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EXCLUSIVE: First picture of the 'Miracle Man of the Pacific' who survived 14 MONTHS adrift. Fisherman stumbles ashore, saying 'I can't remember much, it is all one thought - the sea, the sea'
By RICHARD SHEARS and KAREN EARNSHAW IN MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS
PUBLISHED: 02:22 GMT, 3 February 2014 | UPDATED: 05:02 GMT, 3 February 2014
This is the first picture of the 'Miracle Man of the Pacific' - the fisherman who survived on turtle blood, raw fish and seagull flesh for more than a year as he drifted helplessly across the world's largest ocean.
Stumbling ashore today at a dock in the Marshall Islands from a naval boat that picked him up on an outlying atoll, Jose Ivan managed a smile before telling MailOnline: 'I'm alive - I'm alive and I can't believe it.'
He had drifted in his 24ft boat for 14 months across 8,000 miles of treacherous seas, finally dragging himself ashore on the remote Ebon atoll with a long beard and tangled hair, his skin scorched dry by the unforgiving sun, his shorts in tatters from decaying sea salt.
Speaking through a Spanish-speaking interpreter on the waterfront of Majuro, the Marshall Islands capital, before boarding an ambulance to take him for a check up at the local hospital, he told MailOnline: 'I thank God that I am here.' He raised his hands together in prayer and looked to the heavens.
But through an interpreter, he said: 'I cannot remember much about my journey. It has all gone into one thought - the sea, the sea.
'We were fishing for sharks when the North Winds took us out to sea,' he said today as he struggled to recall elements of his ordeal.
Jose Ivan told MailOnline that he was not Mexican but was from the central American country of El Salvador.
But he had been living and working in Mexico for 15 years, shrimp and shark fishing, and was making his way to El Salvador when his fibreglass boat ran into trouble.
'I wish I could remember more about what happened to me out there,' he said. 'I think I need time to remember. It has been so long.
'I know I thought about my family all the time. I know they would have been worried about me, thinking that I was dead. Yes, I know I am so lucky to be here, alive.'
When the naval ship arrived from the outlying atoll today it was immediately boarded by the American Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Tom Armbruster.
He asked Jose about his health and said after that visit that he was surprised at how well the survivor looked, although his blood pressure was low.
He walked down the gangplank from the naval ship looking plumper than many expected, but a doctor said it was because his body had probably swollen from the conditions he had experienced.
As he boarded an ambulance, he was asked: 'Did you pray a lot?'
Through the window he raised his hands in an attitude of prayer. 'Always,' he said.
Jose still wore the beard that had grown during his sea ordeal as he today stepped ashore from the naval patrol boat which picked him up.
He walked a little unsteadily as he stepped from a gangplank, clutching a can of soft drink, his hair still tangled.
He was wearing a brown jacket and black shorts supplied to him by villagers on Ebon atoll and he wore flip flops.
Jose managed a brief wave to a small crowd - some of whom clapped - who had gathered at the dock for a glimpse of the survivor who was now being referred to as 'The Miracle Man of the Pacific'.
He was fishing with a friend whose name, said the interpreter, was something like Exvikele, but without water or enough food to survive, the second man died after four weeks. 'I am sad for him,' was all he was able to say about his friend.
Ambassador Armbruster said later that while speaking to the survivor, he was not in a position to reveal the dead man's family name and home town because that would have to come from the Marshall Islands' government.
However, Mr Armbruster said he had established from Jose that his companion was a 'young man' aged between 15 and 18.
A local Marshallese woman said that from her experience of other people who had died in remote locations it was because they had not been able to consume raw food - they kept vomiting it up - and this might have been why the fisherman had died.
Mr Armbruster, who speaks Spanish, said that in his brief conversation with Jose, the survivor had spoken of the north winds and a storm that had led to them drifting out into the vast Pacific.
The two fishermen had set out from the town of Tapachula, near the border of Guatamala on their ill-fated expedition for sharks.
Mr Armbruster said: 'This is an incredible sea story of a man who went fishing for a day and ended up many months later on an atoll in the middle of the Pacific.'
During an earlier radio conversation with MailOnline, Jose said he was 'tired and sad' after a drifting helplessly through the treacherous waters of the Pacific.
Despite earlier reports that he had left his port in September 2012 to sail to El Salvador, he said over the crackly radio transmission from ship-to-ship that he had in fact set out to sea December 21 of that year.
It is understood his small boat encountered engine trouble and the currents carried them out into the ocean.
Despite their attempts to attract other vessels, they continued to drift further out to sea - and it was then that their desperate struggle to survive took up every minute and every ounce of energy.
Jose has told islanders who found him emaciated on an outlying atoll and he had struggled to survive by drinking turtle blood when there was no rain and had eaten raw fish.
He did manage to show a trace of humour despite his terrible ordeal, however.
'If someone gets me home, I'm sure my boss will pay,' he said in that first radio transmission. 'I'm desperate and I want to get back to Mexico, but I don't know how.'
His words were evidence of his state of mind - a man who appeared bewildered at reaching land and falling into the arms of kindly villagers on Ebon atoll. He was fed and given water and given a bed to rest his emaciated body.
Officials in Majuro were told that despite the care he had been given by the people of Ebon atoll and the fact that he had been able to walk around the village, he was still in poor health and preparations were made for an ambulance to meet him when the patrol vessel docked.
As word spread around the Marshalls about the miracle survivor of the Pacific, no group of people were more excited at having encountered him than the villagers on Ebon, the most southern of the island group's atolls.
With a population of just over 700 people, it lies about 230 miles from Majuro - and it is believed that it was just 'the luck of the currents' that resulted in the fisherman being cast ashore in his battered fiberglass boat with propellerless engines on the thin strip of land that makes up the atoll.
It was by chance that two villagers saw the man and answered his desperate waving. Before them, hardly able to stand, was a figure with long beard and unkempt hair.
Jose was taken by small boat to another part of the atoll group where a young Norweigian anthropology student, Ola Fjeldstad, managed to have a broken conversation with him and learn something of his amazing story of survival.
It was then that the local mayor, Ione deBrum, used the atoll group's only phone to put a call through to the Marshall Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his existence became known.
His words over the radio today made it clear, however, that his immediate plan, once his health had returned, was to return home to his family in Mexico.
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.