North Sentinel Island: Facts And Mysteries Surrounding The Sentinelese Tribe

Travel

Written By Zoya Ali.

Have you ever imagined a place where no one has been, no one has seen? People who normal technology-based homo sapiens have never met? Somewhere where no human like you and me have ever stepped foot? North Sentinel Island… 

North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal, home to one of the last isolated and uncontacted tribes in the world- hunter-gatherers called Sentinelese tribe. It is not allowed for any human to enter or be within 9.26 km distance from the island, nor would you want to.

Sentinelese Tribe

Sentinelese Tribe
Picture Credit- National Geographic

The tribe doesn’t have friendly relations with outsiders and are staunch protectors of their homeland, previous attempts to contact the tribe were welcomed with showers of spears and arrows, some might even call them the most aggressive uncontacted tribe on Earth.

Till day there has only been one friendly meet with the tribe in 1974 they took lots of food from the visitors.

However, in 1992 the Indian government banned people to go near the island not just because they would kill them but also because the tribe had no immunity against normal diseases, we face every day and even if one Sentinelese got infected all of their existence would wipe off the face of Earth. 

The Sentinelese are 15-400 in number, they are short people 165cm tall with dark shiny skin and teeth, with strong muscles as they are hunter-gatherers.

Sentinelese Tribe
Picture Credit- Sick Chirpse

They used spears, arrows and bows to kill and hunt animals. Some stories believe that the Sentinelese had migrated from Africa tens and thousands of years ago. They have been isolated with no proper contact with a modern-day technology-based human for 60,000 years.

Using technology like a satellite to get pictures of the island is impossible as it is covered in a dense forest all around except at the shore. The island is a coral dinged island the size of Manhattan.

The most bizarre part is that they might not know how to use fire and depend on lightning to create natural fires for them. The Sentinelese know how to build canoes and do not engage in agriculture, they live in temporary huts, use metals and speak an unknown language.

Sentinelese Tribe
Picture Credit- newstime.bo

The Onge Tribe of Andaman Islands

Another group of indigenous people at the Andaman and Nicobar islands are the Onge. They are believed to have come from Africa, their culture seemed the same and language sounded the same too.

However, when the British government governed India they took the Onge to meet the sentinels but the 2 tribes seemed confused and were unable to communicate as they had different languages.

Onge Tribe
PictureCredit- India The Destiny

In 2004 there was an earthquake at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that killed many people the Indian government sent a helicopter to check on the tribe they were fine but were not happy with the helicopter which was welcomed with a shower of many arrows and spears.

The disaster took the life of 200000 people in the inhabited islands of its not known how the tribe survived such a disaster which should have destroyed the sentinels no doubt about it, no one knows how they survived.

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Also Read: Unsolved Mysteries Of The Bermuda Triangle.

Story Of John Allen Chau

John Allen Chau, a brave and determined investigator of the island, was killed as recently as 2018 by the tribe. Chau, in his journal, wonders if the North Sentinel Island is the last stronghold of Satan the reason the tribe doesn’t welcome outsiders.

John Miller Chau
Picture Credit- CGTN

In his journal, he wrote his plan of going to the island by tipping the fishermen 30000$ just to take him to the island at night. He expressed his frustration of not being welcomed the last few times he went. The night Chau was taken to the island he told the fishermen not to wait for him.

He was killed by the Sentinelese and was seen being dragged to bury on the shore by the fishermen the next day. The fishermen were arrested for helping Chau as it was against the law. Chau has never seen again no one knows if the body the Sentinelese were dragging was his or not. 

Chau isn’t the only person who was killed by the Sentinelese 2 fishermen drunk and, in their boat, late at night drifted towards the island even after many fishermen warned them, as they were drunk, they didn’t seem to care.

They drifted onto the shores of the island and were killed by the Sentinelese. Attempts to recover their bodies were stopped as every time a helicopter or ship went close to the island it was welcomed with arrows and spears, their bodies were never recovered.

Another story of fishermen illegally fishing for crabs near the shore of the island was also killed and never seen again. 

First And Last Friendly Contact

In 1974 National Geographic gifted the Sentinelese a pig, doll, toy car, cooking utensils and coconuts. This is the first and must say last friendly visit the Sentinelese ever had with technology-based humans. Not only because the government has banned going to the island but also because the Sentinelese have become increasingly dangerous over the past few years.

Sentinelese Tribe
Picture Credit- The Indian Anomaly

The reports say that the Sentinelese ate the coconuts happily even though it is not a native fruit of the island. It was also reported that the Sentinelese killed and buried the pig and the doll but surprisingly not the cooking utensils which they must have found use in killing and hunting.

