Cast Away


If you were stranded on a remote island, all alone, and could only take five things with you, what would they be? This is the question people usually ask in jest or to see what you value the most; for some people, however, this is no hypothetical question but a reality that they fully inhabit.

Remember watching Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” and feeling his grief over losing his friend impersonated in the volleyball he had named Wilson? How would you have fared in such a situation? What measures would you have gone to in order to survive? In what ways would you have adapted your senses in order to increase your chances at surviving in such a difficult situation.

Well, why don’t we examine a real-life example? Masafumi Nagasaki is a Japanese man who has forsaken life in society and leads a simple life on a small inhospitable Japanese island. The remote spot is just a kilometer wide, and is in Japan's tropical Okinawa prefecture located closer to Taiwan than Tokyo.

The island Mr. Nagasaki inhabits is very inhospitable to human life; the currents that surround the island are so dangerous that local fishermen do not venture out to that area. There are also no amenities on the island and no natural water.

Since setting up home there, Mr. Nagasaki has to collect rainwater in a system of battered cooking pots. He has had to brave powerful typhoons and biting insects without much of a stable shelter to protect him. Soon he had settled on the island, a massive typhoon swept through and ended up removing most of the vegetation that he had relied upon for shade, as well as carrying away the simple tent he lived in.

“I just scorched under the Sun,” he said; “it was at that point I thought this was going to be an impossible place to live”. But he soon adapted to the new pace of life; he became attuned to the cycle of nature. He said: “I do not do what society tells me, but I do follow the rules of the natural world. You cannot beat nature so you just have to obey it completely; that is what I learned when I came here, and that is probably why I get by so well”.

Living by yourself on an isolated island is bound to have you relying heavily on your senses. You would have to be well attuned to the sounds of nature, and have a good eye spotting weather changes, since at any moment you might have to scurry quickly to shelter in order to avoid an oncoming typhoon. Your sense of taste will have to reacclimatize to a very different taste palate, since sugar and salt and other spices and additives make us accustomed to certain tastes, and their absence will cause you to perhaps not enjoy your food as much.

The most important thing you will have to develop are your instincts and common sense since they will help you out in such arduous living circumstances. So, do you think, like Mr. Nagasaki and Chuck Noland (Cast Away), you would be able to live by yourself on an isolated island, far away from it all?



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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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