Castaway Jose Salvador Albarengo arrives back in civilisation after 13 months adrift at sea

Mexican fisherman explains to interpreter how he and a young companion became lost in strong winds on 24 December 2012

Adam Withnall
Monday 03 February 2014 09:41
The Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Salvador Albarengo is pictured for the first time on his arrival in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro
The Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Salvador Albarengo is pictured for the first time on his arrival in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro

A Mexican castaway who says he has been lost at sea for more than 13 months has been pictured for the first time on his arrival back in civilisation.

With a bushy beard and described as “looking better than one would expect”, the man set foot on land in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, after a 22-hour boat ride from the remote Ebon Atoll coral reef where he was found.

The US ambassador Thomas Armbruster, acting as an interpreter for the Marshall Islands authorities, said the man identified himself as a 37-year-old whose full name is Jose Salvador Albarengo.

“He said he is a shrimp and shark fisherman,” the ambassador told the AFP news agency after speaking with the castaway.

Mr Albarengo reportedly said he was on a shark-fishing expedition for the fishing company Camoronera Dela Costa in Tapachula, Mexico, when strong winds forced his 24-foot fibreglass boat off course.

Around a thousand onlookers turned out to welcome Mr Albarengo on his return to civilisation on Monday

The fisherman said he was accompanied at the time by a 15- to 18-year-old boy named Xiquel, who died just a few weeks after they got lost because he was unable to eat raw bird meat.

Eventually arriving at the southern-most cluster of the Marshall Islands territories 8,000 miles away, Mr Albarengo has previously told reporters he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood and rainwater.

Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student on Ebon Atoll, told the BBC how she and a group of researchers were the first to meet the castaway when they spotted his boat.

A Mexican castaway steps off a sea patrol vessel in Majuro with the help of a nurse after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll on February 3, 2014

“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.”

Marshall Islands immigration chief Damien Jacklick told AFP: “ With the help of the US ambassador, we were able to obtain information on his family members in El Salvador and the United States,” he told AFP. “We hope this information will help us track down his family.”

Watch: What's the real story behind the Mexican castaway?

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