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
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.

 

Where Do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

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Alexander Selkirk – the Real Robinson Crusoe? The BBC European Lifeline: History Oddities

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An authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig Commerce, wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the month of August, 1815, with an account of the sufferings of the surviving officers and crew, who were enslaved by the wandering Arabs, on the African desert, or Zahahrah; and observations historical, geographical, &c. made during the travels of the author, while a slave to the Arabs, and in the empire of Morocco, Captain James Riley, 1817

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Ada Blackjack, the Forgotten Sole Survivor of an Odd Arctic Expedition, Tessa Hulls, Atlas Obscura, December 6, 2017

Shipwrecked by whales: The Robertson family survival story, BBC News, July 18, 2012

Trial by isle, Stephanie Mansfield, The Washington Post, April 26, 1984

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