An emaciated man whose boat washed up on the shores of the Pacific’s Marshall Islands is reportedly telling a harrowing tale of being adrift for 16 months, surviving on fish, birds, and turtle blood.
The man—who only speaks Spanish—says he drifted more than 8,000 miles in his 24-foot fiberglass boat, after leaving Mexico for El Salvador in September 2012, the AFP reports. He had been traveling with a companion who he says died at sea several months ago.
Two locals discovered the man Thursday when his boat with propeller-less engines floated onto the reef at Ebon Atoll. He has long hair and a beard, and was wearing only ragged underwear, the report said.
"His condition isn't good, but he's getting better," Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student told AFP by phone. Fjeldstad is part of a group doing research on Ebon-- the southernmost outpost of the Marshall Islands-- who was helping the man.
It’s been difficult to get more details on the man’s story because of a language barrier, but he told the researchers his name is Jose Ivan. He did say that he survived by eating birds and fish he caught with his bare hands, and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.
No fishing gear was found on the boat and Ivan suggested he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands. There was a turtle on the vessel when it landed at Ebon.
"The boat is really scratched up and looks like it has been in the water for a long time," Fjeldstad said.
The locals who found Ivan took him to the main island, which is so remote there’s only one phone line at the local council house and no Internet. There he met Mayor Ione de Brum, who put in a call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro, Fjeldstad told AFP.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry said Friday they were waiting for the man to be brought to Majuro to get more information.
"He's staying at the local council house and a family is feeding him," said Fjeldstad.
Ivan had a basic health check and reportedly had low blood pressure, but he did not appear to have any life-threatening illness and was able to walk with help.
"We've been giving him a lot of water, and he's gaining strength," said Fjeldstad.