8. John Young: The English Sailor who Married a Hawaiian Princess
When John Young left his home in Lancashire for a life at sea, he could hardly have imagined he would end up married to royalty. In 1790, Young was serving on an American fur trading ship, the Eleanora when the boat docked in Hawaii. It was the first time Young had seen Owhyee as the island was known. He had however heard tales of its exotic delights- especially the women.
However, the Hawaiian’s were not entirely well disposed towards European visitors. Only 11 years earlier, the Islanders had killed Captain Cook. Young quickly discovered relations were still uneasy. While the Eleanora was in the harbor, her companionship, The Fair American was attacked. Young was part of a party sent ashore to investigate what had happened. However, the local King, Kamehameha I did not want the Europeans to discover that the attackers were Hawaiian. So Young was detained, and his ship sailed without him.
In 1793, a Captain Vancouver sailed into Hawaii and encountered Young and offered passage out of Hawaii. Young, however, refused as his lot on Hawaii had improved considerably. For the sailor from Lancashire had become Governor of Hawaii and an adviser to King Kamehameha. Young’s knowledge of land and naval strategy was of great use to the monarch- as was his ability to act as a go-between with European powers. Two years after Captain Vancouver’s offer of a lift, Young married Kamehameha’s daughter, Namokuelua. Their descendants still live on Hawaii today.
9. Charles Barnard: The Kindly Sea Captain Marooned by those he rescued.
In 1812, Captain Charles Barnard completed a mission of mercy that he would later regret. Barnard was the captain of an American ship, the Nanina, which was hunting for seals off the coast of Argentina. However, as he passed the Falkland Islands, he noticed a shipwreck off Eagle island. Barnard investigated and found that most of the crew had survived. However, it seemed that the ship, the Isabella was a British one. It was an awkward situation because, in 1812, Britain and America were at war with each other. However, Barnard did the decent thing and took the survivors on board his ship.
Barnard soon discovered that the Nanina did not have enough provisions to accommodate her new passengers. So he took a party out to hunt for meat on nearby New Island. However, while he was gone, the crew of the Isabella took over the Nanina, which they turned over to the British navy as a spoil of war. As for Barnard and the rest of his provision party, they marooned on New Island in the middle of winter. They were left to fend for themselves for 18 months on New Island.
Two whalers finally rescued Barnard and his men, the Asp and the Indispensable in November 1814. Somewhat ironically, it tuned out that Barnard’s rescuers were British. Whether or not this in anyway made amends for the ingratitude of their fellow countrymen is unknown. However, after traveling to England to reclaim his ship, in 1829, the Captain published his account of the whole misadventure entitled A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures of Captain Charles Barnard.”
10. James Riley: The Shipwrecked Sea Captain who trekked through the Sahara desert after being enslaved by Berber tribesmen.
In August 1815, James Riley was the Captain of the American brig “Commerce” which was making its way from Gibraltar to the Capre Verde Islands. The ship was just off the West African coast when it became lost in the fog and ran aground on the Moroccan coast. Riley and his crew began repairs, but when locals stole their supplies, they found themselves trapped between the sea and the Sahara desert without food and water. The group decided to walk inland in the hope of encountering tribesmen who could help them. They did indeed meet a group of Berber tribesmen. However, instead of helping the American castaways, the Berbers enslaved them.
The Berbers divided the men between them and went their separate ways. Riley and his portion of the crew had no choice but to follow their new masters into the Sahara desert. They became sunburnt, and their masters mistreated them. The Berbers beat and starved them and forced them to drink their own and camel urine. One day, a group of Arabs arrived at the camp. Riley, who had by now picked up some of the rudiments of the language somehow managed to speak to two of them, a man named Sidi Hamet and his brother.
Riley asked the brothers to buy him and his men, assuring them that if they took them to the Moroccan Port of Mogador (now Essaouira), they could be ransomed. Sidi Hamet agreed. So, Riley and his men, with their new masters began the journey out of the Sahara and back to the coast. Water was scarce, and they were in constant fear of attack from rival tribes. However, at last, they reached Mogador.
