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Video Shows Man Who Can't Swim Rescued After Floating in Boat's Freezer For 11 Days

Man who can't swim and didn't wear lifejacket lost 10 lbs during the ordeal.

A fisherman miraculously survived 11 days at sea without any food or water by floating in a freezer until he was rescued. Romualdo Macedo Rodrigues, 44, had no choice but to climb into the freezer after his wooden boat started filling with water in Oiapoque, northern Brazil. He was en route to an island off the coast of French Guiana when the scary incident happened. Rodrigues is thankful to be alive, saying, "I thought I was going to be attacked by sharks because there are lots of curious fish on the high seas." Here's what happened.

Unable To Swim


What was supposed to be a straightforward fishing trip turned into a nightmare for Rodrigues when his boat started filling with water en route to Ilet la Mere, an island off the coast of French Guiana where he planned to spend a few days fishing. The fisherman is unable to swim and was not wearing a life jacket, so he climbed into a freezer, which is where he spent the next 11 days. Rodrigues had no food or water and lost 10 lbs during the ordeal. Keep reading to see the video.

Scared Of Sharks

bull sharks

According to Rodrigues, he wasn't worried about hunger so much as he was about thirst. There was also the very real possibility of being attacked and eaten by a shark while stranded in the ocean. "What troubled me most was the thirst," he told local media. "I thought I was going to be attacked by sharks because there are lots of curious fish on the high seas." There have been 62 shark attacks and 25 fatalities in Brazil since 1992.

A Successful Rescue


After 11 days at sea, Rodrigues was spotted by a boat which pulled him out of the ocean near Suriname, which borders French Guiana. He was approximately 280 miles away from where his boat had been lost. According to the fisherman, it was "the most important day" of his life and he felt "born again" after his near-death experience. "I heard a noise and there was a boat above the freezer," he says. "Except they thought there was no one there."

A Miracle


"Then they slowly got closer, my vision was fading, and then I said, 'My God, the boat.' I raised my arms and asked for help. Video footage of the rescue shows that Rodrigues was wearing tattered clothing and seemed (understandably) disoriented. He was also dehydrated and suffering from sunstroke. His rescuers gave him porridge and water after 11 days of nothing to eat. "This fridge, for me, was God. A miracle," he says.

Rescued—and Arrested


Rodrigues' story took a strange turn when he ended up being arrested by police in Suriname for not having the right documents. "He was very thin, debilitated, but in very good spirits," says police officer Luis Carlos Porto. "The wounds he had on his body, which were related to the sun, were already much better. He says he had vision problems due to the excessive heat, salt, and light, but he was very calm and in good health."  Rodrigues reportedly spent 16 days in custody before being allowed to fly back home to Belem in Para state, Brazil.

Make it: José Salvador Alvarenga Holds the Record for Longest Solo Survival


The record for longest solo survival at sea belongs to fisherman José Salvador Alvarenga, who was lost for 438 days. Alvarenga actually had another fisherman—Ezequiel Córdoba—with him, but Córdoba lost hope and stopped eating, which resulted in him starving to death. Alvarenga eventually spotted land a year after the initial storm which damaged his boat. He swam to shore on one of the Marshall Islands, which was on the other side of the Pacific from where he started in Costa Azul, Mexico.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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