North Sentinel Island, Captain Robert Fore and previously unseen photographs of the 1981 Primrose rescue

by Dennis on December 22, 2010

Christmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories, but I could write about these elusive beings with little or no prompting and I frequently do just this. Instead, I have two other tales to present for the enjoyment of visitors to this site, and while they also concern highly elusive beings, they are most certainly not spectres, but flesh and blood.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about North Sentinel Island, for reasons I explained in detail in the post. Not long afterwards, I heard from Captain Robert Fore, one of the helicopter pilots who helped to rescue the crew of the Primrose after it had run aground on a reef off North Sentinel in 1981. My initial reply somehow went astray, but I was delighted to hear from Bob again a few days ago.

He repeated his generous offer to send me previously unseen photographs taken by him during the rescue of the crew of the Primrose, the only condition being that I treated the subject matter with respect. I am of course happy to oblige, so it seems that this would be best achieved by reproducing Bob’s own words from another site that dealt with the matter, while publishing Bob’s own words once more will also allow me to intersperse them with the photographs in question.

To my mind, all this is fascinating enough, but Bob also supplied another story which I’ll publish – along with some photos – immediately after his account of the rescue of the crew of the Primrose, which begins here:

Mr. Mottram,

It was with no small amount of interest that I read the article (while surfing the internet) that you wrote on the 9th of February, 2006 concerning a helicopter rescue in the Andaman Islands located in the Bay of Bengal. You see, I was one of the helicopter pilots that flew the three trips to the M.V. Primrose to rescue the crew after it ran aground off the north shore of North Sentinel Island.

For the most part, [the] description of the incident was correct, thought there were several points that were in error, almost certainly because they were of no major import. One of the inconsistencies was that the helicopter which performed the rescue was in fact a civilian helicopter belonging to P.T. Airfast Services, Indonesia, which we worked for. We were supporting an Oil And Natural Gas Commission (ONGC- Indian Govt. Agency) contract, which provided off-shore helicopter support to an oil exploration rig (if memory serves, it was the Gettysburg) located off the northwest shore of Andaman Island. Robert Fore (myself) and Vic Wiersba) were the two pilots which flew the mission on August the 2nd, 1981.

We had a developed a friendship with Admiral Sawnhi, the Indian Naval District Commander, during our stay at Port Blair. We were approached by his office on the morning of the rescue with the information concerning a grounded ship with crew still aboard on North Sentinel Island. There had been a typhoon which forced the ship aground on the island in the preceding week. We were asked if we could provide rescue services for the crew, since the Indian Navy had no ships or helicopters in the immediate area, and it would take several days for them to arrive.

We agreed to attempt the rescue, but had little in the way of concrete information to work with in the preparations for the attempt. We did construct a rudimentary rope ladder in the event we would not be able to land the helicopter on the Primrose’s deck. Also, an Indian Naval aviator (fixed-wing) Lt. Gadhok, who was assigned to the Naval District Command, volunteered to accompany us. It was hoped he might provide valuable support for organizing the crew for rescue, once he was on-board the ship.

The aircraft was an S-58T Sikorsky, a modified twin-turbine design helicopter, which could hold a max of 16 passengers and 2 pilots. We flew to the site of the shipwreck, and saw that the vessel had been driven far up on the reef, more than a 1/4 mile, and that while there was still large 15 or 20 foot waves pounding the vessel, there was no chance that it would sink, or for that matter ever see service again.

The deck had several cranes spaced approximately 50 feet apart, with cargo hatches in between. It was felt that we would be able to land the helicopter with a couple feet of clearance on both sides of the rotor system to the sides of the helicopter.

We accomplished the first landing with 30 plus knot crosswinds, and touched down our wheels on the hatch covers. Due to loading, and weather conditions, it was decided to take off equal numbers of crewmen on each of 3 trips. I believe the total was 33 crew, and the mascot dog. We did not take any personal gear, because that would have meant extra trips, and under the poor weather conditions we did not have any desire to push our luck any more than was necessary for the saving of lives.

It was well known that the ship was aground on a very dangerous island, and that they had come under the threat of attack from the native tribe. Their first attempt to reach the Primrose had failed when the rudimentary boats they had tried to construct had foundered in the heavy surf. But the situation was becoming more dangerous because of gradually improving weather conditions.

This could allow the natives to get much closer to the ship. As it was, the natives had not even learned the art of placing feathers on the several foot long arrows they had, which only allowed a practical effective range of perhaps 30 or 40 meters. The ship was more like 100 meters from shore.

A previous attempt to reach the crew of the Primrose was attempted by a Indian Navy (Cutter) which had no helicopter. The ship’s doctor and a crewman had attempted to reach the ship from just beyond the drop-off offshore, but the inflatable nearly foundered, and they were lucky to get back to their vessel. I assume they were the ones that called for assistance once they realized they could not do anything. When we made our approach for the first landing with heavy cross-winds, it was very difficult to determine clearance on the rotor blades from the derricks.

