Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga’s 'incredible story': Official says fishy tale may be too good to be true

Yet authorities in Mexico say reports of a missing boat – from the right company – corroborate the survivor’s account

The story of the castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga almost seems too good to be true – and a Marshall Islands official has lent his weight to naysayers by saying he “may have some doubts” that the survivor really spent more than 13 months adrift at sea.

Gee Bing, the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands where Mr Alvarenga’s boat washed up, said he remained sceptical of the castaway’s account after meeting with him on Monday.

Mr Alvarenga has identified himself as being a 37-year-old man originally from El Salvador, whose boat lost power off the coast of Mexico in December 2012. He said he survived the long journey across the Pacific Ocean by catching turtles, fish and birds with his bare hands and drinking turtle blood and rainwater.

“It does sound like an incredible story, and I'm not sure if I believe it,” Bing said. “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.”

After speaking to the castaway, US ambassador to the Marshalls Tom Armbruster said: “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.”

Perhaps explaining why Mr Alvarenga appeared “puffy” in places rather than simply emaciated, the ambassador said he had complained of swollen ankles, joint pain and that he struggled with walking.

Around a thousand onlookers turned out to welcome Mr Albarengo on his return to civilisation on Monday Around a thousand onlookers turned out to welcome Mr Albarengo on his return to civilisation on Monday This morning, authorities in Mexico confirmed there was indeed a report of a missing boat that could corroborate Mr Alvarenga’s account.

Chiapas rescue services official Jaime Marroquin told the Guardian a boat manned by two fishermen was reported missing from Costa Azul two days after setting out on 17 November 2012. Mr Marroquin said the report was lodged by a member of the Camaroneros de la Costa fishing company – which Mr Alvarenga has previously mentioned by name in an interview.

Erik van Sebille, a Sydney-based oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, said there was a good chance a boat drifting off Mexico's west coast would eventually be carried by currents to the Marshall Islands. He said such a journey would typically take 18 months to two years depending on the winds and currents, although 13 months was possible.

“The way that the currents in the Pacific work is that there is a very strong westerly current just north of the equator and that basically drives you directly from Mexico all the way toward Indonesia and in the path, you go right over the Marshall Islands,” he said.

Mr Van Sebille added that experts have measured the Pacific currents by tracking mounds of rubbish floating across the ocean – and said Mr Alvarenga was lucky to have hit the Marshalls when he did. If he hadn’t, he would probably have ended up floating into a giant floating garbage patch estimated to be the size of Western Australia.

Mr Armbruster said Mr Alvarenga claimed to have no family in Mexico, but that he does have three brothers who live in the US, although he could not immediately provide officials with contact details.

Mr Bing said that, apart from low blood pressure, the survivor's vital signs appeared to be good. After doctors give him the all-clear, Bing said, officials hope to repatriate him to whichever country is decided as appropriate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all