It sounds too amazing to be true: A fisherman was lost at sea for 66 days and not only survived, but was rescued in fairly excellent health.
That’s the story that 37-year-old South Carolina sailor Louis Jordan is telling, and some people aren’t buying it.
Jordan set sail from Conway, S.C., on Jan. 23 for a short fishing trip, and was reported missing six days later. While he was lost at sea, Jordan claims his 35-foot boat was knocked over in heavy seas three separate times, destroying the mast, rudder, and radio. He was eventually found 200 miles off of the coast of North Carolina on Thursday, sitting on top of the hull of his overturned boat.
According to Jordan, his shoulder was broken when his boat overturned, but he showed minimal signs of injury. He also claims to have lost 50 pounds after his canned food ran out, forcing him to eat a diet of raw fish, but he appeared healthy when he was rescued. When he was rescued, he had only a slight sunburn, declined medical help, and carried a backpack on his shoulders.
Jordan told the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper that he caught fish by trailing his dirty clothes in the ocean after his food supply ran out and drank rainwater he caught in a bucket to stave off dehydration.
‘God knows I am a truthful man,” Jordan told the Daily Mail. “My family knows I am telling the truth. The people who know me know that.”
While his story sounds farfetched to the general public — and even some of his rescuers — experts say it’s completely plausible.
“All indications that the Coast Guard has is that this guy seems to be telling the truth,” says Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn of the United States Coast Guard, who is familiar with his organization’s ongoing case study of Jordan’s adventure.
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Jordan was inside a sailboat — after initially capsizing his boat eventually righted itself — which offered him protection from the sun, Littlejohn points out to Yahoo Health. “He conserved his energy. It’s possible he found a way to manage his calories and that the freshwater he was able to get ahold of was in abundance.”
Jordan also lived on his boat, which was a huge asset during his ordeal, says survival expert Joseph Alton, MD, author of the best-selling “The Survival Medicine Handbook.” He was an experienced fisherman, and had a solid water supply and most of his worldly possessions with him at sea. “If anyone could survive that amount of time without terrible physical effect it would be him,” Alton tells Yahoo Health.
Alton says three major factors work against people when they’re lost at sea—exposure to the elements, lack of water, and lack of food. Jordan had protection from the sun and wind on his boat, which was a huge plus for him. People lost at sea typically develop severe sunburn on their skin and in their corneas in an eye condition known as photokeratitis, says Alton: “That can dramatically reduce their ability to function.”
Jordan was also seemingly smart with his water supply. “You can’t live very long without water, but if you start rationing it immediately, you end up buying yourself more time,” says Alton, who points out that someone can go 24 hours without water and then survive on 12 ounces a day afterward. The water supply that Jordan already had onboard likely helped him to survive longer before he had to drink the rainwater he says he caught in buckets.
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Starvation is also a potential issue but, Alton notes, people can survive for several weeks without food. Since Jordan had canned food on his boat and was an avid fisherman, it wasn’t as big of an issue as if he had been marooned on a raft with no food supply.
As for Jordan’s “broken” shoulder that seemingly healed on its own? Alton says it’s possible he simply bruised it or tore a ligament instead—both of which can be painful.
So, was Jordan really lost at sea for 66 days? While Alton says it’s plausible, Littlejohn admits that “there are still a lot of things the Coast Guard just doesn’t know.”
The Coast Guard’s case study on Jordan is still ongoing. Authorities checked Jordan’s bank accounts to confirm that he didn’t withdraw money during his time offshore, according to the Daily Mail. And Investigators also plan to review Jordan’s credit card and bank statements, the newspaper reported.
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