After the first landing we found we had about 2 feet of clearance on each side of the aircraft. On the subsequent approaches, Lt. Gadhok provided ground assistance for clearance of our rotors from the obstructions. The rope ladder idea was discarded as unnecessary, even though the weather conditions were not ideal.

The thought of hovering for extended periods above deck, with people climbing a rope ladder, did not appeal to us. We did not at any time during the morning see any island natives. They were almost certainly there observing, but whether from fear of the helicopter, or whatever other reason, they did not make themselves known to us. After the third trip, all aboard were rescued, and our part in the mission was concluded. A couple days later, a Indian Navy cruiser, with a Alouette helicopter arrived, and the helicopter evacuated the personal effects of the crew, I believe by using a rescue hoist.

I just thought you might find the account of interest, since you had been intrigued enough to write about this event. I do have some photographs of the ship run aground taken from the air, and during our approach to the ship, as well as some taken on-deck after our first landing. But the photos are in storage in my household goods in the Philippines, and it will not be until later next year before I could get access to them.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Fore

I was fascinated to see these photographs, because while I’d read as much as I could about North Sentinel Island and its people, the photographs brought the story of the rescue of the crew of the Primrose to vivid life. We can now see these fortunate mariners for ourselves, while we can also see Bob Fore, one of the men who rescued them from what would certainly have been a violent death, had the North Sentinelese reached them first.

The photographs also bring the weather conditions to life, while we can now see, from an elevated angle, just how close to shore the Primrose ran aground. We can also see for ourselves just how perilous this rescue was for the helicopter crew, and while I’m not an aviator myself, I think Bob is being extremely modest in the way he describes the conditions that faced him in landing on such a restricted space under such conditions.

I’ve seen photographs and even video of North Sentinel, but some of Bob’s photographs give a perfect sense of the scale of island, as we can judge from the size of the trees on the shore, the convoluted coastline disappearing out of shot, the waves, the cargo ship, the stranded and frightened crew, and the elevated parts of the island covered with dense forest.

Other than this, I’ve been in more than my fair share of threatening situations over the years. I’ve had encounters with violent men in Britain, Europe, Scandinavia and Russia, I’ve been bitten by a number of venomous creatures and I’ve been attacked by cattle, horses, dogs and others creatures. I’ve found myself in numerous physical circumstances that made my heart pound, on water, in motor vehicles, in mist, snow, ice and darkness, and in places like the voids of Silbury Hill. I’ve also chosen to visit some truly forbidding locations in Britain and Europe that were notorious for their grim atmosphere, but none of these compares to the story that Bob has to tell of his encounter with the brooding menace of North Sentinel.

To my mind, it’s a modern version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, even if what happened with the Primrose just 30 years ago took place over the course of hours and days, rather than months. It seems to me that, had the weather been more clement on August 2nd 1981, then Bob’s fascinating account might have been very different.

We do not know why the North Sentinelese behave as they do towards outsiders. They might be the ultimate xenophobes, fearing any and all strangers, or they may just be incredibly hostile by nature. Their gods might urge them towards such actions, while I suppose it’s not completely unthinkable that they might believe they’re doing interlopers a favour by killing them. Whatever the explanation might be, we know next to nothing about these people, other than they have always sought to kill intruders into their island domain, which is the main reason they retain their isolation. Bob Fore has ventured closer to one of this planet’s truly great mysteries than any of us will ever do, so I’m enormously grateful to him for sharing not only his recollections, but also his photographs of this day, when he and others found themselves so close to what is in so many ways a Heart of Darkness.

Part II

In addition to Bob’s photos and memories of North Sentinel, he was also good enough to send me the following account of his time as a pilot in Indonesia, which I’m reproducing below:

Magic Mountain

I was working for a company called P.T. Airfast Services, Indonesia. It was a Indonesian/Australian Aviation Company based in Jakarta, and our primary home base was located at Seletar Airbase in Singapore. Primarily, Airfast provided aerial support, both airplane and helicopter for the oil exploration industry throughout Indonesia, but when I was initially hired to fly on an Indian Government contract with the Oil And Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) in the Andaman Islands.

I was based out of Port Blair, and was fortunate enough to have a part in the Air/Sea rescue of the crew of the Primrose which ran aground on 2 August, 1981 on the Northwest shore of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Islands, Bay of Bengal. The island was inhabited by one of the most mysterious, violent and least known tribal groups left on the planet. The account of that episode is available on the internet, so I will concentrate instead on an account of my experience after leaving the Andaman Islands at the end of the ONGC contract in India.

