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.
ahead of me by starting out with some of the foods I enjoyed. After all, I didn't really know what lay in the future. I flattered myself I would never be lonely, but how could I tell? I remember having a beer one evening with a friend, and when I pooh-poohed his suggestion that I might be bored with my own company, he pointed out quite seriously, "I know you enjoy being on your own, Tom, but remember you've always had somebody around — if only to call them a damned nuisance! What's going to
kettle and light a fire. Usually the embers were still warm. Once the kettle was on and the fire going, I invariably made for the "House of Meditation" for I have always been a creature of regular habits. Close at hand was an old tin with the top cut off. Filled with ashes, it served as a practical alternative to modern plumbing. Then off I went for a quick wash before breakfast; only a cat's lick since I reserved my "shower" for the end of the day after hard work in the hot sun. Back in the
into the boat, my hat had fallen off, and I could not reach it — nor, had I been able to do so, could I have placed it on my head. Fortunately, I was able to move my arms backwards and forwards — so long as I did not raise them, or move my back. So, by sitting as still as possible, I slowly inched my hands towards the two oars, and managed to get them into position. I was facing the way we were going and did not have the courage to try and turn round, but I was able, from time to time, to make
had run out of tobacco did not worry me. I just seemed to be immune to the craving which had tortured me when this had happened before, a happy state of affairs which confirmed what I had always suspected : that my desire for tobacco (and meat) had been brought about by overwork during the time I was building the pier. I could have found some substitute for the tobacco had I wished, for many Cook Islanders smoke banana leaves rolled up tightly to form a sort of local cigar, though believe me it
head still above water until he had reached the bottom rung. Then he took a deep breath and went under whilst I waited, standing with the water around my knees. Although he could hardly have been down there for more than a minute, it seemed an age until Ed reappeared gasping below me on the steps. Standing on the bottom rung, his head just above water, he drew a deep breath and triumphantly held the mask aloft. He had found it at first go. This was the beginning of a fortnight of diving for