The Quick 10: 10 Real-Life Castaways

I know we have some Lost fans out there "“ what did you think of the season premiere? It so happens that yesterday was also the day Alexander Selkirk was rescued in 1709 "“ if you're not familiar, Selkirk is the man thought to have inspired Robinson Crusoe. Who knew Groundhog Day was such a momentous occasion for people deserted on islands? Between Lost and Selkirk, I was inspired to learn more about other famous castaways (of the non-Gilligan variety). Here's what I found out.

SELKIRK1. Alexander Selkirk. We'll start with the original. In October 1704, Selkirk was serving as a sailing master on the St. George. When the ship stopped at the archipelago of Juan Fernandez, Selkirk tried to convince most of the crew to stay on the island with him, saying that the ship was not seaworthy and the captain wasn't leading well. In the end, he was the only one who stayed on the island, and he figured that another ship would be along soon enough and he would catch a ride with them. He figured wrong: it would be nearly four and a half years before a friendly ship crossed his path (two Spanish ships showed up before then, but he didn't trust them). In the meantime, he fended for himself just fine, eating feral goats, wild turnips and black pepper berries. He even built a couple of huts for shelter. These days, the island he lived on has been renamed Robinson Crusoe, and a nearby island that he likely never set foot upon has been christened Alexander Selkirk.

2. Leendert Hasenbosch. Unlike our first two castaways, Hasenbosch was not so successful as a castaway. This Dutchman was abandoned on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic in 1725 as punishment for sodomy. His crew didn't just leave him for dead, though "“ a diary left behind by the man indicated that he began his stay with a tent, seeds, a month's worth of water, books, writing materials and even extra clothes. The problem? The island apparently had no fresh water source. After his month's supply ran out, Hasenbosch took to drinking turtle blood and his own urine to try to stay hydrated. He likely died after about six months; British sailors discovered his abandoned tent and diary in January, 1726. Hasenbosch didn't need to die, though: there are actually two sources of fresh water on the island, one of which actually allowed the entire crew of the HMS Roebuck to survive a shipwreck for two months in the early 1700s.

3. Marguerite de La Rocque. Marguerite was sailing to the New World with a relative in 1542 "“ the exact nature of this relative is unknown, with varying sources claiming it was her brother, cousin or uncle "“ and began sleeping with a man on the ship. Her brother/uncle/cousin was displeased and turned them both out on the "Isle of Demons." It's said that he would have financially benefited from her death, so perhaps her relative's reasoning wasn't all about morality. Marguerite's maid-servant was also dumped on the island. We aren't exactly sure how long Marguerite was on the island, but it was long enough to get pregnant and have the baby, then watch the baby die from malnutrition. Her lover and her maid-servant also died, leaving Marguerite to hunt wild game to stay alive - yeah, Kate Austen's got nothing on this chick. Eventually, a group of fishermen found Marguerite and brought her back, where she relayed her captivating tale to the Queen of Navarre, which is how we know about it today. Historians are fairly sure that the "Isle of Demons" is the one we know today as Hospital or Harrington Island; Marguerite's Cave is a popular attraction on the island these days.

ada4. Ada Blackjack. You think being stranded on a tropical island is tough? Try being stranded in Siberia. That's what happened to Inuit Ada Blackjack in 1921. She accompanied a group of men who were sent to claim Siberia's Wrangel Island for Canada; Ada was meant to be their cook and seamstress. Things went bad quickly "“ rations ran out, hunting was terrible and one man was deathly ill - and in January 1923, three of the four men left to trek across the frozen sea back to the mainland to try to get help, leaving Ada and the ailing explorer, Lorne Knight, on the island. They were only gone for a couple of months when Knight died of scurvy, leaving Ada to fend for herself. And she did. For five months, Ada survived with nothing but a cat for companionship. She was rescued in August, 1923, and the three men who took out across the ice nine months earlier were never heard from again.

