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Thread: Man survives over a year adrift on the ocean

  1. #1 Man survives over a year adrift on the ocean 
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Jose Salvador Alvarenga
    survives over a year
    adrift at sea



    I think we've all seen the news stories about this guy. Amazing at first, then incredible (literally) after a while. Officials and the media turned to this guy "claiming" to survive adrift across the Pacific Ocean. Quite frankly, I don't see any plausible reason to discredit or downplay his claim. I mean, sweet mercy, look at the location of the Marshall Islands (below), where else could he have come from? Without a doubt, he began off Mexico and ended up in the Marshall Islands. This is a guy who didn't, for example, walk out of the wilderness in northern Canada and claim to have been in the wilderness for over a year. I mean, between Mexico and the Marshall Islands, there's no place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (or reasonably nearby) to "hang out" while the story of him gone missing builds — for more than a year — without him being recognized after his rescue. He speaks only Spanish. There's no easy way for someone to "drop him off" near the Marshall Islands so he can "conveniently" drift ashore. So he ate raw seafood; so do native people in Canada, Alaska and Greenland. If it's a hoax — which I very seriously doubt — then it's quite the elaborate and expensive and improbable hoax.


    I would like to hear your opinions about this event and how well you think you would survive, especially mentally and emotionally. Officials and experts question the changes in his story about what happened, and they question his good health. So, when for over a year, your world consists of a 24ft/7m boat (because I certainly wouldn't want to jump in the water or even dangle my feet in it), and it is only under the control of the natural elements, and your only goal is staying alive, what do you think would happen to your brain and thought patterns and memory and personality? I would think such a situation would cause the average person to loose their mind.

    Your comments, opinions and speculations please.


    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  3. #2  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Is he claiming that he never spent any time on land at all? If that's the case I'd have to know more about how he got all the fresh water he needed and if he caught fish he must have had all the gear he needed for a full year. How many people going out on a small boat would have that much fishing gear? Next, what about bad weather? How could a small boat survive or just get lucky enough to miss all the bad weather?

    Did you see anywhere where he answered all the questions needed to satisfy that kind of claim and make it sound believable?


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  4. #3  
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    No land at all. He is a fisherman, caught plenty of fish, turtles and birds, and drank rainwater and animal blood, and in dire times his own urine. There were bouts of bad weather, but only a few days in all – or at a time.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  5. #4  
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    While I have doubts, none of them are serious.

    He was in a 24' boat developed for coastal work and breaking seas. I've spent my life around small boats and at that size; it's actually a relatively large boat and seamanship is far more important in open boats than anything else--and he had a pretty good one and as a fisherman was probably had very strong seamanship.

    He was on a fishing boat, probably with nets (I worked as a commercial gill netter in the late 1970s-80s). Modern nets survive several seasons with relatively minor mending. If there was fish around ( a big IF, but he might have been lucky...or worse got a boost from his partner, a relatively common event in many similar 19th century survival settings), I have little doubt, he had the gear to catch them as well as what ever he was able to adapt to catch seabirds.

    Fresh water and exposure was probably his biggest challenges--that I'd like to know more about. Nutrition would also be a big concern--how did he avoid scurvy, rickets and other serious nutritional problems.

    Emotionally and psychologically I think he probably only had one serous challenge...one that cited time and time again in studies of survival--maintaining a will to live. I find the notion that he'd "loose his mind" a silly notion that all too often comes from people who've perhaps lived in cities too much or pop psychological pseudoscience) (no offense)--humans are very well adapted and capable of living by themselves for years without serious psychological problems.
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    It sounds plausible enough to me. I was skeptical when I heard about it at first before I read anything because I was imagining him being on some little raft/inflatable boat. But since it was much bigger than I imagined and equipped with fishing gear, I guess it could happen. Getting water would have been my biggest issue.
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  7. #6  
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    It all smells a bit fishy to me.
    I have my doubts. 14 months is a very long time to be adrift and he looks a bit too healthy. Too well fed.

