Guy Lost at Sea for Year-Plus Tells His Story

Jose Salvador Albarengo arrives in Majuro
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2014 7:47 AM CST
Man Lost at Sea for Year-Plus Tells His Story
A woman gathers shellfish on April 25, 2007, on an eroded beach on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.   (AP Photo/Rusty Middleton)

The shrimp and shark fisherman who says he spent more than a year adrift at sea before washing up at a remote Pacific atoll last week arrived in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro today. The man, who previously identified himself as Jose Ivan, told officials his full name is Jose Salvador Albarengo, AFP reports, and that he's from El Salvador but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his ordeal. He says he and his companion set off from Mexico on a fishing trip, but their engine died and they were blown off course, NBC News reports. But officials haven't confirmed his story, and note that there was no fishing gear on his 24-foot boat, in which he claims to have drifted 6,000 miles. An oceanographer tells the AP that Albarengo's route is feasible based on currents; he estimates it would have taken 18 to 24 months, but says a shorter time is possible.

Albarengo "is not fully coherent," says one official. Albarengo told an interpreter he feels "crazy," and the interpreter adds, "He is hungry, swollen, in pain, extremely loopy, and wants a haircut." He apparently can't remember his birth date and has given some conflicting information, but did give officials his birthplace, mother's name, place of employment, and home city; officials are now trying to confirm his identity and find his family. He says he set off in September 2012 with a teenager named Ezekiel who starved to death after four months because he couldn't keep food down. (Reports on those points conflict: The AP says he left in December 2012, and his companion died after a month.) As for Albarengo, he says he had to hold his nose in order to stomach the raw fish, birds, and turtles he ate; in addition to rainwater and turtle blood, he says he also drank urine. "For four days [after the death of his companion] I wanted to kill myself," Albarengo tells the Telegraph. "But I couldn’t feel the desire—I didn’t want to feel the pain. I couldn’t do it." (Read more castaway stories.)

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