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Man lost on the Pacific Ocean for '16 months' reaches shore on remote Ebon Atoll

In a story similar to the plot of the film Castaway starring Tom Hanks, Jose Ivan was found on the atoll having floated 8,000 miles from Mexico

Antonia Molloy
Friday 31 January 2014 12:54 GMT
Tom Hanks in the 2000 film Castaway
Tom Hanks in the 2000 film Castaway (20th Century Fox)

An emaciated man, who claimed to have spent 16 months adrift at sea, has been rescued after being washed up on a remote Pacific atoll.

The man, with a dishevelled appearance, was spotted by two locals on Thursday when his 24-foot fibreglass boat with propellerless engines washed up on to the reef at Ebon Atoll, after floating more than 12,500 kilometres (8,000 miles) from Mexico.

"His condition isn't good, but he's getting better," Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student doing research on Ebon, told AFP by telephone. "He has a long beard and hair."

Fjeldstad said that the castaway, who was clad only in a pair of ragged underpants, claims to have left Mexico for Salvador in September 2012 with a companion, who died at sea several months ago.

The man, who speaks only Spanish, was able to provide merely sketchy details of his survival, but said his name was Jose Ivan.

"The boat is really scratched up and looks like it has been in the water for a long time," said the researcher.

Jose Ivan was found washed up on Ebon Atoll (inset) which is part of the Marshall Islands (Getty)

Ivan appears to have survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and by drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.

He caught the animals with his bare hands as there was no fishing gear on board the boat. There was a turtle on the boat when it landed at Ebon.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ivan's story is not an anomaly and there have been various tales of survival in the vast Pacific.

In 2006, three Mexicans made international headlines when they were discovered drifting in their boat in the middle of the ocean, nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.

And in 1992, two fishermen from Kiribati were at sea for 177 days before coming ashore in Samoa.

The man is thought to have floated 8,000 miles from Mexico to the other side of the Pacific

Fictional tales of survival have also captured the public imagination in recent years. Yann Martel's best-selling 2001 novel, Life of Pi, tells the story of an Indian boy cast adrift in the Pacific after a shipwreck that claims the lives of his family and, in 2000, Tom Hanks played a man stranded on an uninhabited Pacific island in the film Castaway.

According to Fjeldstad, the Marshall islanders who discovered Ivan took him to the main island on the atoll to meet Mayor Ione de Brum, who put in a call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Majuro.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry said on Friday they were waiting to get more details and for the man to be brought to Majuro, AFP reported.

The government has only one plane that can land at Ebon, but it is currently down for maintenance and is not expected to return to service until Tuesday at the earliest. Officials are considering sending a boat to pick up Ivan.

He's staying at the local council house and a family is feeding him," said Fjeldstad, who added that the man had a basic health check and was found to have low blood pressure.

However, he did not appear to have any life-threatening illness and was able to walk with the aid of men on the island.

"We've been giving him a lot of water, and he's gaining strength," said the Norwegian.

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