The odds against survival for castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga were astronomical. For 13 months, he drifted across the seas in a small fiberglass boat, hungry and alone, after a shark fishing trip with a friend went horribly awry. Throughout it all however, one thing never wavered-- his faith in God.
CNN reports that the Salvadoran national was living in Mexico when he went out to sea in December of 2012 with a young man named Ezequiel. He was never seen or heard of again, until he washed up alone last week in the Marshall Islands roughly 6,700 miles away.
Alvarenga ate turtles, birds, and fish to survive, sometimes even drinking his own urine when rainwater or turtle blood was scarce. Sadly, his teenage companion did not live, perishing due to his unwillingness to eat raw birds, reports Anjenette Kattil of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Even with those meager food sources, how did Alvarenga survive the crippling loneliness and uncertainty of life at sea? According to an interview with CNN, he revealed that his trust in God allowed him to live through the ordeal, even when at times he felt so low that he tried to take his own life.
He said he lived because of "my faith in God," though it was sorely tested at times, such as when he had to push the body of his friend overboard after Ezequiel starved to death, reports AFP.
"I did not think I would die. I thought, 'I am going to get out, I'm going to make it. Be strong,'" Alvarenga explained to CNN.
"Twice, I wanted to kill myself- I wanted to with a knife. When I didn't have water, food, I gave up and I grabbed a knife," he told CNN. "I wanted to kill myself but no, I asked God to save me," he said to Telemundo. He pointed to heaven when recounting the tale, declaring "God! Faith!"
Alvarenga felt God's presence at times as he struggled to live. "I prayed and prayed to be saved. I am not a Catholic but I do believe in God. He sent food to me all the time," reports The Daily Mail.
He believes that God sent him a sign when he finally got close to land, in the form of a bird perching on the edge of his boat. "I crept very quietly to it and I was able to catch it," he said to the Mail. "I broke off its head to drink its blood as I had been doing but as I as doing that, as I was tilting my head back, I saw land. It was the first land I had seen."
Alvarenga's parents also relied on their own strong faith to hang on to the hope of his survival. His mother, Julia Alvarenga, told CNN, "My heart would tell me that my son was not dead, but I wondered about it so often that I had started to lose faith."
"God willing, my son is not dead. God willing, my son is alive," added his father, Ricardo Alvarenga. "And we're going to see him again one day. I'm very happy after learning that he's alive and that we will have him back home soon."
Authorities are still trying to confirm the truth of his story, though the Mexican government has confirmed his identity, naming him as a Salvadoran national living in the city of Tonala. Fishermen in Costa Azul, where he set out, remember the day that he and Ezequiel went missing, reports The Guardian.
"I know that God saved me," he said. "I am glad that I believe in him."