Jose Salvador Alvarenga (right) of El Salvador with Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak prior to his departure at the airport in Majuro yesterday.
MAJURO: Castaway José Salvador Alvarenga, who claims to have spent 13 months drifting across the Pacific, has flown out of the Marshall Islands on his way home to El Salvador.
Alvarenga shook hands with the island nation’s President, Christopher Loeak, in a brief ceremony at the airport on Monday before departing from where he washed up 12 days ago with an amazing story of survival.
“Thank you for everything the people of the Marshall Islands have done for me during my stay,” the 37-year-old fisherman said through an interpreter as Loeak placed a woven lei garland around his neck. Alvarenga will arrive in Hawaii in the early hours today and then travel to San Salvador to be reunited with the family, who had long thought he was dead.
It will be a quicker and more comfortable journey across the Pacific than the 12,500km sea journey which began when a fishing trip off the Mexican coast went awry in late 2012.
Alvarenga says he stayed alive in his 7m fibreglass boat on a diet of raw fish and bird flesh, with only turtle blood and his own urine to drink. He said last week that his crewmate — named as 24-year-old Ezequiel Cordoba — could not stomach such foodstuffs and starved to death four months into the voyage.
Officials have said his story checks out and survival experts concede living in such conditions is theoretically possible, supporting the veracity of what could be one of history’s greatest maritime endurance feats.