If you are curious about what lies in North Sentinel Island, there is nothing wrong with wondering about it, as long as you do not plan to visit. We clearly are warning you that visiting the Island will end disastrously, and we are not even kidding when we say this.
Why you ask? History has proved that the North Sentinelese people do not welcome visitors and any encounters with them have always ended in disasters and on some occasions even death.
Who are the Sentinelese?
The Sentinelese are an uncontacted clan of indigenous people who live in voluntary isolation and have defended, often by force, their impenetrable isolation from the rest of the world.
They inhabit the Island, which is one of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. No accurate census has been managed in this area due to the Sentinelese aggression towards any visitors. Although, the population has been guesstimated to lie between 50 and 200.
Map North Sentinel Island
7 Disastrous Incidents Faced by Visitors to North Sentinel Island
For more than a century, people have tried to interact with the inhabitants of the Island, without any success. Apparently, in spite of this, the tribe that inhabits the 23 mile2 isle does not want any visitors setting foot on their grounds and aggressively protects their sanctuary against the people from the outside world.
We are going to discuss 7 terrible incidents in the history of people approaching the Sentinelese tribe. These incidents in themselves are actually 7 disastrous reasons to not visit the Island ever, for the Sentinelese do not at any cost like visitors.
1. The British Empire’s Generosity (1880)
During the course of the British colonization, they had an odd code of behavior when having to deal with inimical tribes and clans.
Whenever a tribe was belligerent towards the British colonists and refused to be contacted, The British used to seize and abduct a person belonging to the tribe, shower the captive with favors and presents all the while treating them well, before setting them free after a short captivity. Ideally, the tribesperson would go back to their tribe with testimonies of the generosity of the British.
Maurice Vidal Portman applied this same British Generosity approach during one of the primary quests to the North Sentinel Island. The Sentinelese absconded into the jungle when Portman and his men approached them, which was enough sign to return.
Although there was no hostility at this point, the natives were only fleeing to protect themselves from strangers. But Portman and his men were able to seize and abduct an elderly couple and 4 children who could not run away fast enough.
The old couple soon contracted an illness and died, owing to Portman and his men being carriers of a diversity of foreign ailments. The British released to children after showering them with many offerings and presents to take back the tribe.
As the old couple never returned it was obvious that the Sentinelese did not appreciate this at all. After this first experience of contact with the outside world, the tribe became openly unreceptive and hostile to anyone who came near their premises.
2. Indian Explorations of its New Territories (1970)
After India had gained its independence from the British Raj, many isles were given to India. Among these islands was the North Sentinel. About a century after Portman’s expedition, India decided to explore its newly acquired territories and tried to contact the tribe under the guidance of the anthropologist Triloknath Pandit.
Pandit’s vessel drifted too close to the North Sentinel during their planned observation from a distance. Quite a few Sentinelese men started directing their bows at the ship, bellowing, and showcasing aggression and insults. Pandit’s expedition returned to India as a result.
3. National Geographic Repelled (1974)
National Geographic dispatched a crew to the North Sentinel 4 years after Pandit’s failed expedition, to record a documentary on the elusive tribe. The National Geographic vessel was met by a salvo of arrows just as it traversed through a gap in the island’s coral reef fence, but the ship evaded this hail somehow but kept sailing on.
The police that were escorting the crew made their landing on the coast and left an assortment of offerings for the Sentinelese hoping to engage with them on friendlier terms.
As the police went about placing these offerings onto the coast, another torrent of arrows was issued from the jungle and the director was struck in the thigh. The crew retreated after this but observed from a distance what became of their gifts. The Sentinelese took the cooking utensils and fruit. The man who had injured the director took the live pig and doll from among the offerings and bizarrely entombed them in the sand of the shore.
4. The Primrose Predicament (1981)
In India’s monsoon season, a cargo ship, the Primrose was stranded along the coral reefs surrounding the Island with 28 sailors on board. The storm was severe, so the crewmen decided to sleep through for they could not do anything other than that. The following morning, after they woke up, the captain broadcasted an exigent message to Hong Kong for help as the Sentinelese were aiming their spears and arrows toward the vessel. The next day, the situation became awfully worse and dangerous as the Sentinelese started assembling boats to attack the Primrose.
The severity of the storm did now allow any defense weapons to be airdropped to the Primrose, but it did some good as it stopped the Sentinelese from reaching Primrose as well. After a week of turmoil on board, when the storms calmed, a helicopter rescued the crewmen of Primrose, as Sentinelese shot arrows at the copter.
5. Pandit’s Return (1991)
Ten years after the Primrose Predicament, Triloknath Pandit decided to approach the Sentinelese again. He was met by 28 unarmed Sentinelese men, women, and children on the shore, who made it obvious that there were clear limits to what the interlopers did. The dinghy on which Pandit’s crewmen rested began to drift and a Sentinelese man threatened Pandit with a knife, thinking Pandit was there to stay.
