An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale

By Tom Neale

Thomas Francis "Tom" Neale (November 6, 1902 - November 27, 1977)[1] was once a brand new Zealander bushcraft and survival fanatic who spent a lot of his existence within the cook dinner Islands and sixteen years in 3 periods residing on my own at the island of Anchorage within the Suwarrow atoll, which used to be the root of this autobiography.

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The fallen coconuts were big fellows, and the way they had been strewn haphazardly made me thin incongruously of a giant spilling a box of matches. They were overgrown with vines, and in some cases the roots had been torn out of the ground in their entirety. Looking idly around, I saw a vaguely familiar object embedded in one enormous, spreading, upturned root, and with some difficulty I managed to dislodge it. It was a brick, apparently made from fire clay and in perfect condition. As far as I could see, it had never been used, and must have lain buried under the coconut palm for fifty years or more.

It was just as well, for during the next few months I began to work harder than I had ever done before in my life. And yet this was something I never resented because everything that cropped up seemed to come as a challenge and every time I managed to find the answer, it was a new step forward that seemed tremendously worthwhile. Often after a hard day I would imagine myself back in Rarotonga, where I might have been waiting impatiently for Friday’s pay-packet. But here mundane things like that had no significance.

As far as I could see, it had never been used, and must have lain buried under the coconut palm for fifty years or more. No doubt it had been left there from the days when Lever Brothers were growing copra on the island. I tucked it under my arm, for everything can have a use on an uninhabited island. The southern part of the island had obviously fared worst in the hurricane, and I had only to look around me to see the reason why, for though the northern end was protected by the barrier reef, the gigantic waves which had poured through the pass must have hit the south end of the island with their full force, so that near the southern tip a depression sliced its way across the island where heavy seas had swept right over Anchorage.

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