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Hellbent

438 days

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is a long time to spend bobbing about on the Pacific.

On November 17, 2015 the incredible account of Jose Salvador Alvarenga's survival at sea in a 24' fishing boat will be available on Amazon as a hardcover book.

On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

Most of the well known castaway sea survival accounts are around 2 months or less. 13 months is unheard of. So incredible is this man's story that many people have expressed doubts that it is even possible, and thus doubt the veracity of it (though they do not offer explanations for how he washed up on Ebon Atoll or how he spent the last 13 months of his life from the time he was reported missing off the coast of Mexico and when he was rescued). All available evidence corroborates that he drifted across the Pacific Ocean in an incredibly long ordeal of constant survival. I cannot wait to read this book; surely one of the greatest true stories of maritime survival ever, at least in recorded history. Also, it ties in nicely with the upcoming movie In The Heart of the Sea that is looking very promising as well (apart from being overly-hollywoodized) to be released 12/15/15.



The tragedy of The Essex really is one of the greatest true stories of survival ever told. Now to think that we have this even more incredible true story in Jose Salvador Alvarenga's account that just happened. I don't understand why this story is so under the radar. I literally had to go digging to find any information about the book, on the presumption that surely there would be a book that was going to come out? There is no advertising for it at all. If you do a google search for "Jose Salvador Alvarenga book" or something along those lines, you won't find it. I finally read in one line of one of the news articles about him that an award winning journalist Jonathan Franklin collaborated on a book, but the article gave no other details. I then had to do more sleuthing to figure out what the book was called! (I found it on the author's personal blog--does he not have a publicist???) I just... the mind boggles.... Possibly the greatest story of human survival ever... and there is like no publicity or seeming interest surrounding the launch of this book. Surely I'm not the only one who finds this account terribly fascinating?

I also tried to find interviews with Jonathan Franklin about his collaboration on the book; you know, you'd think Terry Gross from Fresh Air would have interviewed him about it.. no such luck; no interviews of any kind to be found. I just find it very odd. Maybe after collaborating with Mr. Alvarenga he realized the account was probably fabricated to some extent and so doesn't want to promote the book/tarnish his reputation? But if that's the case, why not just abandon the project? Someone throw me a life preserver here. I'm foundering in a sea of befuddlement.

Popular guy, he has 32 friends on FB: https://www.facebook.com/josesalvador.alvarenga

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So, a movie from a Jose Casual dude who survived 9000 miles on sea?

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/devilsadvocate

Dare I say that it sounds like this guy may have gone out fishing when they shouldn't have? If the tale actually starts with someone being irresponsible then what's to like? What then is the emotional hook? It seems that the only interesting aspect is that a human survived a long duration... like a record being set... so what? That's a statistic essentially... devoid of drama or emotion or purpose.

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Godling said:

devoid of drama or emotion or purpose.


Yeah but on the other side, you just described Twilight and look how well that did.

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Yeah well, the Joker's a pretend clown that kills dudes but people watch him. This is a real Mexican dude that almost got raped by dolphins or something. Even if he went out to sea at the wrong time, the fact is he got trapped at sea. You can blame a mountainclimber for climbing on a mountain, but you can't blame them for being trapped on a mountain because a falling rock pinned them.

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Jaxxoon R said:

...but you can't blame them for being trapped on a mountain because a falling rock pinned them.

... but I can blame them for climbing the mountain during an rock-slide.

So my point really was that you can generally see a storm coming... you can look at weather reports, satellite data, etc. What it sounds like this guy probably did was... saw rocks falling from the cliff in the distance... but thought "Naaah, I'll be fine. I've been hiking these trails forever and I'm still here aren't I?" It's akin to not feeling sorry for stranded skiers who only get stranded because they ski out-of-bounds. The public discussion after the skier is saved isn't so much "What a brave soul to have struggled and survived!" but more "Should we bill them for this unneeded rescue?"... let alone possibly fining them and charging them for needlessly endangering all the search and rescue staff's lives.

I'd agree though that a book or film would at least be interesting to watch... in a "I just love movies" and "accident scene drive by" sorta way... but I don't see any broader appeal here.

