Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Skeptical Authorities Hammer Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga

A grateful Salvador Alvarenga explains how a shark fisherman ends up on national news.  Photo from Telegraph video.

Video Courtesy The Telegraph

Castaway and long term ocean survivor, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, tells a great survival story or spins a great yarn.  Authorites remain skeptical about Alvarenga's claims of  floating 13 months in a small boat across the Pacific.  They don't see how a person could survive for that long of a time adrift.  The MSN writer who relates Alvarenga's tale says, "If true, his ordeal would rank among the greatest tales ever of survival at sea."

Alvarenga scooped up small fish and
 turtles to survive months at sea.

Gee Bing, the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, remains unbelieving.

"It does sound like an incredible story, and I'm not sure if I believe his story," Bing said. "When we saw him, he was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past."

Bing, no doubt, has never seen a starvation victim.  They are often bloated due to protein deficiency.  As the body dines on itself, limbs swell along with other features.  That causes incredible joint pain.  The liver often becomes fatty which contributes to the appearance of bloating.  In reality, the condition eventually leads to death.

Alvarenga and a youth who Alvarenga calls Ezekiel, went to sea from the Mexican town of Tonala in Southern Chiapas, Mexico.  The shark fisherman had been living in Mexico for over 15 years, according to reports.  Soon after setting out, a storm blew them off course.  

San Francisco De Tonala, Mexico

Unfortunately, according to Alvarenga, his youthful companion died after the two had been at sea for about a month.  Some people react to being trapped in hopeless conditions better than others.  On December 21st, 2012, or whenever they set out, life would change forever for both of the men.  Alvarenga, a native of El Salvador, was making $1.90 a pound hunting sharks and selling the meat to a Mexican named "Willie" when the adventure began.

Villermino Rodriguez Solis, whose son is called Willie, and who buys shark meat, said the heavy-set Salvador native and a youth set out on November 18th, 2012.  If true, that puts Alvarenga at sea for over 14 months with a trip across of the Pacific of over 6,500 miles.  Solis said fishermen searched for the pair for four days.  

Solis is based in Costa Azul, a fishing town near Tonala.  Solis said no one really knows who Alvarenga is.  They called him "La Chancha", translated as "the dirty person" in Mexican slang.  He showed up about 15 years ago looking for work.  It was clear he knew what he was doing when hunting shark.

Jaime Esaqui, an immigrant from Mexico, says the story makes perfect sense.  Esaqui says migrants, who are often amongst the poorest people in Mexico, often lack even a rudimentary education.  They are not adept at calendars, dates and details about where their relatives live.  Hence, Alvarenga's inability to pinpoint where his relatives live in the U.S. may sound deceptive to a person whose life is in perfect order.

"They deal with people on a first name basis and often don't know details about last names or even be accurate about dates.  It has nothing to do with their intellect.  Rather, it speaks to the limited opportunities they have enjoyed during their lives."

Having survived at sea for an incredible amount of time, Alvarenga will likely be deported somewhere.  Mexico was mentioned as one possible destination, El Salvador was mentioned as a second likely candidate.

Alvarenga appears to be in good health, but complains of joint pain and walks with a limp.

Meanwhile, relatives of the 7 crew members aboard the Nina, a 1928 schooner that went missing in the Tasman Sea South of the Marshall Islands in June of 2013, say authorities are skeptical about the survivability of the crew on the Nina.  Some family members point to Alvarenga, who floated unseen for 6,500 miles, and who survived for over 12 months on a small boat, as evidence not only that the Nina is afloat, but there are likely survivors.  Authorities suspended the search for the Nina on July 5th, 2013 and have been unwilling to lend much support to the families who have launched their own search.

Reports from the Associated Press were relied upon in writing this article.

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