In 2012 he and his crew mate got caught in a monster storm while fishing off the coast of Mexico. The GPS stopped working, then the engine motor broke and they drifted far out into the ocean. So far in fact that Alvarenga next stepped on land 438 days and 6,700 miles later on the Marshall Islands.
The story of his survival is so incredible that when he showed up many in the media called him out as a faker. But the facts around his disappearance have since been checked and proven to be true.
Here are nine mind-blowing things he did to survive while adrift at sea…
1. Drink turtle blood
And his own urine, of which he said in the book: “It was salty but not revolting…”
Fortunately it then rained and he fashioned an awesome rainwater-saving device.
2. Eat jellyfish
“It burned the top part of my throat, but wasn’t so bad.”
3. Eat actual rubbish
Which they’d found in plastic bags floating in the sea. One haul yielded: “half a head of cabbage, some carrots and a quart of milk – half-rancid, but still they drank it.”
He also got so hungry he ate his own fingernails, and raw birds and turtles, which he’d later discover had infected his liver with parasites.
4. Fish with his hands
With remarkable deftness, as the book says:
“He kneeled alongside the edge of the boat, his eyes scanning for sharks, and shoved his arms into the water up to his shoulders. With his chest tightly pressed to the side of the boat, he kept his hands steady, a few inches apart. When a fish swam between his hands, he smashed them shut, digging his fingernails into the rough scales.”
5. Make his own anchor
Using 50 buoys, as his ship had left port without one. The buoys also provided drag and stability.
6. Sleep in a fridge
That had been used to keep fish. It sheltered him from the cold at night and sun in the day.
7. Use the moon to keep time
His grandfather had taught him to count the lunar cycles. He knew he’d seen 15 while adrift in the ocean.
8. Chat to a corpse
When his shipmate died of starvation caused by depression, Alvarenga kept speaking to him as if he was alive asking if he slept ok and so on, then answering his own questions.
He then realised how mad that was and slid his body into the sea causing him to feel more alone than ever.
9. Live in a fantasy world
Perhaps the most amazing part of this story. Alvarenga created an alternate fantasy world for himself to keep his head sane.
As the book says: “He imagined an alternative reality so believable that he could later say with total honesty that alone at sea he tasted the greatest meals of his life and experienced the most delicious sex. He was mastering the art of turning his solitude into a Fantasia-like world. He started his mornings with a long walk. “I would stroll back and forth on the boat and imagine that I was wandering the world. By doing this I could make myself believe that I was actually doing something. Not just sitting there, thinking about dying.” With this lively entourage of family, friends and lovers, Alvarenga insulated himself from bleak reality.”
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