Man May Join Pantheon of Famous Castaways


José Salvador Alvarenga has captured imaginations and raised a few skeptical eyebrows. Alvarenga claims to have drifted across 10,800 kilometers (6,700 miles) of Pacific Ocean, eating fish and turtles while drinking rainwater during an astounding 13-month ordeal. If his incredible tale is proved true, Alvarenga will join the list of history’s famous castaways. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand real-life Robinson Crusoes.

Discussion Ideas

  • The title of the Nat Geo News article says José Alvarenga may join a “pantheon” of famous castaways. What is a pantheon? Why didn’t the writer just say “list”?
    • A pantheon is a collection of all the gods and goddesses from a particular religion or mythology. Thor, Odin, and Loki are members of the Norse pantheon. Zeus, Athena, and Apollo are members of the Greek pantheon. Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesh are members of the Hindu pantheon.
    • The Nat Geo News writer was using “pantheon” as a metaphor. People who survive a long time alone at sea may be considered secular, survivalist deities.
  • Read the Nat Geo News article, and our own This Day in Geographic History article on Alexander Selkirk, the “Real-Life Robinson Crusoe.” How is Selkirk’s story very different from José Alvarenga and most of the other castaways featured in the article?
    • Selkirk’s story differs in two important ways.
      • Selkirk was marooned on an island, not adrift at sea.
      • Selkirk was not stranded by accident. He was intentionally left on the island by other sailors after voicing concerns about the safety of their ship. (Capt. William Bligh, another castaway featured in the article, was also intentionally abandoned by his fellow sailors.)

One thought on “Man May Join Pantheon of Famous Castaways

  1. Great blog post — makes you think about a lot of things!
    My favorite castaway was the character played by Tom Hanks in the 2000 movie “Cast Away” (interestingly spelled as two words not one!). Tom Hanks plays a FedEx pilot who survives a crash in a remote area and washed onto a deserted island. My brother is a FedEx pilot (so I guess that’s one reason I was captivated) and he knows more GEOGRAPHY than just about anyone I know. So, I’d point out that survival as a castaway requires ingenuity and using the geographic skills you have!
    And to curious students reading this cool blog, the movie “Cast Away” may be old, but it WON the 2001 Teen Choice Award for best “Chemistry” for Tom Hanks and Wilson, his only companion (a volleyball).

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