9 Amazing Stories Of Real Life Castaways

1The fisherman who was lost at sea for a staggering 13 months

In early 2014, Jose Salvador Alvarenga was found in an atoll in the Marshall Islands after having drifted to the area on a small fishing boat for 13 months. He started his journey in Mexico, more than 6,000 miles away

Some have doubted the veracity of his story, but it appears to be true.

According to Alvarenga, he went on a one-day shark fishing trip in December 2012 with a teenage companion, and was caught up in a storm that killed his engine and left him adrift for 13 months.

His companion, fellow fisherman Ezequiel Cordoba, didn't make it. Alvarenga said that the younger man died four weeks into their journey because he couldn't manage to drink turtle blood and eat raw fish.

Alvarenga has been reunited with his family in El Salvador and continues to face health issues from the journey. He has also denied cruel claims that he resorted to cannibalism to survive.

2The family who survived on turtle blood while lost at sea for 38 days

In 1971, the Robertson family boarded their yacht Lucette at Falmouth harbour, Cornwall to sail around the world. Eighteen months into the trip, they were 200 miles from the Galápagos islands when catastrophe struck. Their boat was hit by a pod of killer whales and destroyed within minutes.

The family scrambled aboard a leaky raft and when that finally deflated 17 days later, they made for their dinghy, the Ednamair.

There was only enough water for 10 days, and the only food on board consisted of a bag of onions, a tin of biscuits, 10 oranges, six lemons, and half a pound of glucose sweets. When that ran out, the family drank turtle blood to survive.

The matriarch of the family, Lyn Robinson, was a nurse and devised a gruesome technique to keep them hydrated with rainwater collected in the boat. She knew the water, which was contaminated by a mix turtle blood and offal, would be poisonous if taken orally, and insisted her family take enemas using tubes from the rung of a ladder.

On July 23, 1972, the family were finally picked up after a Japanese crew spotted their distress flare.

3The New Zealander who lived his dream of being a castaway in the South Pacific

New Zealander Tom Neale lived on the coral atoll of Suwarrow in the Cook Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a total of 16 years in three periods between 1952 and 1977.

Neale fantasized about his life as a castaway for over 30 years before actual realizing his dream at age 51. He was first introduced to the Cook Islands at the age of 18 while in the Royal New Zealand Navy. After his military service ended, he worked as shopkeeper on the islands and met writer Robert Dean Frisbie, who fascinated him with stories about Suwarrow. He knew, once he visited the atoll, he was indeed home.

In October 1952, Neale gathered food supplies, tobacco, various tools and two cats and embarked for the island. He lived in buildings left behind by the military during WWII.

Neale adapted to island life fairly easily and lived off of fish, crabs and clams, chicken eggs, coconuts, breadfruit, bananas and wild-grown vegetables. Occasionally, he welcomed visitors who wanted to meet this real life Robinson Crusoe.

Neale lived on the island until 1977 when cancer forced him to return to the mainland. He died eight months later. His grave is in the RSA cemetery on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands opposite the airport.

Neale wrote about his experiences on Suwarrow in a memoir called, An Island of One's Own.

4The Inuit woman who survived alone on an Arctic island for two years

Ada Blackjack was Iñupiat Inuit woman who was a castaway on uninhabited Wrangel Island in northern Siberia.

On September 16, 1921, Blackjack was one of five settlers who left on the ill-fated expedition across the Chukchi Sea to Russia's Wrangel Island in a speculative attempt to claim the island for Canada by Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Weather conditions were bad upon their arrival and soon rations ran out for the team. They attempted to kill game, but were unsuccessful. Starving and desperate, three expedition members left the camp in January 1923 to travel 700 miles across the frozen Chukchi Sea to Siberia for help and food. Only Ada and an ailing crew member were left behind. Ada was taught to hunt by the remaining explorer who was to weak to do it himself.

The men were never seen again and by April 1923 she was left alone after the death of the man in her care. Ada, who came along on the trip to help the explorers as a cook and seamstress, managed to stay alive and in August of that year she was rescued by a former colleague of Stefansson's, Harold Noice.

Dubbed the "female Robinson Crusoe," Ada hated the media circus surrounding her and chose to live a quiet life. She eventually moved back to the Arctic where she lived until the age of 85.

5The castaway who was threatened with illegally squatting by park officals

David Burgess, 63, is a castaway by choice, but his way of life was threatened by local officials who said he was illegally squatting in Exmoor National Park after he applied for ownership rights to the land.