5. Narcisse Pelletier. I'm not sure I have the skills it would take to last on a desert island now, as an adult, let alone as a teenager. But Narcisse Pelletier did. He was only 14 when the ship he was serving on struck a reef in Papua New Guinea in 1858. When some of the crew members tried to get to nearby Rossel Island for water and supplies, they were attacked by its inhabitants. The crew members who managed to survive the attack jumped in a long boat and paddled the heck out of there. Almost two weeks later, the crew made it to an island, where they found fresh water to quench their thirst. Apparently wanting one less mouth to feed, the crew abandoned Pelletier on the island where three Aboriginal women found him. They ended up adopting him, giving him the new name "Amglo."

6. Otokichi. It's too bad Otokichi and Narcisse Pelletier never met, because they surely would have had a lot to talk about. Otokichi was also 14 when the rice transport ship he was on blew off course in 1832. It drifted for 14 months while the crew slowly ate away at their cargo. By the time the ship drifted ashore on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, only three of the 14 original crew members were still alive, including Otokichi. The men were found by the Makah Indian tribe and were enslaved before being handed over to the Hudson Bay Company.

LIM7. Poon Lim. Here's a comparatively recent castaway "“ Poon Lim's tenure on a raft afloat in the South Atlantic occurred during WWII. He was working as a steward on a British ship that was torpedoed 750 miles east of the Amazon. As the ship exploded, Lim grabbed a life jacket and jumped off, making him the only survivor of his 54-man crew. As luck would have it, he floated for a couple of hours and then found a life raft that had floated away from the wreckage. It contained 40 liters of water, a small amount of food, flare guns and a few other supplies. For 133 days, Lim managed to stay alive by fishing from the raft. He was spotted by U.S. Navy planes and they dropped a marker buoy in the water so they could come back and rescue him, but sadly, a huge storm hit just after and Lim was lost again. Finally, on April 5, 1943, he hit land and was rescued by Brazilian fisherman.

8. Philip Ashton. After being captured by a band of pirates in 1722, this sailor escaped their clutches and hid in the jungle of Roatan Island in the Bay Islands of Honduras until they gave up looking for him and sailed on. For a while, Ashton's diet consisted of nothing but fruit, because he had escaped his captors with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had no weapons to kill animals with and apparently was unable to devise a way to fish. Lucky for him, he happened across another castaway. They were great friends for three days, until the unnamed man went out for food and never came back. He did, however, leave behind a great stash of gunpowder, knives and tobacco, which allowed Ashton to start killing tortoises and cooking them. He was rescued by a ship from New England shortly thereafter. Sound made up? You're not the only one who thinks so. When Ashton published his memoirs after getting back to the U.S. in 1725, everyone thought they were fiction - Robinson Crusoe had only been on bookshelves for a few years and everyone thought this was a similar adventure story.

9. Charles Barnard. In 1812, Barnard's ship rescued a British ship called Isabella, which had been wrecked off Eagle Island, part of the Falklands. While they were docked at Eagle Island, Barnard and a few of his crew decided that they would need more provisions since they were picking up this shipwrecked crew and went ashore to gather some things. Not ones to show gratitude, the crew of the Isabella took over Barnard's ship while he was out and left their rescuers to fend for themselves on Eagle Island. Luckily, they were rescued 18 months later.

10. Tom Neale. There are all of these people who were stranded on islands or boats and wanted nothing more than to get to civilization again, and then there's Tom Neale. Neale desperately wanted an island all to himself, and in October 1952, he got his chance. A boat passing by Suwarrow Island, a place uninhabited since WWII, agreed to drop him off there, along with two cats and as many supplies as he could carry. The people who had lived there before WWII had left behind chickens and pigs, so he ate the pigs and domesticated the chickens, planted a garden, built a hut and lived his happy island life. That is, until May of 1954, when he threw his back out. At least, he thought he did. He hitched a ride to Rarotonga, another one of the Cook Islands, and went to a hospital, where he was told it was just arthritis. He returned to Suwarrow in 1960 and lived similarly for another four years. His third and final stay on the island lasted from 1967 to 1977, when a yacht stopped at the island and found Neale quite ill. They took him to Rarotonga, where Neale discovered he had stomach cancer. He died eight months later.

Do you know of any others? And, more importantly, what did you think of Lost? I know there are some pretty strong opinions out there, both for and against "“ let us know which side you're on.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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