After leaving India, I was reassigned to a number of locations working for P.T. Airfast throughout Indonesia. We were flying the Sikorsky S-58T helicopter, with twin-turbine engines, and capable of carry up to 16 passengers and substantial loads of up to 4,000 lbs. either internally or by sling-load. (I am including a few photos for your use from that time period). I was one of only 4 instrument rated helicopter pilots in all of Indonesia at the time, and we all worked for the same company. Our primary responsibility was supporting oil exploration by the major oil companies, so inevitably, it took us to many very remote jungle locations in Indonesia, including Sumatra, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya and Borneo.

While in Borneo, we were based out of Balikpapan on the East coast of the island. We flew personnel and equipment to an oil exploration rig located some 120 miles west of Balikpapan. The rig site and the staging area on a river which allowed barges to be brought up-river to the closest location to the rig site with the majority of heavier supplies. It was then sling loaded to the rig site by helicopter. The majority of the inner island of Borneo is covered in extremely dense jungle. Trees run around 200 feet high with triple-canopies, and there are no virtually no villages except along rivers which allow a marine highway system for natives. The staging area for our rig-site was the last civilization, before you continued into the interior. It was said that numbers of explorers had passed by, headed into the unexplored areas, not to be seen again.

In our helicopters, we had Omega navigation equipment, a kind of rudimentary electronic locating system, the predecessor of more modern LORAN or GPS systems of today. The accuracy of the Omega system was limited to perhaps 1/2 mile, poor compared to today’s GPS, but still good enough to get you into the ballpark area you were looking for, anywhere on the planet.

When we would takeoff heading west towards our staging area, we first encountered a mountain range running North and South. The 4,000 to 5,000 foot tall mountains had a 2 mile wide pass which we used to get past the range and out onto the more flat area of the inner island. The trees as stated before were in the area of 200 feet tall and for the next couple hundred miles would have virtually no openings or clearings. On our aviation maps, there was just a huge white area, accompanied by the notation that the central part of the island had never been explored, and the highest believed elevation.

We pilots had noticed that there was a hill about 400 feet tall located at a certain point along our route of flight. We could easily locate the location with our mileage reading on the Omega system, so there was no chance of being in the wrong location each time. The interesting thing for us was that the hill, which was almost totally covered in the same tree cover, had a limestone cliff which had been exposed after the limestone side of the hill had sheared away.

What was rather disconcerting to us was that even though we flew virtually every day past this location, often more than once, the hill would be there with its white cliff exposed for us to easily see, yet on the next flight, it had disappeared totally, and despite looking for it specifically, it was as if the entire hill had disappeared.

Now, we pilots are not a particularly superstitious lot, and we knew that the phenomenon was nothing more than an optical illusion caused by the light, and the fact that the tree-covered hill simply was blending in with the trees surrounding the hill to make it virtually invisible form our aerial vantage point. If we had descended below the level of the hill top, we would have seen it immediately.

So naturally, we began to refer (tongue in cheek) to the location as “Magic Mountain”. It was a matter of mild curiosity to us for some time, before I was able on one of the flights, when I was not under a time restraint, to go down and circle the hill for a better investigation. I did not really expect to find anything of significance, and at first that seemed to be the case. But after circling on my second pass, I noticed a small stream that seemed to be coming out of the base of the mountain. That is not an uncommon thing to find in nature, but what I saw in the clearing next to the stream caused me to take a even closer look. Next to where the stream came out of the wall of the hill, there were what appeared to be man-made rudimentary steps carved up into the side of the hill.

Since there was no known village or native camp anywhere within probably at least 30 miles through impenetrable jungle, I could only speculate that it must be someone indigenous to the location that had accomplished the feat. I was aware that it could have been a possible natural phenomenon, except for the fact that also visible in the clearing was what appeared to be an upright rectangular (2 feet by 3 feet approx.) frame made of tree branches, and braced in the upright position. It took me perhaps 30 seconds, before I realized that it was most likely a frame used to stretch animal hides while they cured. There was no doubt that this was a man made device, and the fact that it was still standing upright, and not fallen over, indicated rather recent use.

I have chosen to mention this for the first time in a public forum, but I am keeping the details of the exact location to myself. On the off chance that there is a indigenous group that has no previous outside world contact in this area, I would not like to bear any responsibility for exposing them to something such as contact with a world that could lead to causing them harm, or their destruction.

Again, I am not certain if this account will be of interest to you, but I have detailed as best I can. There are no photos of this location, and any speculation generated by this experience will be nothing more than just that, speculation.

Postscript

Bob Fore may not be a superstitious man, but it’s a failing I would readily admit to, because I often wonder about the unseen forces that shape our destinies. Whichever way you look at it, my study of Stonehenge and of the people that built it led me in turn to write about the enigmatic people of North Sentinel, a place that’s arguably the most mysterious island on Earth. Now, as a direct result, we have all been rewarded by being able to see pictures of the rescue of the crew of the Primrose in 1981, while we also have a fascinating account of perhaps another uncontacted tribe, put into the public domain for the first time ever, along with details of a “Magic Mountain”.

