December 16, 2015
Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga denies eating his companion
by Taylor Sperry
Fair warning, reader, this is a grisly one.
In November, Atria published 438 Days, John Franklin’s account of “the true story of the fisherman who survived fourteen months in a small boat drifting seven thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean.”
That fisherman was Jose Salvador Alvarenga, who has come under questioning recently (and even submitted to—and passed—a lie detector test) regarding the fate of his companion, Ezequiel Cordova, who did not survive the ordeal. The Daily Beast reports that “days after Alvarenga’s new memoir was published, Cordoba’s family said Alvarenga was only able to survive by eating their son.”
In the first of a two-part interview with the Daily Mail, Alvarenga insists, “No! Never! Not for one second did I think of eating Ezequiel . . . I wouldn’t have done it even if it meant that I starved. It would have been on my conscience forever.”
The investigation is on-going.
The Daily Mail report also makes liberal (if condescending) use of Alvarenga’s description of his months at sea, and even compares him to the narrator of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”—“Jose has never heard of the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but at times it was like listening to the accursed old sea farer in his epic verse . . . and as he gave the harrowing first description of Ezequiel’s death he had the same haunted glint in his eye”—and to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—“With Crusoe-esque ingenuity, he learned to scoop fish from the water with his cupped hands, catch upturned turtles unawares as they bobbed their heads for food, and trap seagulls by their feet.”
Part two of the Daily Mail interview will run on December 16.
Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.