16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison
16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison

16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison

Natasha sheldon - September 21, 2018

16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison
Sir Ernest H. Shackleton, British arctic explorer. Wikipedia Commons. Public Domain

13. Ernest Shackleton: The Antarctic Explorer who braved icebergs and scaled glaciers to save his men.

From the age of 22, Ernest Shackleton was obsessed with the idea of exploring the Antarctic. In 1914, he got his wish, when Shackleton embarked upon an expedition to tackle what he regarded as the “one great main object of Antarctic journeyings: the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea.” On August 8, 1914, Shackleton and 23 men left England on their great adventure on the ship Endurance. Their first stop was for Buenos Aires. Then, it was on to South Georgia, and from there, the coast of the Antarctic itself.

In December 1914, the Endurance entered the Weddell Sea on the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, winter had come early, and it was unseasonably cold. Progress became increasingly slow until, by January 1915, the Endurance could go no further as it became firmly wedged amongst the ice floes. Shackleton and his men were marooned in a sea of ice. At first, the team made the best of things, passing the time playing hockey and holding dog sled races. Then, in October 1915, Endeavor’s hull caved in.

Shackleton and his men had no choice but to abandon ship. Dragging the Endeavors’ lifeboats behind them, they moved from ice floe to ice floe until finally, they could row in open sea. By April 1916, they had managed to reach Elephant Island. The men built shelters and hunted penguin and seal. However, Shackleton realized that they could not wait there and hope for rescue. So, while most of the crew stayed behind to wait, he and five others set off again in the lifeboat for the Whaling stations in South Georgia.

Shackleton and his small rescue party made landfall at the deserted King Haakon Bay. They then made their way to the whaling station at Stromness, scaling the glaciers that marked the desolate landscape. Finally, they reached their destination, and the Norwegian occupants of the station organized a steamer to rescue the men on Elephant Island. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the whole adventure was that not one of Shackleton’s men died In fact, the biggest collective losses amongst the team were ten frostbitten toes.

16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison
Ada Blackjack. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

14. Ada Blackjack: The Inuit Explorer who was stranded on a Siberian Island for two years

On September 16, 1921, Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman living in Nome, Alaska joined a team of Canadian explorers who were attempting to claim a Northern Siberian Island, Wrangel Island for Canada. Ada was destitute after her husband left her and her only son; Bennett was suffering from chronic tuberculosis. The only way Ada could raise the money for his treatment was to take on the job as the expeditions cook and seamstress. So, placing Bennett in an orphanage for safekeeping, Ada and the rest of the expedition made the journey to the island across the Chukchi Sea.

It quickly became apparent the team was woefully unprepared. They ate their rations too quickly and did not hunt or store enough food. Eventually, three of the men decided to cross the frozen sea to seek help. They left behind Lorne knight, a member of the expedition who was riddled with scurvy and Ada herself as his nurse. The main expedition never returned. Knight although unable to hunt himself, instructed Ada how to trap and kill game- a skill she became remarkably proficient at. She was able to provide for them both, setting traps for small game, shooting other birds and seals and even fending off unfriendly polar bears.

Ada remained with Knight until his death on June 23, 1923. She continued to live alone on the island until August 19, 1923, when the organizer of the expedition finally sent out a rescue party. With her pay- which was less than was promised- Ada was able to retrieve Bennett and take him to Seattle for treatment. She and her family later returned to Alaska where Ada remained until her death at the age of 85.

16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison
The Robertson Family. Google Images

15. The Robertson Family: The British Family shipwrecked by Whales

In 1971, Douglas Robertson, an experienced British sailor decided to take his family on a holiday with a difference. Using the family’s life savings, Robertson bought a boat the Lucette and the Robertson’s set off on an epic sailing trip around the world. Robertson hoped the trip would prove educational for his teenage son and daughter and his twin nine-year-old sons. It certainly proved to be the case- but not in the way Robertson hoped. For eighteen month into the voyage, two hundred miles from the Galapagos Islands, the Lucetteencountered a pod of killer whales. Within a matter of minutes, the whales had struck the Lucette-and sunk her.

The family scrabbled into a small dinghy that was to be their refuge for the next 38 days. Mrs. Robertson, who was a nurse, collected rain droplets for drinking water. This meager supply was supplemented with turtle blood, which, because it is poisonous if taken orally, she administered in the form of an enema made from the rungs of a ladder. The Robertsons also rendered down turtle fat in the sun to form an oil that they rubbed into their skin to insulate themselves against the cold. Once their basic supply of dried food ran out, they lived on raw flying fish.

In the meantime, Mr. Robertson steered the boat towards South America in the hope of rescue. However, it was not a South American vessel that saved the Robertsons but a Japanese fishing trawler that was heading for the Panama Canal. Robinson, who had been in the royal navy, had previously been sunk by the Japanese during the Second World War. After his ordeal was over, he told his eldest son that the trip had been worthwhile for no other reason that it had enabled him to ‘forgive the Japanese.”

16 Tales of Historic Castaways That Make Robinson Crusoe Pale in Comparison
Still from the Castaway Movie/Cannon Street Entertainment. Google Images

16. Gerard Kingsland and Lucy Irvine: The self-imposed Castaways of Tuin Island

In 1980, an eccentric British writer/adventurer, Gerald Kingsland place a very unusual advert in Time Out Magazine. “Writer seeks ‘wife’ for a year on Tropical Island” it read. Kingsland maintained the experience was meant to be an“experiment in isolation.” However, he must have realized spending a year marooned on an island with a strange man could not have appealed to many women. However, Gerald did receive a reply from the right kind of adventurous soul: 24-year-old Lucy Irvine. So, in 1982, the couple set out to Tuin Island an uninhabited island in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The project did not go well from the start. The Australian authorities that owned the island insisted the couple should marry, a fact Irvine deeply resented. She also resented Kingsland’s advances and his desire to dominate her- despite the fact she was doing all the work while he abused her and complained about his ill health. Then there was the fact the island was far from tropical but instead a more of a “coral atoll… with “lots of rough bush, sand,” and unfriendly animals like redback spiders. The couple had also intended to grow crops but there was barely enough water to sustain them, let alone any new vegetation.

However, Irving rose above it all. In fact, it was she who derived the most from the experience, refusing to leave the island when Kingsland wanted to give up. Finally, however, the project had to be terminated when the dehydrated and malnourish pair had to be rescued by the nearby Badu islanders. The mismatched pair split up- and finally went their separate ways.


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