The Remote Tribe We Still Haven’t Been Able to Contact

Why we still haven’t managed to communicate with the people of North Sentinel Island

Liam Hunter-Bailey
8 min readJan 5, 2021
The Sentinelese tribespeople, 1974 – Photo by Raghubir Singh, Nat Geo Image Collection

NNorth Sentinel Island, in the Bay of Bengal, is home to the Sentinelese people. Located between India and the Malay Peninsula, the island forms part of the Indian Andaman Islands. Being so close to other inhabited land masses, North Sentinel is hardly what we would describe as remote. In fact, the surrounding islands are home to five other tribes that we’ve known about for hundreds of years: the Great Andamanese, the Jarawas, the Onge, the Shompen, and the Nicobarese. The only difference in the Sentinelese case is that they don’t want to know about us.

1867

The first recorded contact with the tribe was way back in 1867 when an Indian merchant ship called Nineveh drifted too close to the island and sank. All one hundred or so passengers safely made it to shore where they awaited rescue. On the third day, as they began to eat breakfast, the stranded crew were subject to a sudden assault from a group of ‘naked, short-haired, red-painted savages’ with arrows that were likely iron-tipped. The captain fled in the ship’s boat and was found days later by the Royal Navy. They sent a search party to the island and discovered that the ship’s crew had successfully…

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Liam Hunter-Bailey

An Irish language lover, writing about productivity, self-improvement, and my travel experiences.