For family and friends of Louis Jordan, his rescue last week was nothing less than a miracle. The 37-year-old South Carolina native had been lost at sea since he embarked on a fishing trip in January, and Jordan stunned his rescuers when he told them a harrowing story of how he survived 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina on canned food, raw fish, and what rainwater he could gather. A full 66 days after he set sail, Jordan was spotted by a German tanker and brought on board, finally reaching dry land last Friday when he was airlifted to a Virginia hospital. Those who have followed Jordan’s story have called it a miraculous and nearly unbelievable tale, but to the skeptics, it was all too easy to doubt his claims. Doubters pointed out that when Jordan exited the Coast Guard rescue helicopter, the sailor refused a gurney and walked confidently—not what many expected from a man who was lost at sea for more than two months. Others questioned his seemingly excellent health, despite incurring injuries and dehydration while afloat.
“For him to be in his current state was pretty amazing,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle McCollum, who was part of the team that airlifted Jordon from the tanker, told CBS News. “You would expect sunburn, severe sunburn, blisters maybe, a bunch of medical issues that could possibly be wrong with him.”
Jordan first left the marina at Conway, South Carolina on January 23, telling his family that he was going fishing. Met with unexpectedly stormy weather, Jordon said his boat capsized and the mast snapped in half. The 35-foot vessel then righted itself, but during the chaos Jordon had broken his shoulder and lost his radio and rudder. The angler had no way of getting back to land.
Jordan said he spent the next two months living in the boat’s cabin, surviving mainly off a supply of canned goods that he had brought with him. When the canned food ran out, Jordan ate raw fish he caught by dipping dirty clothes into the water. Most of the fishing gear that he had set out with was lost when the boat flipped over.
Food was the easy part, but fresh water was harder to come by. Jordon said that he used buckets and an inflatable raft to catch rainwater, which only occurred intermittently. The sailor told the Associated Press that he rationed water to just about a pint a day.
To some survival experts, Jordan’s good health and lack of any noticeable health problems were cause for suspicion.
“After that amount of time at sea he would have been wobbly on his feet and yet he seemed to walk perfectly,” Erik Kulik of the True North Wilderness Survival School told the Daily Mail. “He says he broke his right shoulder and yet he didn’t even seem to be guarding that shoulder in the pictures I saw after the rescue. There is a lot that doesn’t add up.”
Jordan countered by pointing out that his shoulder had recovered during the two-month duration, and that the cabin of the boat offered both shelter and stash of food.
“God knows I am a truthful man. My family knows I am telling the truth. The people who know me know that,” he told the Daily Mail in an interview on Sunday.
Other experts, such as physiologist Mike Tipton, the author of Essentials of Sea Survival, say that Jordan’s good health is not particularly unusual given his circumstances.
“And when you think about it—he was drifting in an area of the Pacific with sufficient rain, where cold temperatures are not a threat, and he had plenty of experience catching fish. He had the combination of being the right kind of person and a lot of luck,” Tipton told the BBC.
The Coast Guard has not yet contradicted Jordan’s story, although it also noted that the sailor may not have been adrift for the full 66 days.
“We don’t have any reason to believe anything he told the media is false,” said Coast Guard spokesman Nate Littlejohn. “However, we don’t know for a fact he was out at sea for 66 days. All we know is his family reported him missing on 29 January. We’ve not heard the whole story yet.”
Jordon added that while adrift at sea, he spent much of his time praying and thinking of his family. Now safe at home, the sailor added that he does not mind other people’s skepticism in the slightest.
You can hear Jordon briefly describe the experience in his own words.