According to this meet in 1974 Adams Goodheart’s wrote an article called- ‘The Last Island of Savages’. The last contact to and with The Sentinelese was with journalist Chau who was killed and buried on the shore. The fishermen and 6 others who helped Chau are in jail.

Study By Maurice Vidal Portman

There should be no further contact with the tribe because of all the viruses floating around and also a study by Maria Vidal Portman.

In the 19th century, Maurice Vidal Portman studied the inhabitants of the island and says that the studies cannot be called human.

Portman went into the island searching for Sentinelese (the only known human to have made it passed the shores and into the island) he found many deserted settlements full of shells, later they found a family of 6 and kidnapped them there were 2 adults and 4 children, he took them to the nearest major city all the natives soon fell sick and the adults died.

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Portman hesitated and soon returned the 4 children back to the island’s shore and despite the diseases the children might have carried the tribe survived. It would have been very unlikely for them to survive and yet they did.

It is still a mystery how they survived an earthquake and how after the 4 diseased children Portman kidnapped returned the tribe still survived. We might never know what lies under the heavily covered forests of the island- it could be a civilization, aliens or even technology.

But this article is not to show the horrors the people faced when they went near the island but the horror the Sentinelese have to face and how scared they must be by humans and flying metal that looks like a dinosaur.

Effect Of The Modern World Problems On The Sentinelese Tribe

The Sentinelese are one of the last isolated hunter-gatherer tribes in the world, their existence on Earth is limited because of climate change, waste, technology and much much more. They need more protection than just a law and a boundary.

Sentinelese Tribe
Picture Credit- Scientific Mystery

They might have survived deadly diseases and an Earthquake but the ones to come are deadlier than both of them combined. The Indian government must protect them come what may.

How to save the Sentinelese you ask? The only way to save them is by leaving them alone. The more and more humans like us try to interact with them the more prone they are to diseases and viruses.

The coronavirus the disease of the Anthropocene- has thankfully not managed to crawl into The North Sentinel Island as far as scientists know but there is still a possibility that the virus has infected the island.

They are extremely vulnerable to all sorts of diseases and viruses- mostly Covid 19 as it spreads like a wildfire. They survived a disease before left by Portman and his 4 kidnapped diseased animals but might not survive a virus-like corona.

Thanks to the global lockdown fishermen, boats- people haven’t gone close to the island in months. The government has tested the Onge tribe as they are not an isolated tribe and they have tested negative, so it is implausible that the Sentinelese have tested positive-we might never know.

The Sentinelese are a very lucky tribe as the government has made sure no one goes close to the island unlike the other tribes of the Andaman whose lands have been taken away. 

The Rohingyas- on January 13th were fleeing Bangladesh after facing violence and forced return to Myanmar they fled on boats and were spotted by fishermen near the island at a 36km distance. The boat contained 66 people, 27 women, 23 men and 15 women.

Thankfully the boat never touched the shore or no one knows what the fate of the Sentinelese and the 66 Rohingya’s might have been. No one knows if the Rohingya’s had corona but thankfully they couldn’t have infected the Sentinelese from 36 km away.

Feature Image Credit- The Emerging India.

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Also Read: History Of The Espresso Machine: An Incredible Evolution

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Zoya Ali is a contributor The Strong Traveller. She loves to research and write articles. She loves her sports like athletics, swimming and squash and can usually be found outside roaming around. She loves animals and nature and can usually be seen on her laptop writing poems, articles and researching about the environment. She tries her best to be sustainable and save everything she can so nothing ends up in the waste.


11 thoughts on “North Sentinel Island: Facts And Mysteries Surrounding The Sentinelese Tribe

  1. Just a small thing that I noted – John Allen Chau was no brave and determined investigator of the island. He was, in fact, a christian missionary whose sole motive was to go to the island and convert the Sentinelese as some believe, and as already mentioned in the article, the island to be Satan’s last stronghold just because the Sentinelese are probably nature worshipers. That is the most absurd thing anyone would want to do and is definitely not brave. The only good thing we can ever do for the Sentinelese is to leave them be the way they are. They are coexisting with nature way better than we all are now.

    1. Yes Shama, we totally agree with you on the point that the Sentinelese are living with nature way better than we are now. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and facts. We appreciate it 😊.

  2. Just a small thing that I noted – John Allen Chau was no brave and determined investigator of the island. He was, in fact, a christian missionary whose sole motive was to go to the island and convert the Sentinelese as some believe, and as already mentioned in the article, the island to be Satan’s last stronghold just because the Sentinelese are probably nature worshipers. That is the most absurd thing anyone would want to do and is definitely not brave. The only good thing we can ever do for the Sentinelese is to leave them be the way they are. They are coexisting with nature way better than we all are now.

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