    I really don't know enough about it to judge and I really am not concerned whether it is a hoax or not.
    I want to respond to the discussion part of the question.
    I doubt if I would have survived on fish and whatever for that long. The deepwater is not really well stocked with fish at the surface.
    Last edited by dan hunter; February 15th, 2014 at 10:57 PM.
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  8. #7  
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    Yes, water would be my main concern too because sea life of some sort (maybe even seaweed) seems easy enough to get with fishing gear. I wouldn't be too happy about drinking raw blood, but hey, you do what you must do.

    Mentally, I might be okay for a week or two, but after one month, I think I'd start to really worry. This guy seems to have been at home dealing with nature's elements, but if, let's say, I was out in a rented boat by myself, I wouldn't be so able with surviving or happy about my predicament.

    The stormy days would certainly alarm me. Apparently, he did not encounter any really serious storms, and I think he could "read" the weather at sea better than me and be more at home with "rough" weather.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    It all smells a bit fishy to me.
    I have my doubts. 14 months is a very long time to be adrift and he looks a bit too healthy. Too well fed.

    OH, I just remembered, he started out with some 15 year old kid on the boat with him too.
    Yah, of course he was well fed.
    You're not alone about him being well-fed. And it seems common that questions about cannibalism crop up around these incidents. I think I could not do it, but I've never been there. I would not blame anyone for doing it, and I would not blame anyone for denying it.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  10. #9  
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    I decided to edit the macabre part out of it because I thought it might be in bad taste.
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  11. #10  
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    Sorry for answering posts out of order.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    ...

    Nutrition would also be a big concern--how did he avoid scurvy, rickets and other serious nutritional problems.
    ...

    I find the notion that he'd "loose his mind" a silly notion that all too often comes from people who've perhaps lived in cities too much or pop psychological pseudoscience) (no offense)--humans are very well adapted and capable of living by themselves for years without serious psychological problems.
    Nutritional problems. .. Apparently, eating raw meat provides sufficient nutrients so the diet may lack vegetables without any deficiencies. Consider the endless healthy generations of Eskimos and Inuits who eat/ate raw seafood. They use(d) animal fats for lighting, but I don't know that they cook(ed) anything. Cooking breaks down the meat for easier digestion, but it also ruins nutrients.

    Losing his mind ... (No offense taken.) I've worked alone for long periods on third shift, which was mostly sleeping and working and very little socializing, even on the weekends, and I had to start talking to myself as I really missed being around people. But he was a fisherman, maybe often alone (who knows?), so he may have become accustomed to it, and he had plenty of access to daylight, that third-shifters don't have, which helps one's mental health.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Sorry for answering posts out of order.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    ...

    Nutrition would also be a big concern--how did he avoid scurvy, rickets and other serious nutritional problems.
    ...

    I find the notion that he'd "loose his mind" a silly notion that all too often comes from people who've perhaps lived in cities too much or pop psychological pseudoscience) (no offense)--humans are very well adapted and capable of living by themselves for years without serious psychological problems.
    Nutritional problems. .. Apparently, eating raw meat provides sufficient nutrients so the diet may lack vegetables without any deficiencies. Consider the endless healthy generations of Eskimos and Inuits who eat/ate raw seafood. They use(d) animal fats for lighting, but I don't know that they cook(ed) anything. Cooking breaks down the meat for easier digestion, but it also ruins nutrients.

    Losing his mind ... (No offense taken.) I've worked alone for long periods on third shift, which was mostly sleeping and working and very little socializing, even on the weekends, and I had to start talking to myself as I really missed being around people. But he was a fisherman, maybe often alone (who knows?), so he may have become accustomed to it, and he had plenty of access to daylight, that third-shifters don't have, which helps one's mental health.
    There are different levels of being alone, and I have to believe being stuck drifting in the middle of the ocean with no one in sight for weeks on end is quite serious indeed. But I think maybe the distraction of trying to stay alive would help some. Even the most dedicated hermits know they can find other humans if they need to and that is way different from being isolated with no chance of ever seeing another human being.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    ....with no chance of ever seeing another human being.
    Part of the will to live is never believing there is "no chance."
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    ....with no chance of ever seeing another human being.
    Part of the will to live is never believing there is "no chance."
    That's the kind of attitude that will prolong your suffering before you die. But it's very hard to know what you would do unless you find yourself in that situation and fortunately most of us never will.
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    There are so many unbelievable stories that are true, I would not want to be the one to say anything is not possible. Humans are adaptable to anything when they have the mode of survival turned on. They say cats have nine lives, I say humans have any amount.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    There are so many unbelievable stories that are true
    Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. — Mark Twain