Pandit sailed back, and soon after this, it was made clear that it was not advisable to make contact with these people. They are brutally hostile towards anyone who nears their territory let alone set foot in their lands.
6. Drunk Poachers Killed (2006)
Pandit’s visit had made it loud and clear that the Sentinelese did not want anyone evading their privacy or even nearing their territories, therefore a length of 5 miles around the North Sentinel Island was marked, beyond which was the no-go zone. Crossing into this radius was clearly made illegal by the Indian Government.
However, two poachers, Sunder Raj, 48, and Pandit Tiwari, 52, went fishing for mud crabs and after dropping their anchor of a rock tied to a rope, fell deep into asleep after drinking.
The anchor did not hold and their boat drifted into the island’s vicinity as they slept. They were attacked and killed. After the alarm was raised, a helicopter was sent to retrieve their dead bodies but failed to do so as it neared the shore, it was shot with arrows from the tribesmen.
The downdraught from the copter’s propellers unearthed the two fishermen who had been buried in shallow graves. Contrary to the then belief, they had been killed and buried but not roasted and eaten, which proved the Sentinelese were not a cannibal tribe.
7. American Missionary Killed (2018)
John Allen Chau, an American Evangelical missionary who made a failed attempt to convert them to Christianity was killed by the Sentinelese. Chau called the North Sentinel Island “Satan’s last stronghold”, in his journal and also wrote that no one is angry at the Sentinelese or God if he were killed. In his last journal entry, dated 16th November 2018, Chau left directions for getting in touch with friends and family of his. He left his journal with the fishermen, and the next day the fishermen saw the Sentinelese dragging Chau’s lifeless body to the shore and burying it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the Sentinelese?
These 7 horrible incidents are more than enough reasons to not visit North Sentinel Island ever. These people have protected themselves from tsunamis and other natural calamities, including foreign diseases, like the one the old couple contracted during Portman’s visit. They have a right to protect themselves, their lands, their cultures, and their space from the outside world, in whatever way they see fit after they have so bizarrely made clear that any visitors are not welcome.
The world is huge, and there are so many amazing places to visit, as long as you leave the North Sentinel Islands alone for the sake of their privacy and, most importantly, your safety. Thrill-seeking is a part of the adventure but no thrill or curiosity is worth so much that it must cost a person their life. Steer clear of the North Sentinel Island at all costs.
What Makes North Sentinel Island So Isolated?
North Sentinel Island remains isolated due to its physical distance, remote location, and the voluntary isolation of the Sentinelese people who are hostile toward outsiders. The lack of modern amenities and infrastructure on the island further contributes to its isolation. Legal and ethical restrictions also limit visitation, preserving the island’s cultural and biological heritage.
Why is North Sentinel Island so difficult to access?
Accessing Island is incredibly challenging due to its unique circumstances. Home to an isolated tribe, the Sentinelese people are known for their hostility towards outsiders, making any attempt at access dangerous. The Indian government has imposed restrictions to protect both the tribe and visitors, with fines or imprisonment for violators.
What are some of the unique features of the Island’s culture?
The culture of the Sentinelese people on the Island is unlike any other. With their own language, mysterious beliefs, and a deep hostility towards outsiders, their isolated lifestyle revolves around hunting, fishing, and gathering.
How have modern technology and globalization impacted the people of the Island?
The isolated people of Island, one of the last uncontacted tribes in the world, have been minimally affected by modern technology and globalization. Due to their isolation and strict regulations set by the Indian government, their way of life remains untouched. It is crucial to respect their right to live undisturbed and preserve their unique culture.
What are the potential risks for outsiders attempting to visit or interact with the people of the Island?
The people of the Island have a history of violence towards outsiders. Attempting to visit or interact with them without permission can result in physical harm or death. It is also prohibited by Indian law, with legal implications for those who make contact. Respect their isolation and avoid any attempts to engage with them.
Why is the Island considered one of the most isolated places on Earth?
The island is considered one of the most isolated places on Earth due to its location in the Bay of Bengal and the Sentinelese tribe that calls it home. With little to no contact with the outside world, the island has been declared off-limits by the Indian government for safety reasons. Contact attempts have been met with hostility, leading to a policy of non-interference.
As we delve deeper into the enigma of North Sentinel Island, one thing becomes clear – its isolation. The island’s intriguing history, geographical peculiarities, and unexplored biodiversity contribute to its mystique.
The early encounters and British expeditions, followed by the period post-Indian independence, provide a glimpse into the island’s past. The landscape and terrain analysis, coupled with the climate and weather patterns, shed light on its geographical distinctiveness.
Furthermore, the unique flora and endemic fauna add to its allure. Yet, it is the island’s isolation that sets it apart. The Sentinelese people have chosen to remain untouched by the outside world, fiercely guarding their way of life. Island continues to captivate and fascinate, reminding us of the mysteries that still exist in our modern world.
Ferona Jose is a passionate travel writer and blogger at Travelistia. She has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her writing focuses on cheap travel destinations, travel experiences, cultural insights, and travel hacks.