Jose Alvarengo’s survival is proved, it would be one of the greatest one ever, although this is not the first incident of castaways being washed up in the Marshall Islands. In 2006, three Mexican fishermen went adrift for nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.

Mr Alvarenga's 24 feet  boat

Mr Alvarenga’s 24 feet boat

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