As Bob made clear, this was doubtless due to an optical illusion, but this is no less intriguing, while I’d say it’s also entirely relevant to those of us with an interest in the many tantalising details of Stonehenge and its landscape. I could of course continue writing for hours to come, but I’ll conclude by thanking Bob once more – not only from myself – but on behalf of every visitor to Eternal Idol who will doubtless be enthralled by what this observant and generous-spirited man has had to tell us and show us all.

Dennis Price

Update, February 1st 2013: Over the last few days, this post has had a huge amount of visitors, presumably on account of a link to it being posted elsewhere.

If you wish to read more about North Sentinel Island and the rescue mission carried out there in 1981 by Captain Robert Fore, the first post I wrote and published that mentioned this strange island was called North Sentinel – The Undiscovered Country, almost exactly three years ago.

This was followed in late December of the same year with the post you’ve just read, then I published another in late September 2011 entitled North Sentinel – World Exclusive Interview with Captain Robert Fore.

Both the aforementioned posts, to which I’ve provided links, contain other links and other information about North Sentinel Island, for the benefit of those of you who are interested in reading further.

Late last year, I was honoured to receive a visit from Captain Robert Fore when he travelled to Britain, and I spent a highly enjoyable two days discussing the island with him. He and I stay in regular touch, while our shared fascination with this strangest of island realms remains undiminished. We continue to look into the matter to the best of our shared abilities and it is virtually certain that we will one day present more information of various kinds on North Sentinel Island and its enigmatic inhabitants. More than that I cannot say for now, but the day will hopefully come when we’re able to make more known, while we’re naturally hoping that it will be sooner rather than later.

224808_102694279904023_663745168_n

Update, February 2014: Dennis’s latest book “A Tale of Sound & Fury” contains a foreword generously written by Captain Robert Fore. It also contains as an appendix a detailed, 7,000 word interview that Dennis conducted with Captain Robert Fore, which was previously published in an edition of a magazine a few years ago. You can find all other relevant details of Dennis’s latest book here, including a lengthy product description.

Update: March 14th 2014. I’ve just posted this brief story dealing with missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH379 and North Sentinel Island on the front page of Eternal Idol.

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil January 13, 2014 at 3:53 am

For Capt. Fore to relate that there were 2 feet (!) of clearance on each side of his rotor blades on the deck of the Primrose that day, piloting a S-58T Sikorsky with crosswinds, and then eschew any mention of his heroism is a testament to his personal character before and despite any connection to North Sentinel. The distance from my fingertips to my shoulders is just slightly over two feet.

Dennis January 13, 2014 at 4:58 am

I’m no aviator, Phil, but even I can work out that this action was perilous to say the least. As a direct result of Captain Fore’s selfless act, the families of the crew of the Primrose were able to rejoice rather than being condemned to grieve their loss, so Captain Fore deserves the utmost credit for his bravery.

When he made a recent visit to Britain, I was able to meet him, shake his hand and commend him for what he did, something I regard as an honour, a privilege and a pleasure.

224808_102694279904023_663745168_n

Capt. Robert Fore January 13, 2014 at 7:07 am

I am sorry that I did not get to this response until now, but I just returned last evening from a trip to Singapore visiting old, as well as new friends, only to be greeted by this flurry of e-mails on the Primrose rescue. To Fred, and all those readers of our tale, I must say that I am most gratified and humbled by your kind and most gracious comments concerning the bravery exhibited during the rescue itself, as well as Dennis Price’s and my own attempts to bring a story worthy of telling to the world.

Both Dennis and I have taken great care to bring facts to the table, which will enlighten and hearten the readers.

To that end, I should say after following the source site which led Phil to eternalidol.com.

http://www.odditycentral.com/travel/north-sentinel-island-the-worlds-hardest-place-to-visit-2.html

I had not previously seen that site, but found it quite interesting. Especially the video at the end of the article which is of the Indian Govt. supply trip, which resulted in a rather harsh ending for the impaled cameraman. I had not seen the full video before, but mostly poorly edited copies. The full length version displayed on that site allowed me to ascertain several of my previous deductions were slightly off. I noticed for example that the actual attack by the natives seems to have come after the supplies intended for the North Sentinelese had already been delivered, and it was after the Indian Govt. officials had returned to their boat that the natives made their appearance and started firing their arrows at the boat as it stood offshore a short distance. The other thing that I noticed was that the arrows appeared to be rather longer than the 4 feet I had mentioned in my previous posts.

At the time of the rescue, I did not have the advantage of either seeing any photos of the natives and their weapons. Also I was informed by someone at Port Blair during the course of the rescue that the arrows in the movie were fired at the boat while it was on the beach, and not offshore as it appears to show. I mention this by way of reminding our readers that some of my observances may have been off a little, but the overall substance of the story remains true.

