There’s an island in India well-know that’s off limits for any visitors. On the North Sentinel Island lives a tribe that’s protected by Indian Navy patrols to preserve its culture, making sure no one gets close.
However, that didn’t stop one man to visit it off limits.
Mr. Chau paid some fishermen to take him to the island. He set foot under the cover of darkness, on a boat by Port Blair, the Andaman chain’s main port.
“The Milky Way was above and God Himself was shielding us from the Coast Guard and Navy patrols,” he wrote on his blog.
The man from Washington State, Mr. Chau, 26, was an ambitious writer. He wanted to climb the mountains, camp in remote places, hike, canoe and explore the whole wide world.
He graduated in Oral Roberts University and he was fixated to spread Christianity to the North Sentinel, telling friends he’s been working on years to make the right contacts.
He was working on his own mission and made sure to take his waterproof Bible with him. However, when he got close the fishermen refused to land him on North Sentinel. The last know fisherman that drifted away to the island was killed in 2006.
Mr. Chau arranged a boat to take him as close as they could and then he jumped in a kayak and paddled in to the island shores. His first moments didn’t go well.
He wrote in a letter: “Two armed Sentinelese came rushing out yelling. They had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer. I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.”
He threw them some fish, but the islanders kept coming toward him. He then turned away and paddled like he never have in his life.
“I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed,” he admitted. “They didn’t accept me right away.”
Mr. Chau was almost signing for a death wish. They have not accepted filmmakers, government officials, anthropologists.. no one. They just ward them off with bows and arrows.
Years ago, few anthropologists managed to throw some coconuts to the tribe, but that was all.
The North Sentinel people drove themselves away from the modern world we live in today. The mainly live off turtles and pigs. They wear loincloths and live in huts. Not many things they know about them.
In the 19th century, a British officer was so intrigued to find out about this tribe that he kidnapped several islanders. Some soon died and the officer pronounced the experiment as “failed.”
Getting to know the tribe for anthropologists is a pot of gold, but their knowledge is very limited. The island is about the size of Manhattan with forests and beautiful sand beaches, untouched by modern world.
The population size they estimate is 50 to a 100, but it’s hard to know. They say the tribe possibly migrated from Africa more than a thousand years ago.
Indian officials guard the tribe and their culture as much as they can because they are afraid their immune system doesn’t match for modern microbes and they can be wiped out easily.
But for Mr. Chau this was challenge. He took careful selection of gifts for the tribe that haven’t seen none: scissors, safety pins, fishing line and a soccer ball.
But the people on the island were amused, hostile and ‘perplexed’ by his presence, as he wrote.
There was a man wearing a white crown that was possibly the leader of the tribe, standing at the tallest coral rock on the beach.
The man yelled at Mr. Chau and he tried to respond with some worship songs in Xhosa, a language he learned from when he coached soccer in South Africa.
“They would often fall silent after this,” he wrote. Other efforts to communicate with the tribe ended with their bursting out in laughter.
As he tried to approach once more with fish and bundle of gifts, a young boy shot an arrow directly into his bible. The arrow shaft was made out of thin but very sharp metal head.
Mr. Chau went back and forth and made quite observations of the tribe. Sometimes the encounter was scientific, sometimes quite dangerous, like the one with the arrow being sent directly a him.
On one afternoon, Mr. Chau told the fisherman to go, making them sure that he will be ok staying on the island overnight. He also gave them a letter to give to a friend in case he didn’t come back.
When they passed by the island next morning, they saw the tribe dragging his body on the beach with rope. No one knows what happened with him on the island, but they most likely killed him with bow and arrows.
Mr. Chau’s body is still on the island, and police officials were worried about retrieving it, afraid that the same might happen to them.
The police flown helicopters over the island, but they didn’t set foot on shore, as it was very clear rule that nobody should set foot on the island and Mr. Chau broke it backdoor.
Before setting off that final day, Mr. Chau finished his note with a message to his family.
“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed,” he wrote.
“I love you all.”