Photo- Heinz Instagram (@heinz)
In early February, we covered the story of 47-year-old Elvis Francois — a Dominican repairmen who was swept out to sea and spent an astonishing 24 days surviving on ketchup and seasoning packets.
Francois was working on a sailboat off St. Maarten when strong winds tore the boat from its mooring. Despite working as a repairman, Francois is not a sailor and was unable to get the sails operable.
He drifted an unbelievable 1130 km (702 miles) before miraculously being spotted by a commercial ship off the coast of Colombia.
All told, he spent 24 days at sea surviving on a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder, and some seasonings he found in the boat’s galley. He used clothing to collect rainwater to mix with his meager food supply into a broth.
“I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat, garlic powder and Maggi (stock cubes). So I mixed it up with some water for me to survive 24 days in the sea,” Francois said in a video posted by the Colombian navy.
“I tried to [go] back to port, but I lost track because it took me a while to mount the sail and fix the sail,” he said. “…I call my friends, my coworkers. They tried to contact me, but they lost service. There was nothing else I could do than sit down and wait.”
And wait he did.
The media hopped on the story, thanks in large part to Francois’ unusual survival diet, and now the buzz has captured the attention of the world’s largest ketchup producer.
Heinz posted a message on social media hoping to track down Francois and help him buy a new boat. They even organized search efforts by starting the hashtag #findtheketchupboatguy.
Francois shortly after being rescued / Photo- Armada de Colombia
In an Instagram post, Heinz posted a bottle of ketchup on a deserted island along with a parchment scroll with a message:
“To whoever finds this message, we need your help tracking down an amazing man with an amazing story. You may remember Elvis Francois as the brave sailor who survived on nothing but ketchup and spices while adrift at sea for 24 days. Well, Heinz wants to celebrate his safe return home and help him buy a new boat…but we can’t seem to find him.”
“So we’re setting this message adrift into the sea of the internet, because if anyone can help us find him, it’s you.”
“If you or anyone you know can help us get in contact with Elvis Francois, please drop us a DM. Sincerely, Heinz”
The momentum continues to grow as ketchup consumers and amateur sleuths around the world try to track Francois down.
Heinz has even gotten seriously scientific with their search, publishing a map of Dominica and telling their followers they have 290 square miles, 53 villages, and 18 towns to cover.
But despite multiple sightings and various attempts to make contact, Francois is still nowhere to be found.
Last week, Heinz didn’t admit defeat but did tell eager followers they were at an impasse. Throughout the search the company had made enquiries with the Colombian navy and the government of Dominica, all to no avail.
In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for Heinz said they want to “gift” Francois a “new state-of-the-art boat.” The boat, they said, would be “equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future.”
“We’re hoping to spread the word far and wide so Heinz can finally gift the new boat to Elvis,” the company said.