As to Phil’s, and other reader’s comments concerning the bravery involved, I must say once again that without the dedicated and professional efforts of Capt. Vic Wierzba and Flight Lieutenant Gadhock of the Indian Navy, the successful accomplishment of that mission would have been far less certain.

I feel confident in saying that we all felt not only a duty to make a rescue attempt, but that it was viewed by us as an obligation. It was simply part of the job description that many fellow helicopter and airplane crew all over the world face on a daily basis.

I personally would never have been able to live with the thought that I would ever abandon others in need in a time of distress, without at least making our best attempt to help them. My greatest satisfaction in this and many other rescues, and medevacs that I have made during my 43 year flying career, is that these people’s lives were not needlessly lost, nor their loved ones deprived of their presence.

My best wishes and and heartfelt expression of friendship go out to all of our readers who have found enjoyment in the telling of our tale on the Eternal Idol website. Have a safe and prosperous year, and I hope to be able, along with Dennis, to bring more on this subject in the very near future.

Boris January 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Great topic – great posts, many thanks.

Before reading this, I never even new the North Sentinel Island existed.

However, I’m smelling a rather large and ancient rat about the official explanation of the origin of its people.

Although the island is supposed to have been inhabited undisturbed for the last ~60k, with a current population estimated at between 60 to 500 people, could their be another simpler explanation for its habitation which which doesn’t require survival since the stone-age?

Well, you see, the Andaman Islands had been used as a large penal colony since 1857 by British Raj, so all it would need would be a few male and female escapees to flee to Sentinel and establish the small colony that exists to this day. No wonder they viciously defended their refuge against all intruders, they didn’t want to end up back in the slammer.

A test of this conjecture is when first contact was made with the natives there. Earliest I’ve found so far is by a guy named Homfry, in 1867. Perhaps a more diligent search will confound this idea.

Dennis January 14, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Boris, I’m glad you liked the posts, so thank you for taking the time and trouble to write in and tell me as much.

As for your theory about the recent peopling of North Sentinel by a few escapees, then I admit I find it unlikely. Leaving aside the problem of how such ‘escaped convicts’ could have made their way to North Sentinel, there’s the further problem of their progeny. I’m no anthropologist or geneticist, but this article on the horrific consequences of Australia’s worst recorded incest case makes me think that if your theory were correct, then the North Sentinelese would have suffered badly as a result.

As things stand, the locals seem to be absolutely fighting fit in every sense of the term.

Doug Karalius January 23, 2014 at 2:04 am

Hello Capt. Fore,

My name is Doug Karalius and I am writing a book of true stories for ESL learners in Asia. I’d like to ask your permission to print some of your photos for our book, which will include a story on North Sentinel island. I would credit you and the photographer in the book, as well as include links to any website you would like. My email is amazingeslstories@gmail.com Your help would be much appreciated. Thank you

Capt. Robert Fore January 23, 2014 at 4:53 am

Hi Boris,

I can understand how it can easily thought that this is too strange of a happening to be true. It is most certainly a strange occurrence, a people estimated to have been there for perhaps 60,000 years with out outside contact.

But as to your mention of the prison at Port Blair, I visited the museum there, and saw the cells. In the time of the British Raj, Fort Blair was a political prison, (Mahatma Ghandhi was a guest there for a time). The site was convenient to keep political agitators well away from the general population on the mainland. Also the town of Port Blair was a primarily Indian town, with a garrison of British troops at the Fort itself. There was also contact in those times and after with the Jarawa, the Great Andamanese, Jangil, Onge and Sentinelese (not to be confused with the North Sentinelese who remain relatively unknown).

It is possible that members of those tribes have been DNA tested, or through other genetic tracers be found to descend form African ancestry. If you would take some photos of the members of all of these tribes, including the few pictures of the North Sentinelese, and compare them to general photos taken of the mainland Indian peoples, you will readily see the differences immediately.

The local tribes in the Andaman Islands are obviously of negrito origins, not terribly dissimilar to the aborigine of Australia, in New Guinea, and Solomon chain of islands in the Pacific. The negrito ancestry is traced form African origins all across Asia, and parts of the Pacific.

Additionally, it was noted in the Adam Goodheart’s essay in American Scholar Magazine (if you can find it on the internet), the North Sentinelese were already a very violent and known tribe, though it was only from a distance, as they tried to attack and kill any intruders. That was in Circa 1293 AD, and they were the first really documented westerners I know of that made it to Asia.

