Fisherman Lost at Sea for 13 Months Found 6K Miles Away After Surviving on Birds and Turtle Blood

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 3 2014 6:05 PM

Fisherman Lost at Sea for 13 Months Found 6K Miles Away After Surviving on Birds and Turtle Blood

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Castaway Jose Salvador Albarengo walks with the help of a nurse after being discovered on the Marshall Islands.

Photo by HILARY HOSIA/AFP/Getty Images

On December 24, 2012, Jose Salvador Albarengo, an El Salvadoran fisherman says he set out on a one-day fishing trip on the Mexican coast in a 22-foot fiberglass boat. Last week, 13 months and more than 6,000 miles later, Albarengo washed ashore on a remote coral atoll on the Marshall Islands in middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a harrowing journey that would make Tom Hanks pine for his inflatable buddy, Wilson. But, what exactly happened? The details are still sketchy, as Albarengo was found disoriented, wearing only his underpants, according to Agence France Presse. But here’s a first look at the story as he tells it, via AFP.

Albarengo said he was on a shark-fishing expedition with a youth named Xiquel when strong winds blew them off course and they became lost. Albarengo said the boy, described as 15- to 18-years old, died a few weeks into the ordeal because he could not eat raw bird meat…Unable to speak English, he communicated to his rescuers through pictures and gestures that he had survived the 12,500 kilometre (8,000 mile) odyssey by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.
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Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student on the Marshall Islands, told the BBC how Albarengo was discovered: "A group of us got into the boat... and went over to meet him. And when we got there we first found his boat, which was... grown over with shells and other sea animals. It had a live baby bird, a dead turtle, some turtle shells, and fish leftovers inside. He was in really bad shape in terms of strength and in terms of mental health."

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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