/needsmorewilson
/cynicmode_off

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Whatever the circumstances that led to him being stranded seems to be rather moot compared to the fact that he apparently survived for 438 days on the ocean. It's still an impressive feat.

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There are several factors that make it hard to get excited about this and many others impressive things.

The first is the informational overload. On the internet you can quickly find lots of crazy stuff like people climbing buildings without any equipment, video recordings of what happens 10 km underwater, real war footage, a kid juggling with 10 balls, etc. There is so much info available to a modern human that he can get quite confused about what is impressive and what isn't. Like, I went to the circus recently and saw some cool tricks there but part of me thought "I dunno, is this actually impressive or not? Maybe there is much more masterful trickery available on YouTube and this is nothing special in comparison".

Then there is the blurry line between fiction and reality. We've already seen similar Robinson stories in cinema, so this feels like old news. Yes, I understand that this time it is real but... These movies seemed real and believable enough as well. So again my brain is confused and isn't sure whether this is really impressive or not.

And of course I have to mention the inevitable skepticism, like where is the proof that this has really happened. Indeed, noone seems to talk about it, maybe because it's fake? Etc.

Kind of a sad situation. This is what annoys me about the current age. There is too much fucking info everywhere, both false and true, and it gets confusing as heck, especially when reality and fiction collide.

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Yeah you could almost swear the friendly interdimensional salesman Slenderman was real, considering all the footage of him.

But, he is like Sasquatch.

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@Godling: his motor died, which was the real problem. The storm, he would have had time to react to it if the motor hadn't died. At least that's what I read in news reports.

@Memfis: I totally understand what you're saying. I saw a guy doing some tricks in a square and he kept trying to impress upon everyone how impressive his feats were and how difficult and dangerous they were, and that people should clap and cheer for him, to egg him on. I couldn't help think that everyone watching just weren't that impressed given they see much more interesting things on youtube on a regular basis. I remember back in the 90s seeing these live street performers and how cool they were; now it's like... they're still doing this sheet?

But still, the stuff the guy went through physically and psychologically; you can't do this kind of stuff on youtube.

Some highlights from his ordeal and the aftermath:

  • The engine on Alvarenga’s 26-foot fiberglass boat gave out on his way home from a routine two-day shark-fishing trip on the Mexican coast in December 2012.
  • He said his fishing companion, Ezequiel Cordova, 21, lived four months in the boat with him before succumbing to starvation and exposure.
  • Jose submits to lie detector and passes.
  • 'Slurs': The fisherman, seen here on his return to El Salvador, reached 'down to the very depths of his being' to survive, his lawyer said. He added that 'there is nothing funny about his ordeal' and any suggestions of exaggeration are 'absurd'
  • Fearing he might fail to spot the passing ship that could end his lonely torment, Jose Alvarenga would spend hour upon hour scanning the horizon for a distant funnel or a sailing mast.
  • After seven months a container ship passed close by, he frantically waved at the crew, but they just waved back and sailed on.
  • Was going to slit his own throat and end his torment as the Devil was 'speaking to him inside his head'
  • Played bloody game in boat with seagulls that he'd ripped the wings off - getting them to play 'soccer' with a frogfish body
  • Made 'friends' with a sperm whale that accompanied him for 15 days
  • Suffers from PTSD: Talks of the nightmares he still has and the inner injuries he still suffers from his ordeal.
  • He would rip off the wings of seagulls so that they couldn’t fly off, and keep them alive for a few days so their meat would stay fresh.'
  • To maintain a sense of order and discipline, he followed a daily routine, eating three times a day and spending the rest of his time hunting, gathering rainwater, singing is favourite songs, and praying.
  • Attempting to escape an advancing shark, fish and squid would also jump and slither into the boat and provide him with a ready meal.
  • He usually had an adequate supply of protein-rich food, therefore. As it was raw and barely digestible flesh, however, he would suffer from agonizing bouts of constipation.
  • his story has been endlessly scrutinized. Descending on the islands, the world’s press questioned why he muddled up names and dates and basic facts.
  • Though oceanographers calculated that he could indeed have drifted for more than 6,000 months in 14 months, and that he had followed precisely the expected course from the Mexican coastline, Jose’s healthy appearance gave rise to further doubts.
  • Mother and daughter were deeply embittered when Jose abandoned them for a new life in Mexico, 13 years ago. [He is originally from El Salvador] Yet now Fatima can’t stop hugging and kissing him, while Maria says they plan to marry.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2612594/Macabre-games-seagull-soccer-save-sanity-moment-Devil-dared-slit-throat-Castaway-Jose-Alvarenga-exclusively-reveals-primeval-fight-soul-vast-ocean-14-months.html

