An Island to Oneself
Thomas Francis "Tom" Neale (November 6, 1902 - November 27, 1977) was a New Zealander bushcraft and survival enthusiast who spent much of his life in the Cook Islands and 16 years in three sessions living alone on the island of Anchorage in the Suwarrow atoll, which was the basis of this autobiography.
to take her to Suvarov. Even when she was finished, friends used to say to me, "Hey, Tom! Why don't you put your boat in the water?" Invariably I evaded such questions with the laconic comment, "Conditions for sailing in Rarotonga aren't suitable." I never told a soul the real reason, preferring to keep her behind my shack where I erected a frame covered with sheets of roofing iron to keep the rain off. As the years passed, however, she and I seemed fated to stay on Raro for ever and I almost
A view of Anchorage taken after I had rowed out to guide the skipper of a visiting schooner through the pass 14. Return to Suvarov WE TOOK ELEVEN days to reach Suvarov. We experienced constantly dirty weather with headwinds and sometimes even cross seas running. Despite these drawbacks, however, I managed to scramble into the dinghy each morning and evening to feed and water my fowls and bale out the rain water. I was only able to get in by hauling on the tow line until the dinghy was
started to explain to Smithy, "This was my office." Then I stopped. The centre of the floor was a lake. "That's where it's come from." Smithy pointed to the roof. "Nothing to worry about — we can mend that in a day." It was a bad leak, where a section of the tin roof had been ripped off, and soon I discovered that the roof of the kai room was also leaking. However, I had hardly examined the roof before something else riveted my attention. It was a bit of paper — or rather two pieces, one white,
difference. And then, just as they really started to look promising, as like as not in would come my old friends (or their descendants) the tiny hermit crabs, and nip off all the tender shoots. It was almost as though they had been waiting patiently for me to weed the garden to make life easier for them. Beyond the garden the jungle had to be cleared too, for the path to the beach was now so overgrown in places that I had to saw away heavy limbs which had burgeoned from the trees during my
boat with one hand and tried to free the mast with the other, I found I was too close to get a proper leverage. Finally I decided I would have to use both hands, so after clinging to the boat to regain a little strength, I swam to where the tip of the mast lay just under the waves, and grabbed hold of it, kicking as hard as I could with my feet, and violently jerking and pulling it up and down to get it free. To my delight my efforts were almost immediately rewarded. At the first attempt I could