Riley wrote a note explaining their predicament to the town’s consul, a British merchant named William Willshire. Willshire agreed to pay the ransom and even rode out himself to liberate the men. The grateful Riley and his men then returned to America. Once home, Riley, mindful of his experiences as a slave devoted himself to anti-slavery work before returning to a life at sea.
11. Juana Maria: The “Lone Woman of San Nicholas” who spent 18 years stranded on a Californian island.
In 1853, Captain George Nidever and his crew of sea otter hunters landed on the island of San Nicholas in California’s Channel Islands. At 61 miles from the mainland, San Nicholas was one of the most remote. So it came as a great surprise to Nidever and his crew when they found that the island was home to a solitary Native American woman. No one could speak the woman’s language. However, once she was on the mainland, the woman who became known as Juana Maria managed to communicate her story through a series of hand gestures.
Juana Maria had lived her whole life on San Nicholas. It had been the home of her tribe, the Nicolenos. However, sometime in the early 1800s, a group of Russian otter hunters came to San Nicholas and killed most of her people. In 1835, missionaries from the mainland came to San Nicholas to evacuate the survivors. It was they who gave Juana Maria the name by which she became known. However, Juana Maria was left behind when she went to search for her missing child. She never found the infant and missed her opportunity to leave. So, she remained on San Nicholas, forgotten and alone.
For the next 18 years, Juana Maria survived by subsisting off the natural environment. She made fishhooks from seashells and wove baskets and bowls from grasses. She constructed shelter from whalebones and the dried blubber of the seals, which along with fish and seabirds were the central part of her diet. The leftover feathers and skins of her prey provided Juana Maria with ample raw materials from which to make clothes.
When he returned to his family in Santa Barbara, Captain Nidever took Juana Maria with him. However, she did not live beyond a few months. For unable to cope with the change of diet, Juana Maria contracted dysentery. Nothing could save her- even her carers’ attempts to recreate the diet she had become used to on the island. No one ever learned Juana Maria’s true, Native American name. Her story, however, lived on in a children’s novel “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”
12. Narcisse Pelletier: The Fourteen-Year-old French Cabin Boy adopted by Australian Aborigines.
Narcisse Pelletier was just 14 when he set out on what turned out to be the voyage of a lifetime. In August 1857, Pelletier signed up as a cabin boy on a ship, the “Saint Paul.” The “Saint Paul” was leaving the French port of Marseilles for Bombay. There it was to drop off its cargo of wine and pick up a party of 300 Chinese laborers bound for the Australian gold mines. The return journey to Australia began in September 1858. However, when the “Saint Paul” began to run low on the supplies, the Captain decided to take a shorter but riskier route to Sydney.
The gamble did not pay off. Just off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the ship ran aground on a reef. So some of the crew, Pelletier among them set off for nearby Rossel Island for the much-needed supplies. However, when they were violently driven away by the inhabitants of the islands, the party paddled for two weeks before they landed on the eastern Cape York Peninsula of Australia. By this time, Pelletier was dangerously ill. So, no doubt to save wasting resources on a what they believed was a hopeless case, the crew restocked with supplies and then sailed away, leaving the cabin boy behind.
Pelletier, no doubt terrified at his predicament was not alone for long. Three women from a local Aboriginal tribe quickly discovered him. Known as the Sand Beach people, the tribe welcomed and adopted Pelletier, nursing him back to health. The Sand gave him a new name: “Anco” or“Amglo” and learned their language, Uutaalnganu and lived as one of them for the next sixteen years.
In this time, Pelletier had no contact with Europeans. This ended on April 11, 1875, when he encountered the crew of a Pearl Lugger, the John Bell. The crew, no doubt believing they were doing Pelletier a favor ârescued’ him. This, however, was not how Pelletier saw it as in his account of events he described himself as âkidnapped”. However, he did not return to his adopted Sand Beach family. Instead, after a month in Sydney, in July 1875, Narcisse Pelletier set sail back to France.
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.
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.
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 âforgive the Japanese.”
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 atollâ¦ 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.