Jose Alvarenga, 36, shocked the world when he turned up after 438 days drifting across the Pacific Ocean. He was discovered on a remote island 8,000 miles from the coast of Mexico. He had not been seen since leaving the Costa Azul in November 2012 with Ezequiel Cordoba, 22. The fishermen disappeared after going to catch fish and sharks in a basic 25ft boat with no shelter.
The pair were presumed dead. But for 14 months, Alvarenga had been drifting at sea before he washed up on the Marshall Islands. Unfortunately, Cordoba got ill from eating raw seabird for about four months and died.
Now, for the first time Alvarenga has revealed mind-blowing new details of his survival.
But every 15 minutes or so, they had to take turns to venture out and bale out water which threatened sinking the boat.
For nourishment, Alvarenga perfected a technique of grabbing fish from the side of the boat with his bare hands and throwing them into the boat.
“I was so hungry that I was eating my own fingernails, swallowing all the little pieces,” he said.
Alvarenga and Cordoba had been strangers before they set off on the fishing trip. The younger man was to be paid just 50 dollars for his labour.
And tragically, Cordoba became ill after eating raw seabirds and began refusing food. He died after the pair laid down to take a nap.
Alvarenga said he kept his new friend’s body in the boat for six days, talking to it because he couldn’t bear the loneliness.
He said he asked the diseased questions such as “How was your sleep?” and “Have you had breakfast?” as he refused to accept the tragedy.
Eventually, Alvarenga took the heartbreaking decision to take Cordoba’s clothes and then slide his body into the water.
Life on land has not been simple: for months, Alvarenga was still in shock. He had developed a deep fear of not only the ocean, but even the sight of water.
“I suffered hunger, thirst and an extreme loneliness, and didn’t take my life,” Alvarenga says. “You only get one chance to live – so appreciate it.”