Castaway survives 24 days adrift eating ketchup, garlic and nuts

The Colombian Navy last month rescued a castaway from Dominica who claims to have survived 24 days adrift in the Caribbean Sea, eating only ketchup, garlic powder and cooking nuts.

Shipwrecked Elvis François receives initial medical treatment from the Colombian Navy.
Shipwrecked Elvis François receives initial medical treatment from the Colombian Navy.

Castaway while working on a boat

Elvis François, 47, told Colombian authorities that his ordeal began in December when currents pushed the sailboat, on which he was doing work, into the sea off the island of Saint Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives. “I called my friends, they tried to contact me again, but I lost the signal. There was nothing to do but sit and wait,” François said in a video released by the Navy.

Castaway survives by eating ketchup, garlic powder and cooking nuts

With only a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and cooking nuts on board, with no knowledge of navigation, the castaway survived by collecting rainwater with a cloth while he was busy removing seawater from the hull to prevent the boat from sinking. He also tried to light a fire to send a distress signal but was unsuccessful. Fortunately, he was spotted by an aircraft flying over the area making a signal with a mirror. The hull of the boat had the word “HELP” engraved on it.

Saved from a container ship

The sailboat was spotted from above 120 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Bolívar on the La Guajira Peninsula. After 24 days at sea it was recovered by a passing container ship and brought to safety in the port city of Cartagena. François was found to be in good health but had lost weight.

James Barbaro



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