Daily Telegraph:

This is the boat in which Jose Salvador Alvarenga, a fisherman from El Salvador, apparently drifted 8,000 miles from the coast of Mexico during a remarkable 13-month voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Amid fierce speculation about the veracity of Mr Alvarenga's tale, the photographs show that the 37-year-old landed in the Marshall Islands in a heavily-damaged small fibreglass vessel with a broken motor.

The boat, about 24-feet long, was empty aside from a small blue container in which Mr Alvarenga would hide, to seek shelter from the sun. It was emblazoned with the name Camaroneros de la Costa, apparently the fishing cooperative for which Mr Alvarenga worked in Mexico.

Mr Alvarenga washed onto a remote atoll last week, saying he had been adrift for more than a year and survived on birds, sharks, turtles, fish and barnacles. He said he left Mexico in December 2012 on a one-day fishing trip with a 15-year-old, whom he knew only as Ezekiel. The teenager died four months into the voyage after refusing to eat.

Given that Alain Bombard's journey lasted for 65 days, during which he had lost 25 kg of weight and had to be hospitalized upon reaching his destination, the man on the photo looks surprisingly healthy for a person who had undergone such a lengthy drift in the open ocean.

Can this story be true?

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    the american ambassador Armbruster finds it hard to imagine (dutch link), the oceanographer believes that the trajectory is plausible – ratchet freak Feb 4 '14 at 12:58
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    Fresh water supply would be a big problem in an unprepared trip like this I'd imagine. Scurvy too after about 3 months. – Vincent Malgrat Feb 4 '14 at 17:08
  • I've read sources that claim fluids came from drinking the blood of the captured sea turtles, and possibly also from birds. – crush Feb 4 '14 at 18:09

The story is "probable", although for a definitive determination, we must rely on trusting the statements by the lone survivor of the events. He has at least passed a lie detector test (with the inherent skepticism inherent in that).

The castaway who claims he spent more than a year lost at sea, drifting some 6,000 miles from Mexico to a remote Pacific atoll, passed lie detector tests when questioned about his experience, his lawyer said at a news conference in El Salvador Friday, according to Reuters.

According to his accounts, he managed to stay "healthy" by eating a lot of birds and turtles. As a professional fisherman, he at least has the skills needed to catch this type of wildlife. And Claude Piantadosi, a professor of medicine at Duke University and author of the book The Biology of Human Survival, answered most of the skeptical questions regarding the survival of Mr. Alavengra with the CBC (in particular the scurvy claim):

Q: Without fruit and vegetables, wouldn't he have developed scurvy?

A: Actually, unlike humans, birds and turtles make their own vitamin C, so fresh meat from those creatures, especially the livers, would provide sufficient vitamin C to prevent scurvy. British sailors used to get scurvy because they ate preserved meat which had oxidized and lost its vitamin C.

And his health may not have been reflected in his appearance. He was admitted a second time to the hospital after his first stay for malnutrition.

Alvarenga, an El Salvadoran who had been living in Mexico before he got lost at sea, washed ashore in the Marshall Islands more than a week ago. Earlier this week, his condition improved enough for him to be released from the hospital.

But after his health took a turn for the worse Thursday, plans for his repatriation to El Salvador have now been postponed.

Various oceanography groups have said the story is plausible as well. Hawaii:

A US study at the University of Hawai'i of the prevailing wind and current conditions has supported his tale of survival, with a model tracing a remarkably narrow path across the Pacific to pass within 120 miles of Ebon.

Or New South Wales:

The timing is pretty plausible, with strong currents bringing Alvarenga from Mexico to the Marshall Islands, notes AP citing Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer form the University of New South Wales. He said the trip would usually take between 18 months to two years but did not rule out 13 months.

So, yes, it's certainly possible that this event is a real life tale of survival and endurance (coming to a screen near you?).

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    I hope this meets the standards of the site from a newbie here. :) – JasonR Jun 3 '14 at 18:17
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    That's some nice summary, well done, thanks! – Quassnoi Jun 3 '14 at 18:54
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    What would have been a primary source of fresh water? – DLeh Jun 3 '14 at 20:16
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    @DLeh "The Pacific's regular squalls would have provided some rainwater that he could have scooped from the bottom of his boat" - Claude Piantadosi, from the linked article – msmucker0527 Jun 4 '14 at 13:41
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    @DLeh Are you questioning the plausibility of "regular Pacific rain squalls" or the plausibility of a thirsty man scooping gathered rainwater from the bottom of his boat? I would assume both are as plausible as a sunrise. – JasonR Jun 26 '14 at 19:52

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