    The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. — Tom Clancy
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    There are so many unbelievable stories that are true
    Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. — Mark Twain

    The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. — Tom Clancy
    But truth has to make sense too, or am I missing the point?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    But truth has to make sense too, or am I missing the point?
    Does reality TV or Justin Bieber make sense? At some level I guess they do . . . .
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    Can you really catch fish on a continual/periodic basis week after week for over 52 weeks in a row in high seas as you drift across the pacific ocean? What fishing equipment was he fishing with? I dont know anything about fishing but that's an impressive tale.


    He is a fisherman, caught plenty of fish, turtles and birds

    How? How did he catch turtles and birds???
    Last edited by icewendigo; February 19th, 2014 at 02:59 PM.
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  20. #19  
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    I'm not sure why so many people are getting stuck on the idea that a fishing boat being propelled by a pair of fisherman has fishing gear. Heck I usually bring enough gear on my 12 foot dory to catch fish for months. (and every other boat I've ever used). Nets with weights under the drifting boat to catch fish and turtles; an improvised trap from another piece of a net across the deck baited with a fish head or two to catch birds. It's a question of whether the fish, turtles and birds were there--not whether he had to the means to catch them.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I'm not sure why so many people are getting stuck on the idea that a fishing boat being propelled by a pair of fisherman has fishing gear. Heck I usually bring enough gear on my 12 foot dory to catch fish for months. (and every other boat I've ever used). Nets with weights under the drifting boat to catch fish and turtles; an improvised trap from another piece of a net across the deck baited with a fish head or two to catch birds. It's a question of whether the fish, turtles and birds were there--not whether he had to the means to catch them.
    There are many places in the ocean where you aren't going to run into fish, birds or turtles for very long periods of time. Even if I had all the equipment to last for a full year. There's been many times I've gone out fishing in known good fishing spots and got skunked. I sure wouldn't want to bet my life on being able to catch enough food. Also, water is always a big problem. Lots of people have died of thirst on the open ocean. I will say it might be possible, but it doesn't seem very likely at least not the way it's being presented as having happened.
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    Can you really catch fish on a continual/periodic basis week after week for over 52 weeks in a row in high seas as you drift across the pacific ocean? What fishing equipment was he fishing with? I dont know anything about fishing but that's an impressive tale.


    He is a fisherman, caught plenty of fish, turtles and birds

    How? How did he catch turtles and birds???
    Sometimes when you cast the hook in the water the birds think there is food so they pick up the line and get hooked. Turtles are easy to catch. Those kind of stories are hard to believe because they are too extreme, but it could be true. You hear of people surviving from events that are one in a million.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    There are so many unbelievable stories that are true
    Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. — Mark Twain

    The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. — Tom Clancy
    But truth has to make sense too, or am I missing the point?
    Oh yes, by definition, the truth must always make sense. However, it's merely a matter of whether the truth makes sense to us.

    Consider the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake. Most of the newborn babies in the maternity ward of a collapsed hospital survived for several days (up to seven days, I believe) without any water, food or nourishment. They were called "miracle babies" because they defied what people thought was reality — that such babies could not survive that long.

    When this reality contradicted believable facts, doctors basically began making up excuses for why the babies survived (babies are born very well hydrated, newborns expend very little energy, newborns have a layer of fat, newborns usually lose weight, etc). Such "excuses" are the only way to explain why they survived. No way could a modern researcher say, "Hey, let's take a newborn baby and utterly neglect it, and see how long it will survive."
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