For two months, a Colombian mariner was adrift abroad a disabled skiff in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from land, with no food to sustain him. He ate seagulls and fish to survive, he said. His three shipmates died at sea.
This week, the 29-year-old, identified as Javier Eduardo Olaya by the Colombian navy, was rescued by a merchant ship called the Nikkei Verde more than 2,000 miles southeast of Hawaii.
Olaya, who was reportedly in “good condition,” was transferred to a U.S. Coast Guard boat. He arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, and has since returned to Colombia, where he’s been reunited with his wife and family.
The Coast Guard said Olaya was lucky to have survived the ordeal.
“This mariner had great fortitude and is very fortunate the crew of the Nikkei Verde happened upon him as the area he was in is not heavily trafficked,” said Lt. Cmdr. John MacKinnon of the Coast Guard's 14th District in Honolulu in a statement. “The Pacific is vast and inherently dangerous.”
Olaya and three shipmates left Colombia aboard a 23-foot skiff more than two months ago, reports The Associated Press. They’d been fishing near Malpelo Island, off the Colombian coast, when their vessel’s engine failed.
Olaya said his three companions, who were reportedly Ecuadorian, died at sea. The men’s bodies were not found on the skiff, however; and it remains unclear how they perished.
The Coast Guard said it will not be investigating the case as it falls outside the agency's purview.
On Wednesday, Olaya expressed gratitude for his rescue and survival. Speaking through an interpreter, he “thanked God that he has life” and expressed sorrow for his companions’ deaths, saying he “would have loved it if his friends were here with him.”