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Pacific castaway's tale: a year lost at sea, drinking turtle blood

Outrigger canoes in the Marshall Islands on Aug. 29, 2013.
Outrigger canoes in the Marshall Islands on Aug. 29, 2013.GIFF JOHNSON / AFP / Getty Images file

Police on a remote Pacific Island are investigating the incredible account of a Mexican man who says he spent a year lost at sea — living off fish and turtle blood — before washing ashore in a boat.

"It's hard to buy," George Lanwi, commissioner of the Marshall Islands police force, told NBC News on Friday.

Lanwi said details of the castaway's story were sketchy because he only speaks Spanish and no one on the tiny atoll where he landed was fluent.

The man — who supposedly drifted more than 8,000 miles — was being taken by boat from Ebon Atoll to the main island of Majuro for further questioning, said Lanwi, who spoke to the Ebon mayor by radio.

A Norwegian anthropology student doing research on Ebon told news organization Agence France Presse that the man was discovered Thursday when his 24-foot fiberglass boat floated onto a reef.

He was emaciated and dressed only in ragged underwear. "He has a long beard and hair," said the student, Ola Fjelstad.

The man, who gave his name as Jose Ivan, claimed he and a friend left Mexico for El Salvador in September 2012, Fjelstad said. Police said they were told he had been on the water since May.

The other person in the boat died at sea, but Ivan said he survived by eating birds, fish and turtles. He drank rain water and turtle blood.

Lanwi said he was told the man was severely dehydrated.

"It's very surprising to think he was out on the ocean with no food or water for so many months," the commissioner said.