For almost three decades, Burgess has lived in the park in his makeshift beachfront shack he built from pieces of whatever washed up onshore. He sleeps on a mattress of dried leaves and has fashioned window frames and even a staircase out of driftwood and washed-up timber.

In December of 2011, "Driftwood Dave" and park owners reached an agreement allowing him to stay in the shack while Exmoor National Park retains ownership at Embelle Wood, near Porlock, Somerset.

It's somewhat questionable as to how much of a "castaway" Burgess actually is – he lives on the property throughout the year, but sometimes ventures out to stay with friends in Exeter during the harsh winter months.

6The man who spent 60 days on a deserted island armed with only a video camera

Former British Army captain Ed Stafford spent 60 days naked and marooned on a deserted island in the South Pacific armed with only a video camera. The Discovery Channel aired a show of his experiences, not-so-surprisingly called Naked and Marooned with Ed Stafford.

When Stafford was dropped on the island he had to learn about local plants, different methods of trapping fish and hunting techniques. On his first day, he found a cave to sleep in, sea snails to eat, and coconuts to drink and claims he could have lived that way easily for the duration of the trip, but the idea was to develop a sustainable existence and master life on the island.

It took two weeks for Stafford to start a fire after locating the right wood. He then was able to kill a feral goat which he skinned, cut up and cured. The goat gave him an entire weeks' worth of meals for which he was thankful, as he was always somewhat malnourished and slightly dehydrated.

Stafford says the biggest difficulty he encountered on the trip was coping with isolation and worrying that he was losing his sanity in the middle of the planet's biggest ocean.

Luckily for us, his island journey was recorded and made for some interesting viewing:

7The couple who conducted a social experiment while living as castaways

The photo above is from the 1986 movie "Castaway" which is based on Lucy Irvine's book of the same name.

It sounds like the premise for a reality show – a man puts out an ad for a "wife to live on a lonely island for a year.” Unlike television however, there were no cameras and no monetary reward at the end of the challenge for young adventurer Lucy Irvine, then 25.

The year was 1982 when Irvine and new hubby Gerald Kingsland, 49, set off for the island of Tuin off the coast of Indonesia. From the get go, the couple had an acrimonious relationship – Kingsland desired the young woman and she consistently rebuffed his advances. Nevertheless, they had to rely on each other to survive the beautiful but treacherous environment and at different points during their journey, each saved the other's life and earned each other's respect.

When a drought hit the island, both nearly starved to death and were saved by neighboring islanders. After being nursed back to health, Irvine decided to consummate her marriage to Kingsland with the agreement that once the year was over she would leave him and island life behind.

"The whole experience served me well," said Irvine. "It enabled me to discover myself and taught me a discipline I didn't know I had." But she doesn't think she would try it again. "For me, that was a one-off thing."

8The shark fisherman who were lost at sea for 10 months

In October 2005, five men set out from the port of San Blas in Mexico on a shark fishing expedition, but were thought to be lost at sea after winds and currents pushed their 30ft fishing boat westward, into the vastness of the Pacific.

The group waved to passing ships, but none stopped. Ten months later three survivors, Jesus Vidana Lopez, 27, Salvador Ordonez, 37, and Lucio Rendon, 27, arrived in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, aboard a Taiwanese trawler which had rescued them from their drifting boat.

The men survived by drinking rainwater and eating raw fish and seabirds, while they drifted aimlessly for about 5,000 miles. The two men who perished during the journey were thought to have been drug runners who hired the three survivors to work for them, but the living men insisted that was not the case.

One of the men, Mr. Vidana, discovered he was the father of a six-month-old baby girl who was born while he was lost at sea and presumed dead.

When the trio arrived in Mexico they were greeted as heroes.

9The newlyweds who were stranded on an island by a lazy elephant seal

Their time as castaways was short – only a few days – but newlyweds Eddie Stebbings and Bee Bueche were given a honeymoon to remember thanks to a giant elephant seal (pictured above).

While spending time exploring the United Kingdom's Skomer Island, the couple became stranded after the seal took up residence in their dinghy and refused to budge. "He was about four times my weight, eight feet long and clearly not worried about people coming close to him," Stebbings said.

The couple are wildlife wardens and spent their first few months of their marriage caring for a colony of 180 baby Atlantic gray seals on the island and used the dinghy to travel back and forth between the mainland and Skomer. As they were on the island to monitor the seal population without directly interfering, they let the seal leave the inflatable boat of its own accord.

The couple didn't waste the extra time they had on the island – they also saved 108 baby seals after a cow seal gave birth on the pebble beach and in the island's caves.