The Lure of Islands

Like the sweet lull of a mermaid’s call, islands have long seduced us.

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7 minute read.

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Little has inspired escapist novels as those tiny specks of land, dotted throughout the oceans. Without Islands, there’d be no Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe) nor The Mysterious Island (Jules Verne).

Stories abound of sailors, pilots and mutineers seeking paradise who spent years living on remote islands, often struggling to survive on rainwater, coconuts and crabs, caught amongst barnacle crusted rock pools.

These stories should scare us, or serve as a warning, but instead they only lure us. Like the sweet lull of a mermaid’s call; islands have long seduced us, beckoned us to escape; promising riches, mystique and romance. I too have long been mesmerised by islands. 

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Since viewing The Blue Lagoon; I was captivated by the white sand beaches, framed by leaning palms. A nearby waterfall providing cool fresh water. The islands themselves characters; often more important than the tanned bodies of actors, dumped on those desolate lands.

My fascination with islands continued, with Tom Hank’s Castaway. It manifested whilst working on a cruise ship, visiting a different Pacific Island every few days. The sight of land meant time off the ship, a rarity.

Eventually I found myself staying on Green Island, in the Great Barrier Reef. Sitting on soft white sand at sunset, two grey shapes appeared in the water. At first I thought it was stingrays, but then they surfaced, and it turned out to be two green turtles. I had found my island paradise, but there was many more to be discovered.

I was lucky enough to visit most of the Pacific Islands for work, whilst living in New Zealand but none compare to the mystique of Niue. Captain Cook tried to land there, but was scared away by locals; the only island he couldn’t conquer and so he named it Savage Island.
A place that’s ironically so friendly, by the time you leave, you’ll be on a first name basis with everyone there, locals and foreigners alike. I found myself eating cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches with the Ambassador to Niue. Hear all about Niue, in my podcast episode:

Sure life on an island can be tough. Supplies are limited, but when hope is almost lost, bounties appear. Ripe fruits fall from the trees, rain drips off wide leaves and fires light up, warming the starry night. It’s hard not to be sold on the hypnotic pleasures of sunshine, relaxation and coconut juice.

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Even to those that dislike the heat, shaded from a swaying coconut palm, cooled by a salty breeze drifting off the reef. It’s impossible not to be persuaded. Removed from the prying-eyes of urban life; in a natural paradise of beaches, rainforest, and shimmering tropical waters. Of course not every island is tropical, nor is every island remote. 

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Despite commonalities though, every island is unique. From it’s terrain, to it’s people and culture, to the forces that created it, no two islands are alike. Just like Mars is not equal to Earth.

Some islands have been thrust up from plate movements. Calcified rock of fossilized coral. Others were created by volcanoes, who’s tip broke the surface, and birthed a new land.

Fossilised coral of Niue. Image by Jade Jackson.

Some islands were placed there. Sand deposited by currents, which soon attracted birds, whose droppings formed nutrients for a passing seed to grow. From the first tree came the first roots. Beneath the surface, coral grew, fish soon found a hiding hole, and before long, an entire island ecosystem had formed.

Meanwhile, other islands, broke off from their motherland. Like a twin tossed out to sea. Forced to face the thunderous waves, alone and isolated. Surrounded by frigid murky depths, teeming with monsters so large and fearsome looking, the mind cannot fathom their biological creativity.

The next land mass is Antarctica, thousands of miles away. Image by Jade Jackson.

In the vast emptiness of the oceans, an island becomes a refuge. No matter the size, nor the shape. It is land. It may be mountainous or fiery, it could even be barren and rocky. All that matters; it is not the ocean anymore. It is a temporary haven.

A small island in a harbour is still a beacon of safety, and isolation. Image by Jade Jackson.

Perhaps it’s these visions of safety, intertwined with the lighthouse movement, that first enshrined our love affair with islands. A single human, a soft mound of sand, a gentle lick and caress by a flapping wave. A whispered breath, speaking imagined words of love.

With an island’s strength, and it’s warmth, comes life. People soon follow, like worshippers to the temple. Some may stay, others will leave, but once an islands breath speaks your name, you’ll be forever in her clutches; until it’s pull becomes too strong, and once more, to the island, you shall go.

                          Lombok, Indonesia. Image by Jade Jackson

Not every island is tropical, and not every small piece of land is an island. Some are mere sandy cays, other’s rocky reefs, appearing and disappearing with the tides. Some rocks perhaps were islands, but have since been weathered down, a jagged precipice seeming to launch out of the sea and accessible only by birds.

If you want to find your own island, tucked away from the world, then you’ll need The Atlas of Remote Islands. A beautiful hardcover Book containing fifty of the most remote and desolate islands in the world. Some can even be lived on, as long as you agree to look after the lighthouse. You can find my review of it here.

However before you run away to a featureless dot in the ocean, perhaps a mental escape to an island might be more appropriate. In The Light Between Oceans, Isabella marries a lonely lighthouse keeper, but their wish to have children was cruelly tortuous, until a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. A moral dilemma like no other, keep the baby and pretend it’s their’s, or notify the mainland and attempt to reunify the baby with it’s mother. You can find my review of the light between oceans, here.

Somewhere on earth, is an island, hiding treasure, a lost civilisation, and animals awaiting discoveryJade Jackson

Most islands have been claimed by some authority, but that doesn’t mean they’ve all been urbanized. Only a handful have been lost to civilisation, most remain as wild as the day they were born; which delights the adventurous explorer within. Somewhere, on earth, is an island, hiding treasure, a lost civilisation, and animals awaiting discovery.

 

        Few islands spark the imagination more than Niue. Image by Jade Jackson.

Take the Philippines. An archipelago consisting of over 7000 islands, yet only approximately 2000* are inhabited. Listen to my podcast episode about why the Philippines is the next ‘it’ destination:

Meanwhile Indonesia consists of over 13,466* islands, with only 922 permanently inhabited. Then you have the Andaman and Nicobar Islands off India, home to the last totally native tribe, unchanged and isolated from modernisation.
Panglao Island in the Philippines. Image by Jade Jackson.

Just as the first mud fish, crawled out of the sea. Each island is a reminder that from the ocean, comes life; as oceans rise, these minuscule globules of perfection, will be the first to disappear. Visit them, find your treasure, ignite your romance; whilst you still can.

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  1. […] you wish to read the original articles, which include photos, here’s The Lure of Islands, and here’s Cape […]

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