The Armchair Explorer: 5 Island Vacations for the Truly Intrepid

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Dreaming of a remote island where you can really get away from it all? So far away that you may never (be able to) come back? This week, we'll take you on brief tours of five prime vacation non-destinations. Before starting, you might want to fire up Google Earth, just so you'll know to get back home.

North Sentinel Island

and1.jpgNorth Sentinel Island, Andaman Archipelago, India. For Google Earth explorers, start out at about 5000 kilometers and center your screen at 11° 33'N, 92° 14' E. Gazing down at the Bay of Bengal between India and Southeast Asia, you'll see the Andaman Islands, an Indian territory not far from some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. For thousands of years, however, mariners studiously avoided this archipelago, noted for the isolation and inhospitality of its inhabitants (their rule of thumb was to kill all interlopers). In the mid-1800s, however Britain (wouldn't you know it?) subdued the large islands in the chain, mostly to build a massive prison for its recalcitrant Indian subjects. With outsiders came disease, leading to the gradually disappearance of most Andamanese hunter-gatherer tribes.

photo working2.jpgOne island, however, escaped the fate of its neighbors: North Sentinel. Google Earthers should zoom down to about 10 kilometers, where the island fills the screen. Nothing is visible except trees and coral reefs. But the lack of human indicators is misleading. North Sentinel Island is inhabited, but by how may people is anyone's guess. We know next to nothing about their language or culture. In the late 20th century, a few Indian anthropologists tried to make contact, but failed.

more after the jump...

photo working.jpgSome observers feared that the December 2004 tsunami might have wiped out the North Sentinelese. But Anthropologists were relieved, in a rather twisted manner, to learn that when a small Indian fishing boat veered to close to the island in 2006, its crew was given a typical Sentinelese reception (they were killed and buried in shallow graves). When a helicopter came to investigate the crime, local archers bravely drove it away with a volley of arrows.

UP NEXT: The Commander Islands (and why you don't want to go there)

Guest Blogstar Martin W. Lewis is lecturer in international history and director of the program in International Relations at Stanford University. He's also one of Mangesh's favorite professors!

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November 4, 2007 - 11:15pm
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