An Island to Oneself
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Thomas Francis "Tom" Neale (November 6, 1902 - November 27, 1977) was a New Zealander bushcraft and survival enthusiast who spent much of his life in the Cook Islands and 16 years in three sessions living alone on the island of Anchorage in the Suwarrow atoll, which was the basis of this autobiography.
needed, despite the fact that I had accumulated quite an assortment over the years including chisels, a hacksaw and carpenters' saws, an axe and tomahawk, a couple of machetes, a sheath knife, as well as pliers, an adjustable spanner, and things like a hammer, screwdriver and a rat-tail file. All the same, I required a few more items, which I bought during the last week. I needed a couple of really good chisels for I expected to find empty fuel drums left by the watchers. I bought a pair of
plastic to stick between the toes — bottles, tins, bits of iron ballast. One day I came on something which indicated a vessel must recently have been very close to the island. The sight of a green coconut lying among the stones on Brushwood Islet gave me an odd feeling. Picking it up, I discovered one end had been cut off — the wrong end, where the eyes had been. "That must have been the work of some popaa," I said to myself, using the native dialect for European. No native would open a
wax — not quite to the top, so that some wick still showed. It took nearly half an hour for the wax to set; once I was sure it was hard, I cut the knots under the wooden board, carefully split the bamboo in half — and there were my candles. After this, I never had occasion to use the table lamp again. I was able to keep my precious kerosene for the hurricane lamp which sooner or later I knew was going to be vital when the time came again to go outside in bad weather. Those candles lasted for
this all along, his words seemed loaded with a terrible finality. I knew now that authority had set its face implacably against me. And yet even despite this knowledge, some instinct bore me up because I knew that somehow or other I would make it in the end. At this time one of my few friends was Ron Powell whose boatyard was only a short distance from my shack, and I had fallen into the habit of dropping in on him during the long evenings to watch him building his latest order. I have
need to rebuild it; behind it, my breadfruit tree had all but disappeared under a convolvulus vine. Looking around me, I could see I would have to start all over from the beginning again. The garden was a mass of weeds and sprouting coconuts which must have fallen from the nearby palms. The garden fence and fowl run had both collapsed. And yet I cannot remember feeling the least sensation of dismay. It was no worse than it had been in 1952, and I had managed then — at first even without a boat.