Russian Crusoe untrue, so it seems

Image shot by Arkhangelsk Emergency Service
The dramatic story of a sailor miraculously saved by rescuers after 17 days on a remote island in icy seas may appear mere fable. The new Russian Crusoe, already an internet hit, was too clean and healthy for a marooned man. Was he a real castaway?

When rescuers pulled Sergey Ganyushev out of his “island limbo” they did not have time to ask questions. The man looked “atrophied and weak,” as medical experts examined him on board the helicopter.

However the first video shot by the rescuers shows an average-looking sailor, well-shaven, his clothes more or less tidy. And this is after 17 days without food and water, in a land cave on a deserted tiny island, after a several kilometer-long swim in ice-cold water?

What is even stranger is that nobody, not even Sergey’s family, informed the Emergency Services of his disappearance during these two weeks he allegedly spent on the island.

Besides the sailor’s well-groomed looks, experts have doubts the man had been in contact with the sea at all. After hours in salty seawater Sergey’s clothes would have been soaked with salt and worn-out. Did he use rain water to wash his threads?

The sailor said he had not left his improvised home for the past three days and was already contemplating suicide. But when he heard the chopper’s approach, he ran outside to wave the rescuers and showed little sign of weakness or depression.

“I noticed the guy was well-shaved,” said Igor Polivanov, who headed the rescue mission. “First we didn’t take that into account, but later some doubts appeared. His clothes had no signs of salt, while he insisted he had swam to the island. Finally, Sergey’s hypothermia was not that serious given that he had spent more than two weeks in wet clothing in a land cave. All that puzzled me a lot,” Igor confessed to Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Taking all the speculations into account, Russian media have promoted an idea the sailor was no Crusoe at all, but a fish poacher marooned by his collaborators.

Working for a seaweed factory, Sergey would never have gone into open seas alone. He would have been accompanied by a brigade of sailors. But this time some brave seamen went for another kind of business – to poach fish, assumes Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

The sailors may have had a quarrel off the coast and punished Sergey in accordance with the sea rules – stranding him on a football-pitch sized island. The paper’s theory explains why neither his relatives nor his employer informed the rescuers of his disappearance – both parties thought he was working.

Sergey could not survive on the island, but could not swim for it either – the nearest land is 16 kilometers away. His “colleagues” left nothing and his mobile phone did not work. The brilliant scheme was only spoiled by the rescue operation. The helicopter was in search of two shipwrecked sailors from the Solovetsky Monastery, who were caught by the storm on October 13.

Sailor’s employer confirmed Sergey works at the factory, however refused to give any comments. Inspectors have already come with checks to the firm, the source at the factory told the newspaper.  

“All this seems a mere fabrication by Sergey,” said Evgeny Chernikh, a spokesperson for the local police department, as cited by the Komsomolskaya Pravda. “He may have made the whole story up”, added the source.

The new Crusoe himself is currently recuperating at a local hospital and will be not be released in the coming days. He refuses to talk to the media, Russia’s First Channel reported.

After the emotions from the miraculous rescue fade, the strange case requires investigation. And the local prosecutor’s office is already on the case.