Jose Salvador Alvarenga 438 days at Sea

Posted by Kieran 24/11/2015 0 Comment(s)

“I would stroll back and forth on the boat and imagine that I was wandering the world. By doing this I could make myself believe that I was actually doing something. Not just sitting there, thinking about dying.”

 

 

In November 2012, Jose Salvador Alvarenga went fishing off the coast of Mexico along with 22-year-old crew-mate Ezequiel Cordoba. Thanks to Alvarenga experience, they survived a fierce storm. While Alvarenga steered, Cordoba tossed water back into the sea. Alvarenga realised the boat was top heavy. So to relieve weight he was force to dump the fish and equipment into the sea.

 

After the storm settled, they found themselves on a 7m fibreglass boat with a broken motor, a dead radio and no GPS. They had no way at getting home. All they could do was drift. While they drifted, there was a search mission looking for them but after two days the coast guards gave up. They were presumed dead.

 

To survive, they ate raw fish, turtles and sea birds. To remain hydrated they were often forced to drink turtle blood and their own urine. After some time, Cordoba could not stomach the food. He became ill and delirious. He began to refuse food and within days he was dead. Jose took the tragedy badly and would talk to the body as if he was still alive. Eventually he put the body in the ocean. Jose was now alone.

 

“First I washed his feet. His clothes were useful, so I stripped off a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt. I put that on – it was red, with little skull-and-crossbones – and then I dumped him in. And as I slid him into the water, I fainted.”

 

Alverenga will to live and fear of suicide kept him going. He was a religious man and believed suicide meant he could never go to heaven. Every ship Alvarenga saw made him excited. He would shout to them but his boat was too small to notice. His grandfather had taught him how to keep time using the moon so he was always aware of how many months he had been at sea. He has seen 15 lunar cycles. To keep sane Alvarenga would let his imagination run wild.

 

 

“I would stroll back and forth on the boat and imagine that I was wandering the world. By doing this I could make myself believe that I was actually doing something. Not just sitting there, thinking about dying.”

 

After 14 months of drifting he washed up on the shore of Ebon Atoll in the marshall Islands. Salvador was in poor health. His ankles were swollen, his diet had infested his liver with parasites and his blood pressure was low.

 

“I suffered hunger, thirst and an extreme loneliness, and didn’t take my life. You only get one chance to live – so appreciate it.”

 

 

Alveraga spent 11 days in hospital. His story was met with some doubt. Some questioned whether it was possible to last that long at sea.

 

“It's hard for me to imagine someone surviving 13 months at sea, but it is also hard to imagine how someone might arrive on Ebon out of the blue.” - The US Ambassador in Majuro, Tom Armbruste

 

In 2015 he gave a series of interviews with journalist Jonathon Franklin. Alveraga story is now a book.  The book can be purchased on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/438-Days-Extraordinary-Story-Survival/dp/1501116290

Reference

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