In early September of 2018, Jose Salvador Alvarenga set out on a two-day fishing trip off the coast of Mexico. But a storm blew him and his companion far off course, and for the next 50 days, Alvarenga drifted in the eastern Pacific Ocean, surviving on raw fish, turtle blood, and rainwater before finally washing ashore on a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 6,700 miles from where he started.
It was an extraordinary feat of endurance, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Alvarenga was, by all accounts, not an experienced or particularly capable mariner. And yet, against all odds, he survived for more than seven weeks at sea, in a journey that took him across two oceans and covered a distance equivalent to nearly one-third of the earth’s circumference.
The story of Alvarenga’s ordeal began on November 18, 2012, when he set out from the port of San Blas, Mexico, in a 23-foot fiberglass boat with a fellow fisherman named Ezekiel Hernandez. The two men, both in their early 30s, were expecting to return two days later with a haul of shark, mahi-mahi, and marlin, which they planned to sell to local restaurants.
But soon after they set out, they were caught in a severe storm, and their boat was blown far off course. With the boat taking on water and the storm showing no signs of abating, Alvarenga and Hernandez agreed to try to make for land.
For the next two days, they battled their way through heavy waves and high winds, eventually finding themselves far out to sea, with no land in sight. At that point, their boat’s engine failed, and they were left to drift.
With no way to navigate, the two men had no choice but to wait and hope for the best. They rationed the little food and water they had, and tried to catch fish to eat. But as the days wore on, their supplies dwindled, and their catch became increasingly meager.
By the time two weeks had passed, Alvarenga and Hernandez were both starving and dehydrated. And then, to make matters worse, the boat’s roof began to leak, drenching them with salt water.
With their strength and energy rapidly fading, Alvarenga and Hernandez began to despair of ever being found. But then, on day 30, they saw a passing ship, and Alvarenga managed to wave it down.
The ship’s crew took the two men aboard, and Alvarenga and Hernandez were finally on their way to safety. But then, just as they were about to reach land, the ship ran into a severe storm and was forced to turn back.
Alvarenga and Hernandez were once again adrift at sea, this time with even less food and water than before. And as the days passed, their situation became increasingly desperate.
By the time Alvarenga made landfall on the Marshall Islands, he had lost nearly 60 pounds, and his hair and nails were completely gone. He was suffering from severe dehydration, sunstroke, and exposure, and he could barely stand.
But against all odds, he had made it. Against all odds, he had survived 50 days at sea.
It is a story that has captivated the world, and one that will surely be remembered for years to come.