Monthly Archives: November 2016
Though somewhat inconvenient, becoming a castaway needn’t be a harrowing experience. Heed the lessons of Alexander Selkirk, a sailor who survived alone on an islet for over four years. Jack Palfrey retells his tale.
The roaring winds of the South Pacific buffer the bow of the Duke, a hardy British frigate, moored near the craggy island of Más a Tierra.
Aboard, the ship’s captain and experienced seahand, Woodes Rogers, awaits news from the small landing party that have gone ashore, investigating bright lights they believe to be French sailors stocking up on supplies.
Rogers whiles away the idle hours scribbling in his diary, a soiled manuscript that will go on to be published in England under the title: A Cruising Voyage Around the World.
“February 2, 1709: We are all convinc’d the light is on the shore, and design to make our ships ready to engage, believing them to be French ships at anchor,” he wrote.
As the sun bows to kiss the Pacific Ocean, Rogers becomes worried. Fearing his men have been captured, he commands a signal be raised for the crew to return. When he finally spies the returning boat, he is stunned by what he sees.
“Our Pinnace return’d from the shore, and brought abundance of Craw-fish, with a Man cloth’d in Goat-Skins, who look’d wilder than the first Owners of them,” he scribbled.
The wild man was Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who had been living alone on the small atoll for the last four years.
“At his first coming on board us, he had so much forgot his language for want of use, that we could scarce understand him,” authored Rodgers. “We offered him a Dram, but he would not touch it, having drank nothing but Water since his being there.”
The feral Selkirk intrigued Rogers. He admired his physical prowess and was impressed by his resourcefulness, inviting him to be a mate aboard Duke.
As a dense darkness smothered the vessel, Rogers ushered Selkirk below deck, hoping to be regaled by the castaway’s tale under candlelight.
Selkirk was marooned on Más a Tierra after a disagreement with his then captain over the seaworthiness of his ship. Selkirk dramatically suggested he would rather stay on the island than sail on.
His captain, somewhat of a literalist, left Selkirk ashore with his bedding, clothes, firelock, gunpowder and bullets. He also had his tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, a bible and his mathematical books.
Grappling with a strong sense of despair, Selkirk turned his attention to survival.
A little-known surf paradise in the Philippines is about to get a big wave of tourism. Emilee Tombs asks if Siargao can preserve the very thing that attracted people to it in the first place.
The journey to Siargao should have taken an hour, but we’d already been in the air that long when an enormous cloud tore across the sky and chased us twice around the island.
When we finally touched down I realised that the runway we’d been circumnavigating was little more than a finger swipe through custard, a patch of scrubland disappearing into the jungle around it.
After hauling my bag from the prop plane, baffled at the lack of security checks, I climbed into a waiting jeepney, the ubiquitous and colourfully adapted American army jeeps used as public transport in the Philippines.
Bouncing along the dirt track was like stepping back in time. The only life in the dense palm jungle was around basic stilt huts clinging to the road edge. Bamboo frames held up corrugated iron roofs which acted as petrol stations. One litre of gas in a Coca Cola bottle would set you back 20p. Carabao grazed lazily in lush rice paddies; the smell of slow-cooked Lechon pig hung in the hot air.
Siargao (pronounced Shar-gow) is one of over 7,000 islands that make up the Philippine archipelago. Perched 448km (278 miles) off the coast of cacophonic Cebu, the teardrop-shaped isle is relatively unknown, except to the surfing community, for whom it is a mecca.
Compared to neighbouring Boracay (an island with a 5-star Shangri-La resort, full moon parties and a busy airport), Siargao is a sleepy sibling. There are no direct international flights and volatile weather makes current airline timetables chaotic.
But all this will change from 2015 as more than £400,000 is set to be spent on improving and extending Siargao’s Sayak Airport over the next three years.