If you’ve seen the movie Cast Away, then you know how lonely and challenging life can be when stranded on an island. But what if you’re stranded on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, and you’re not on a movie set? José Salvador Alvarenga became the longest surviving castaway when he was discovered after 14 months at sea. The harrowing experience he went through makes him the bravest.
What went wrong?
In 2012, Alvarenga was planning a two-day fishing trip with his usual mate, Ray Perez. When something came up and Perez had to back out of the trip, Ezequiel Córdoba subbed in. The two had never worked together before, but the strapping 22-year-old seemed like he would be a useful ally in manning the 25-foot boat on the expedition.
However, right when they were about to head home, an unexpected storm overtook them. Wild winds and raging ten-foot waves tossed the vessel around, destroying their radio, GPS, and supplies in the process.
How Alvarenga survived
The young Córdoba was immediately traumatized, suffering from hallucinations and trying to throw himself overboard. Alvarenga tried to help them both survive, as they ate raw fish and birds to sustain themselves, and drank turtle blood and rainwater to prevent hydration.
But one poisonous sea snake in the belly of one of those birds caused Córdoba to become very ill, and very wary of their diet plan. He refused to eat any more raw meat, and gradually starved to death. Before Córdoba passed, Alvarenga promised to tell his family what happened to him…and to not eat his body.
It only got worse
Alvarenga kept Córdoba’s body with him for six days, until the hunger, crushing loneliness, and creeping insanity forced him to push the boy overboard. When the boat finally washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, 5,500 miles from where it was initially, Alvarenga thought his plight was over.
He was nursed back to health and brought home, only to be sued by Córdoba’s family for eating their son! Doctors, survival experts, and a polygraph test proved Alvarenga’s story to be true and further proved what courage and strength this man exhibited during a truly horrific experience.