An emaciated man survived 16 months adrift at sea, eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood, having floated up to 12,870km from Mexico to a remote Pacific atoll, it was claimed yesterday.

A Norwegian researcher said the man - who only speaks Spanish and has a long beard - was not in a good condition after his 7.3m fibreglass boat washed up on the reef at Ebon Atoll.

If confirmed, the feat would be an unbelievable tale of survival, reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film Cast Away.

The man, who was dressed only in ragged underpants when he came ashore, apparently set off from Mexico heading for El Salvador in September 2012. He was travelling with a companion, who apparently died at sea several months ago.


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

Ebon, which has a population of around 1000, is an atoll of 22 small islands that makes up part of the Marshall Islands.

Details of his survival were not clear, Fjeldstad said, but he said his name was Jose Ivan.

The man had low blood pressure and was incredibly thin, but was able to walk and had no life-threatening condition.

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

Ivan indicated that he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain. No fishing equipment was on the boat and Ivan suggested he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands.

There was a turtle on the boat when it landed at Ebon.

Stories of survival in the vast Pacific are not uncommon.


In 2006, three Mexicans made international headlines when they were discovered drifting in the middle of the ocean in their stricken boat, 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.

According to Fjeldstad, the Marshall Islanders who found 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 there said they were waiting to get more details and for the man to be brought to Majuro.

The government airline's only plane that can land at Ebon is down for maintenance and is not expected to return to service until Tuesday at the earliest, with officials considering sending a boat to pick up Ivan.

"He's staying at the local council house and a family is feeding him," said Fjeldstad.

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

The Marshall Islands, in the northern Pacific, are home to barely 60,000 people spread over 24 atolls, with most of them standing at an average of just 2m above sea level.