Questions remain about fisherman's miracle survival

Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Ivan steps off the 'Lomor' Sea Patrol vessel in Majuro with help from a nurse. Photo / AFP
Mexican castaway who identified himself as Jose Ivan steps off the 'Lomor' Sea Patrol vessel in Majuro with help from a nurse. Photo / AFP

A man who spent 14 months lost at sea is enjoying his new-found celebrity status on the Marshall Islands.

Sporting a mane of bushy hair and burly beard, the man previously identified as Jose Ivan - who survived by drinking turtle blood and eating fish and birds he caught with his bare hands - clutched a can of Coke as he was helped down the gangplank of a police patrol boat.

It is understood he has spent more than a year adrift in the Pacific Ocean, after apparently setting sail from Mexico in late 2012.

He was spotted yesterday, when he came ashore at the remote Marshall Island capital, Majuro.

Offering a wave and a smile, he told the MailOnline: "I'm alive and I can't believe it. I cannot remember much about my journey. It has all gone into one thought - the sea, the sea. "I thank God and I thank the birds I caught to eat. I caught fish and at times I drank my own urine to have liquid."

About 1000 curious onlookers crowded the dock for a glimpse of the long-haired fisherman, who smiled and waved briefly before he was whisked away for a medical check-up at Majuro Hospital.

The castaway told US ambassador Thomas Armbruster, acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was from El Salvador but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.

"He said he is a shrimp and shark fisherman," Armbruster said yesterday in Majuro, minutes after talking to him. "He looked better than one would expect."

And foreign ministry officials said he had told them during a debriefing aboard the patrol boat that his full name was Jose Salvador Albarengo.

He was found disoriented and clad only in ragged underpants last Thursday, after his 7.3-metre fibreglass boat floated on to a reef at Ebon Atoll, the southernmost cluster of coral islands in the Marshalls.

Unable to speak English, he communicated to his rescuers through pictures and gestures that he had survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.

No details have yet emerged about why he began drifting the 12,500km expanse between southern Mexico and the Marshall Islands, or about the fate of a companion he said had died a few months ago.

Marshall Islands immigration chief Damien Jacklick said authorities were still gathering information and the foreign affairs department planned to contact overseas officials for his repatriation.

Medics plan to give Albarengo a thorough medical check before he is interviewed by detectives.

- AFP

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