Some things about this story that really irk me: "When Alvarenga was rescued, Cordoba's corpse was nowhere in sight. Some believe he may have eaten his shipmate for survival." Like he'd keep the corpse in his 24 foot boat for 9 months? Do people not think at all before they conjure up these assumptions?

Here is an article with some detail on him and his companion, the relationship they had developed and how he dealt with him dying (he says it was the hardest part of his ordeal) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2611745/There-no-flesh-left-I-doubt-meal-sharks-In-gripping-WORLD-EXCLUSIVE-interview-castaway-survived-14-months-adrift-Pacific-angrily-denies-turned-cannibal-dead-companion.html

Here is a much better article; do have a read! It talks in detail about them setting out and how they got into trouble and how their comraderie: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2611745/There-no-flesh-left-I-doubt-meal-sharks-In-gripping-WORLD-EXCLUSIVE-interview-castaway-survived-14-months-adrift-Pacific-angrily-denies-turned-cannibal-dead-companion.html
Here's an excerpt: 'I urged him to help by throwing the catch overboard to lessen our weight, but he couldn’t so I had to do it all by myself. It might sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

'I had been on a survival course and followed my training. First I tied myself to the boat with a rope. Then I punctured holes in the empty gas canisters, lashed them to the boat and hurled them overboard to break the waves and act as stabilisers. I cut the bleach bottles in half and used them to bale the water.

'If I hadn’t done all that we’d surely have sunk and drowned. The storm raged on four days, and then, suddenly, the sea was as flat as a road again.

'We had lost everything apart from the smallest knife, my ski-mask, which I later used to patch holes in my clothes using fish bones as needles and sinew from birds as thread' the bleach bottles, in which I collected rainwater, and the cooler box, which served as a sun-shade in the daytime and a shield from the cold winds at night.

Gradually, however, Jose said it became evident that they were coping with their predicament in very different ways.

Jose began to see it as a battle for survival and summoned all his powers, mental and physical, to stay alive.

With Crusoe-esque ingenuity, he learned to scoop fish from the water with his cupped hands, catch upturned turtles unawares as they bobbed their heads for food, and trap seagulls by their feet as they perched on the boat, ripping off their wings to render them incapable of escape.

For the first month, Jose says, his friend tried his hardest. He would engage in fleeting conversations, confiding to Jose that he had a girlfriend, with whom he had a troubled relationship because she hated his drinking. He also said she was pregnant.

During that first month, Ezequiel ate a little raw fish - it took him half a day to swallow his first mouthful.

'I used to cut it into small pieces and feed it to him like you would do with a little child,' Jose recalls.

'Just before Ezequiel passed away he was so weak he could barely speak, and when he did he would say crazy things because he had lost his mind,' Jose said yesterday, revealing the full, compelling story of his 14-month ordeal for the first time to MailOnline.

'But the ocean had become our entire world and he was the only friend I had in it. We did everything to comfort each other, and would even sleep curled up in each other’s arms.

'After he died, one part of my brain refused to accept he had gone. So I laid him down on his side at the far end of the boat, beside the broken engine, and carried on talking to him. Each morning I’d tell him to wake up, and sometime I’d ask him how it felt to be dead.

'It was only on the fifth day that I came to my senses and asked myself: "What am I doing, talking to a corpse?" Then I asked God to give me courage, said goodbye, and pushed his body over the side.

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