UK & World News

  • 2 February 2014, 17:26

Mexican Castaway Just Wants To Go Home

A castaway who washed ashore on a remote Pacific atoll after more than a year drifting at sea has pleaded to be taken home.

The emaciated man was found wearing nothing but ragged underpants, when his 24-foot fibreglass boat with propellerless engines floated on to the reef at Ebon Atoll, the southernmost cluster of coral islands in the Marshall Islands.

Speaking as he was about to board a Marshall Islands patrol vessel for the 18-hour journey from Ebon Atoll to the capital Majuro, Jose Ivan told interpreter Magui Vaca: "I want to get back to Mexico".

"I feel bad," he saidof his physical and mental state. "I am so far away. I don't know where I am or what happened."

Mr Ivan told the interpreter he left his home in Mexico - 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from the Marshall Islands - to go shark fishing on December 24, 2012, putting his time at sea at 13 months.

His rescuers initially believed he had been at sea for 16 months.

No details have yet emerged as to why he began drifting, or what happened to a companion he said had died a few months ago.

Ms Vaca said Mr Ivan was disorientated and did not know what had happened during his many months at sea.

"He feels a little desperate and he wants to get back to Mexico, but he doesn't know how," she said.

Ms Vaca was on a yacht in Majuro Atoll - around 200 miles north of Ebon - when she was briefly able to speak to Mr Ivan via radio.

When Ebon islanders discovered Mr Ivan on the atoll he had a long beard and was unable to walk without assistance.

He indicated that he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.

There was no fishing gear on the boat and Mr Ivan suggested he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands. There was a turtle on the boat when it landed at Ebon.

"It's been difficult trying to communicate with him," said Ebon Mayor IoneDeBrum who had only been able to communicate with the Mexican by drawing pictures.

"I've gotten to know him through pictures he's drawing. He said he was on his way to El Salvador by boat when it started drifting."

Ms Vaca was on a yacht in Majuro Atoll - around 200 miles north of Ebon - when she was briefly able to speak to Mr Ivan via radio.

However, the brief interview organised by the Marshall Islands National Telecommunications Authority (NTA) working with Mieco Beach Yacht Club officials, proved difficult as the radio transmission was marred by static.

The single phone line to Ebon - population 700 - went out of service on Saturday, leaving radio the only option for communication.

Stories of survival in the vast Pacific are not uncommon.

In 2006, three Mexicans made international headlines when they were discovered drifting, also in a small fibreglass boat near the Marshall Islands, nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.

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