North Sentinel: the most dangerous island in the world



by LORENZO CIOTTI

North Sentinel: the most dangerous island in the world

Why is North Sentinel one of the most dangerous islands in the world? It is an isolated island in the Andaman archipelago, in the Bay of Bengal, in India. The population that inhabits it is the last tribe on earth that has no contact with the outside world, and visitors are welcomed with spears and arrows.

Two fishermen who had fallen asleep on their boat were killed when they tried to land on the island in 2006, while aid sent after the 2004 tsunami was refused. North Sentine is the territory of a tribe of indigenous people, the Sentinels who, violently, refuses any contact with the outside world.

The tribe is counted among the last populations in the world to still remain virtually untouched by modern civilization. Due to such isolation, only very limited information is known about the island. The demographic consistency of the Sentinellese is not known exactly.

It is currently estimated to be between 50 and 500 individuals. The 2001 official Indian census indicated a verified number of 39 individuals, 21 males and 18 females. However, this survey was inevitably conducted remotely and almost certainly does not represent an accurate estimate for a population spanning an island of 59.67 km².

The new 2011 census recorded only 15 individuals, 12 males and three females. The tribe is the most isolated in the world and has had only sporadic long-distance contacts with external populations, in particular on the occasion of government or study missions, welcomed with the shooting of arrows by the sentinels.

They are thought to have lived on the island for about 60,000 years: their ancestors most likely took part in the first prehistoric human migrations out of the African continent. They hunt and collect wild fruit from the forest, and fish along the coasts, but they do not grow anything, nor do they raise animals, as do the nearby Jarawa.

Sentinels reject any contact with the outside world. The local government has declared that it has no intention of interfering with the lifestyle or habitat of the Sentinellese. Survival International, the worldwide movement for the rights of indigenous peoples, has called them "the most vulnerable society on the planet", because due to complete isolation they have no immunity to common diseases and a simple epidemic could wipe them out, however complete isolation poses even greater health risks.

Any medium or long-term effects on the Sentinelese population from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the resulting tsunami are unknown. Although the inhabitants of the island are likely to have suffered severely from the effects of the event, their survival was confirmed when, a few days later, an Indian government helicopter flew over the island and was targeted by some sentinelese shooting arrows.