Sentinela Norte Island is located in the Andaman archipelago, in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. The indigenous people who live here are considered the most hostile in the world: the Sentinels. We know that they are an endangered people, however it is not known for sure how many there are, although it is estimated to be from 40 to 250 people.
Under the administration of India since 1947, this island is covered by forests where its people hide. They resist human contact, and due to the aggressiveness of the tribe, in 1996, the Indian government determined by law to forbid access to the Island. The surrounding waters are patrolled to prevent anyone unknowingly approaching.
1. The Discovery
In 1771, the Englishman John Ritchie, saw an immensity of lights coming from the corals that surround the island.
In his writings he mentioned it almost as an enchanted place due to the intense light that surrounded it. But Ritchie was far from imagining that the island would become the most isolated and hostile land in the world, where only the most courageous would dare to enter.
Any kind of visit had to be banned, since the population was insurgent whenever any foreigner tried to enter the island. The local administration of Andaman and Nicobar adopted a policy to ensure that hunters did not enter in the Northern Sentinel illegally.
2. Who are the Sentinels?
Essentially Sentinels are a tribe of hunter-gatherers that survive through hunting, fishing and the consumption of wild plants. Even the language they speak is unknown, remaining unclassified and not even compatible with the Jarawa language spoken by the closest geographic peoples. There is no evidence of agricultural practices or methods of producing fire.
Before the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, the island was about 72 km² and resembled a square. The earthquake caused an increase in the island due to the elevation and inclination of the tectonic plate that is below it. When it was raised about two meters it brought up large extensions of coral reefs that surround the entire area and consequently illuminate it. During the earthquake, the Indian government was concerned about the people and sent a relief mission but the helicopter was greeted with arrows and stones.
3. The American Missionary
An American missionary tried to violate the visit ban and paid with his life, an unsuccessful attempt by someone to infiltrate the island. John Allen Chau, 27, supposedly died following an attack by this tribe. The fishermen who took John to the island where the indigenous people were survived to tell the story because he didn’t enter the territory. The missionary’s goal was to evangelize the sentinel people. The fishermen testified that the tribe immediately shot him with arrows as soon as he entered the island, and his body was left on the beach.
The latest news from the Sentinel people dates back to January 2006, when two drunk fishermen in a canoe stopped on the island, and were never seen again.
4. You should fear Northern Sentinel
The few adventurers and investigators who dared to enter the northern Sentinel were killed without hesitation. This is why nothing is known about the sentinel’s habits, culture or language, not even any images of the island’s interior.
Since the 10th century, Sentinels have been described as savages, and there are even legends that tell that this tribe devours intruders. In 1986, a man trapped on a nearby island, fled and tried to take refuge in North Sentinel. Days later, his body was found on the beach, full of arrows and beheaded.
Due to all the stories, this people has remained the only one that does not allow itself to be touched by contemporary civilization, and is considered the most isolated in the world.
5. Approach to the Island
If, despite all these stories, you still want to look at North Sentinel Island at a distance, the possibility exists although it is not easy …
Go to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and look for a fisherman who does not mind taking you by boat to a place as close to the island as possible. But never dare to get too close, and above all, never think of entering North Sentinel, under the risk of endangering your own life. If curiosity is too much, the solution is to go by boat and just look at it …