Man Says He Survived on Birds, Turtles for 13 Months

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The man who washed up on the shores of a tiny Marshall Island named Ebon last week got a chance to tell his story today. Some say it sounds to good to be true:

Jose Salvador Alvarenga, 37, told the U.S. ambassador in the Marshall Islands and the nation’s officials that he left Mexico in December 2012 to go shark fishing for the day but got caught in a storm and lost. He says he survived by eating fish, birds, and turtles and drinking birds’ blood.

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“It’s hard for me to imagine someone surviving 13 months at sea,” US. Ambassador Tom Armbruster told The Associated Press. “But it’s also hard to imagine how someone might arrive on Ebon out of the blue. Certainly this guy has had an ordeal, and has been at sea for some time.”

Alvarenga said a teenage boy who was with him died after about a month. When he saw the island of Ebon — 5,500 miles from where he left land — he swam to shore.

Alvarenga, a native of El Salvador who lives in Mexico, catches sharks for a living. He appears to be in decent health, officials reported, other than a limp, and complaints of joint pain, and slightly low blood pressure. His hair and beard were long, and he looked puffy in places but not emaciated.

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“It does sound like an incredible story and I’m not sure if I believe his story,” Gee Bing, the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, told The AP. “When we saw him, he was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past. I may have some doubts. Once we start communicating with where he’s from, we’ll be able to find out more information.”

Image: Corbis