A castaway’s assertion that he was adrift in the Pacific for 14 months immediately fell under suspicion when the smiling, surprisingly healthy-looking man emerged to tell his story.
“I didn’t know the hour, nor the day, nor the date,” Jose Salvador Alvarenga, 37, told The Telegraph. “I only knew the sun and the night. … I never saw land. Pure ocean … pure ocean. It was very placid — only two days with big waves.”
Alvarenga said he and a 15-year-old named Ezekiel set off in a 24-foot fiberglass boat on a shark-fishing expedition from Mexico in December 2012. Ezekiel died about a month later after being unable to keep down raw food, Alvarenga said, and he pushed the teen’s body into the sea.
Suspicion about Alvarenga’s story has been growing since he came ashore in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands atoll. In telling his story to the press, Alvarenga failed to remember basic details about his life and sometimes appeared to contradict himself.
Alvarenga said he lived off birds, turtles, fish and small sharks, which he would catch by putting one arm into the water as bait before grabbing the tail of the shark. He drank his urine for hydration, particularly during periods without rain.
Gee Bing, acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, said he remained skeptical after meeting Alvarenga. He said some details of the castaway's story are sketchy, including the location of his departure from Mexico.
"It does sound like an incredible story, and I'm not sure if I believe his story,” Bing told the media. "When we saw him, he was not really thin, compared to other survivors in the past. I may have some doubts."
— Rich Armstrong