So, the favorite past time of Westerners bashing themselves for oppression and destruction of local populations, which might be deserved in many cases, certainly does not apply here. Marco Polo related the stories of the violent island and its inhabitants, but is not recorded as having tried to actually ever visit the Andamans. This, therefor means that local stories and histories in the Indian culture (in mainland India), almost certainly had been around for quite some time before Polo’s travels. This also predates the prison in Port Blair by approximately 400 years, and shows that the malevolence shown by the islanders had some other triggering event, lost in the unrecorded annals of pre-history.

Sam February 28, 2014 at 2:07 am

Robert Fore states “… the oppression and destruction of local populations, which might be deserved in many cases …”

Why on God’s good Earth would a local population deserve annihilation?
Conversion, education, proselytization? Yes. But oppression? Destruction? No, no, Mr. Fore, no!

The human race, even the Western world, is not perfect in many ways.
So, what if a superior alien race landed on Earth and decided that the Western culture and way of life, in their opinion, are not worthy in their opinion, and thus all humans deserve to be annihilated?

The attitude and actions of people like Robert Fore is what begets the hostile actions of people such as the North Sentinelese.

We are in the 2014. Yet we still have primitive mindsets like that of Robert Fore … obviously much more primitive compared to the culture of the N.S. people!

Dennis February 28, 2014 at 2:57 am

Dear Sam,

I’ve posted your comment, even though it’s fiercely critical of my friend Captain Robert Fore, because I’ve always pursued a policy on this site of allowing such comments as long as they don’t stray into downright abuse.

I saw your comment when it came in and I was mystified by it, without having immediate reference to the post in which Captain Fore’s words apparently appeared. I was doubly mystified because it was inconceivable to me that Captain Fore would ever express a sentiment such as the one you quoted, and triply mystified that such written words would have escaped my notice and disapproval.

I’ve now looked at the apparently offending passage and as I’m assuming you’re an intelligent and generous-spirited type, I would urge you to do the same thing. I’m sure that when you do, you’ll realise that Captain Fore was speaking of Westerners feeling deservedly guilty for destroying populations, rather than local populations deserving to be destroyed.

In other words, the sentiments he expressed were the polar opposite of those you accused him of making.

I will freely admit that now I’ve read it again, I can see how you misunderstood these words and it’s an easy mistake to make. Your annoyance at Captain Fore is ill-placed, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’m nonetheless grateful to you for highlighting something that others might misinterpret as well.

Phil February 28, 2014 at 3:27 am

Dennis!

Thank you so much for doing the quick research to discover the ostensibly “accurate” but completely out of context quote. When this update arrived in my own email, I was aghast and skeptical that Captain Fore ever said such a thing. Now I understand.

Again, this page and this story represents the best of what the internet has to offer. Thank you once more for keeping it available for new discovery by thinking seekers.

Dennis February 28, 2014 at 3:47 am

Phil,

As I tried to explain [briefly] to Sam, I’ve been running this site for almost 10 years, although in recent times I’ve been extremely fortunate to have Aynslie assist me. The vast majority of the material here concerns Stonehenge, Silbury Hill, the idea of Christ visiting Britain, the Druids and so forth; a lot of this is contentious material and I’ve posted the vast majority of it in the form of around 500 posts, some of which are extremely lengthy.

As such, Eternal Idol is an outlet for some of the writing I do, but my aim is to become marginally less ill-informed on each day than I was yesterday, so I actively welcome comments and guest posts by others who have my blessing to promote their own work and views. In this, I’m guided by Marcus Aurelius, who said “If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance.”

When Sam’s comment came in, I saw it here on the site’s dashboard, so I was unable to read Captain Fore’s words without switching back to the site. So, I decided to approve Sam’s comment first, then metaphorically ask questions later. As I wrote in my reply to him, I was shocked by what he wrote, but when I checked the source of his annoyance, I could immediately see how he misunderstood it and I said as much. I’ve also written to him privately to alert him to my response, so I’m hoping he’ll return and reciprocate. We all make mistakes and I’m no exception to this.

Otherwise, thank you once again for your very kind words, Phil. This site in general and this story in particular receives an amazing amount of visitors, few of whom leave a mark of their passing in the form of a comment, but that’s how the world is and I have no complaints. Conversely, when someone such as yourself writes in with such glowing praise, it makes my day, because while my presence here consists solely of words on a screen, a human being is behind them, just as a human being that I’m honoured to have met is behind everything credited to Captain Fore.

Capt. Robert Fore March 2, 2014 at 1:27 am

When it came to my attention, that considerable dialogue had occurred concerning my recent response to Boris, I reread my statement, and realized that some people might take the statement in the wrong way, as is the case with Sam’s response.

I am not a professional writer, and of course, I will make efforts to redouble my own attempts to make clear my meaning in future submissions. Hopefully that will reduce the chances of more misinterpretations in the future.

