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Man Survives Being Adrift at Sea for 16 Months

The man was discovered Thursday when his boat floated onto a reef that's part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

An emaciated man whose boat washed up on a remote Pacific atoll this week claims he survived 16 months adrift on the Pacific, floating more than 12,500 kilometers (8,000 miles) from Mexico, a researcher said Friday.

The man, with long hair and beard, was discovered Thursday when his 24-foot fiberglass boat with propellerless engines floated onto the reef at Ebon Atoll and he was spotted by two locals.

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"His condition isn't good, but he's getting better," Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student doing research on Ebon, the southern most outpost of the Marshalls, told AFP by telephone.

Fjeldstad said the man, dressed only in a pair of ragged underpants, claims he left Mexico for El Salvador in September 2012 with a companion who died at sea several months ago. Details of his survival are sketchy, Fjeldstad added, as the man only speaks Spanish, but he said his name was Jose Ivan.

"The boat is really scratched up and looks like it has been in the water for a long time," said the researcher from Ebon. Ivan indicated to Fjeldstad that he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain. No fishing gear was on the boat and Ivan suggested he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands. There was a turtle on the boat when it landed at Ebon.

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 fiberglass boat near the Marshall Islands, in the middle of the ocean in their stricken boat, nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.

They survived on a diet of rainwater, raw fish and seabirds, with their hope kept alive by reading the Bible.

And in 1992, two fishermen from Kiribati were at sea for 177 days before coming ashore in Samoa.

According to Fjeldstad, the Marshall Islanders who found Ivan took him to the main island on the atoll, which is so remote there is only one phone line at the local council house and no Internet, to meet Mayor Ione de Brum, who put in a call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Majuro.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry said Friday they were waiting to get more details and for the man to be brought to Majuro. The government airline's only plane that can land at Ebon is currently down for maintenance and is not expected to return to service until Tuesday at the earliest, with officials considering sending a boat to pick up the castaway.

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"He's staying at the local council house and a family is feeding him," said Fjeldstad, who added that the man had a basic health check and was found to have low blood pressure. But he did not appear to have any life-threatening illness and was able to walk with the aid of men on the island.

"We've been giving him a lot of water, and he's gaining strength," said the Norwegian.

The Marshall Islands, in the northern Pacific, are home to barely 60,000 people spread over 24 atolls, with most of them standing at an average of just two meters above sea level.

Stories of survival in the vast Pacific are not uncommon.

May 30, 2012

-- On the southeast end of Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean, archaeologists are finding artifacts that suggest Amelia Earhart may have survived for a time there as a castaway. A partial skeleton of a castaway was discovered at the so-called Seven Site in 1940 and this is where several shards of glass have been recovered. Some of the items contained products used only by women. This broken green glass bottle has a melted bottom and was found in a fire feature. It matches a three-ounce container of "St. Joseph Nerve and Bone Family Liniment." The bottle design was patented on May 30, 1933.

Earhart's Anti-Freckle Ointment Jar Possibly Recovered

Coding embossed into the bottom of this three-ounce bottle reveals that it was made by Owens Illinois Glass. Co. at their Bridgeton, NJ plant in 1933. Laboratory analysis of remnants of the contents show a close match to Campana Italian Balm, a hand lotion made in Batavia, Ill. that was popular with American women in the 1930s.

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These are three of five fragments that form a small jar of an "ointment pot." It is among the most intriguing finds at the island site.

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When reassembled, the fragments make up a nearly complete jar identical to the style used by Dr. C. H Berry's Freckle Ointment, a concoction marketed in the early 20th century that was supposed to make freckles fade (it was 11 percent mercury). Earhart is known to have been concerned about her freckles.

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Although the style of the jar is the same used by Dr. Berry's ointment, the artifact found is clear glass while all of the examples of freckle cream the TIGHAR researchers have been able to find are milky white or opal glass. They have also been unable to match the exact size of the artifact jar to a known jar of Dr. Berry's product. The reassembled artifact jar does, however, fit nicely in a box in which anti-freckle cream was marketed. The known Dr. Berry jars do not. "So we know there was a jar of Dr. Berry's Freckle Ointment of the same size as the artifact jar, but we don't know whether it was clear glass," Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director, told Discovery News.

Four of the broken pieces of the ointment pot were found together. The fifth piece was discovered about 65 feet away from the bones of a turtle. That piece of glass shows evidence of secondary use as a cutting or slicing tool. "The bottles and other artifacts TIGHAR has found at the Seven Site tell a fascinating, but still incomplete, story of ingenuity, survival, and, ultimately, tragedy. Whether it is Amelia Earhart's story remains to be seen," Gillespie said.

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