I wish to thank Dennis and Phil in particular for their immediate and unequivocal support in pointing out that Sam’s post was based on misinterpretation of my remarks. Additionally, they were kind enough to point out that there was no reason (based on my numerous postings on Eternal Idol, and Dennis’s in depth knowledge of my personal history) to draw the conclusion that I, in any way resemble the critical characterization of my personal character.

As Dennis has previously pointed out, the policy which he uses on this website allows such comments as long as they don’t stray into downright abuse, (and to which I am supportive as well).

To Sam, I will simply say that I support your right to say your mind, and I wish you well.

Sam March 2, 2014 at 4:06 am

My apologies for the harsh words and more importantly, for the misinterpretation. Your placement of the comma after the word “which” actually lends support to the way Dennis interpreted the sentence.
Sam

Capt. Robert Fore March 2, 2014 at 5:12 am

Sam,

I wish to thank you for your latest post here. It takes courage to look into our actions, and perhaps find we made a misjudgment. It is even more of a challenge, to have to publicly admit that our actions may have been may have been in error.

I am sure that you are a good person, both in thought and soul. To that, I am happy to have seen your post, and I will look forward to any further submissions you may wish to make on this website.

Phil March 2, 2014 at 5:18 am

Sam,

Thank you for returning, and knowing that sentence structure and punctuation were the only reason for an easy misunderstanding of meaning.

To Dennis and Capt. Fore – When I discovered this story for the first time a few months ago (years after it was originally published and later embellished with personal detail or the Primrose rescue) and read all of your words and each of the comments that followed, I immediately chose to receive notification of any updates to the conversation. I’m glad that I did.

Fascinated still,
-Phil

Capt. Robert Fore March 2, 2014 at 6:29 am

Yes, I saw that I screwed up on my last response by including “may have been” twice. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with computers.

But, since I am already into my second message today here on Eternal Idol, I would like to ask our followers, as well as new visitors to this site, for a favor. This may be a little lengthy, but I hope you will bear with me to the end.

When I first contacted Dennis about North Sentinel Island, I had no idea that this subject, or to be honest even the island itself and it’s inhabitants, would generate so much interest and debate. My first release of the original Primrose rescue, made to another blog site was, from the response, or lack of it, almost a non-event. There was little in the way of comments.

When I contacted Dennis, I was merely looking for the proper venue, to release my photographs taken during the mission. I had made promises to certain individuals, to post those photos, and that was my real intent when I found Eternal Idol, and Dennis Price. It took almost two years, before I was able to access my stored photos, which were taken during the rescue operation of the crew and mascot, of the Primrose crew.

To say I was caught by surprise, by the responses, not only from Dennis, but many of his followers here on EI, is an understatement. The unintended result for me was the development of a unique and wonderful new relationship with Dennis, and access to the myriad responses from many interested readers. For this alone, it has made the entire experience worthwhile for me, and Dennis as well, I am sure.

The results of Dennis’s and my efforts to produce a website of the highest quality possible, and to generate true scholastic (perhaps a bit overstated here) intercourse amongst the followers of this subject. We have made considerable efforts to maintain a high standard, and welcome everyone with true interests in N.S.I. and its inhabitants, to contribute in meaningful and constructive ways.

It is easy to see that many of the comments on some other web sites, which have made mention of the N.S.I., or the Primrose rescue, have elicited responses, often tongue in cheek, or totally asinine in nature. I am proud to say that Eternal Idol seems to have avoided such submissions, and I feel confident that the quality and interest of our readers will continue to maintain the high standards we wish to have.

As Dennis has mentioned a few times in his posts, there seems to be a high level of interest in this subject matter, and the story is getting out there, so many more potential readers can share as well.

So this brings me back to the favor I wished to ask of past, as well as the future, visitors to Dennis’s E.I web site.

I would like to ask the readers to read all of the available material on the E.I website concerning N.S.I. and the rescue operation, as well as many of the other wonderful subjects concerning Stonehenge, mysticism, the Life of Jesus, etc. And then, if you feel so disposed, feel free to make your own well thought out and, proper submissions. Be it in the form of questions, thoughts, or even conjecture, every submission has the potential to benefit this subject.

So little is known about the subject matter, it is necessary to ask questions, to which there may well be no definitive answers, but at least through our submissions and responses, we gain further knowledge, and enlighten ourselves, and potentially enhance our humanity. I know that I have learned much about this subject, and am looking forward to interaction with others with equally valuable contributions. This is an epic story of the very foundation and evolution of mankind itself. It deserves to be told, and studied.

To my way of thinking, as intangible and subjective as this North Sentinel may be, there is much to be learned, not from just the discussion of an ancient peoples and culture, caught in a time warp of sorts, but is equally an opportunity for we, the modern readers, to become more introspective of our own existence, and the long road through history, that has led us to this point in time.

So, dear readers, please do make yourself, and your own valuable contributions to this dialogue, known to us. It is all too easy, to simply visit a web site, take a little morsel of information for yourself, and then move on without leaving evidence of your visit, except as a number on a digital counter. This is our chance to make meaningful and illuminating contributions, which will hopefully serve to not only enlighten, but to enrich the human condition.

Thanks to all for your support,

Capt. Robert Fore

Manish March 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

Dear Captain Dennis and/or Mr Robert Fore,

Am just curious, would you have any idea of the number of North Sentinelese you saw while aboard the Primrose. You mention that you saw a large number coming toward your stricken ship, but will you be able to recollect the number – rather the total number of Sentinelse you saw in all approaching the ship?

I would be grateful to know. Thanks and best

Capt. Robert Fore March 8, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Hello Manish,

In my original text which can be seen in it’s entirety here, I wrote:

The thought of hovering for extended periods above deck, with people climbing a rope ladder, did not appeal to us. We did not at any time during the morning see any island natives. They were almost certainly there observing, but whether from fear of the helicopter, or whatever other reason, they did not make themselves known to us. After the third trip, all aboard were rescued, and our part in the mission was concluded. A couple days later, a Indian Navy cruiser, with a Alouette helicopter arrived, and the helicopter evacuated the personal effects of the crew, I believe by using a rescue hoist.”

In another response to a submission by Phil (dated 13 Jan, 2014)., I wrote:

To that end, I should say after following the source site which led Phil to eternalidol.com.

http://www.odditycentral.com/travel/north-sentinel-island-the-worlds-hardest-place-to-visit-2.html

I had not previously seen that site, but found it quite interesting. Especially the video at the end of the article which is of the Indian Govt. supply trip, which resulted in a rather harsh ending for the impaled cameraman. I had not seen the full video before, but mostly poorly edited copies. The full length version displayed on that site allowed me to ascertain several of my previous deductions were slightly off. I noticed for example that the actual attack by the natives seems to have come after the supplies intended for the North Sentinelese had already been delivered, and it was after the Indian Govt. officials had returned to their boat that the natives made their appearance and started firing their arrows at the boat as it stood offshore a short distance. The other thing that I noticed was that the arrows appeared to be rather longer than the 4 feet I had mentioned in my previous posts.

In one of my very first posts (24 Dec., 2010) after the Primrose Rescue story was placed on the Eternal Idol website, I made reference to Adam Goodheart’s work on the subject of North Sentinel, and its inhabitants:

“In Adam Goodheart’s detailed article “The Last Island of the Savages”, (The American Scholar – Autumn 2000), he made mention of the fact that the crew of the Primrose shipwrecked in August 1981, after coming under attack, notified their home-base by radio, that they were in danger from a group of savages estimated at least of 50 men. While this is not in any way a definitive method of determining the total population of the island, good deductive reasoning may lead to some reasonable assumptions.”

In that same response by me, I also speculated (and I emphasize speculated) about the possible size of the population of the island).

I was reasonably certain that I did not state that I had direct contact, at any time, but to be sure, I did go back to review all of my personal submissions (with no results other than the above references).

In the original article published here on Eternal Idol, I believe that there was a reference to the captain of the Primrose sending a transmission to his home office telling them, that an estimated 50 North Sentinelese were observed by the ship’s crew making preparations to attempt boarding the ship, and he stated at that time,” However, I did not make that statement. I was merely one of the crew that flew the helicopter that retrieved the Primrose crew.

There was the second followup article on this site (North Sentinel Island – World Exclusive Interview with Captain Robert Fore, on 24 Sep., 2011). There was no reference there either.

I just wanted to clarify this point. There are a lot of submissions and comments made on this subject, and it is sometimes a bit confusing remembering all of the material being presented.

Thank you for your question, Manish.

James Rowlands March 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hello Dennis, Capt. Robert,

After reading your comment

“So, dear readers, please do make yourself, and your own valuable contributions to this dialogue, known to us. It is all too easy, to simply visit a web site, take a little morsel of information for yourself, and then move on without leaving evidence of your visit, except as a number on a digital counter.”

I feel compelled to comment to give you both thanks for this wonderful article, rather than just reading and leaving.

I have developed something of a fascination with North Sentinel Island and I have read almost anything I can get my virtual hands on about it, and thus stumbling across this article was inevitable.

The story itself is fantastic, Capt. Robert, your acceptance and completion of this mission were nothing short of brave and honourable and I really do wonder about the fate of the men, had you not been brave enough to undertake the mission. When explaining this to a close friend of mine they actually compared it to the scene in the most recent King Kong movie where the native tribe boarded the ship, and I couldn’t help but agree and think that it would have been a bit more gruesome for the crew of the Primrose.

I still cannot put my finger on why I have such a fascination with this island, I think it’s because in this day and age, where I can videochat/ talk to anybody in any country at the click of a button, there is still a few small parts of complete untouched beauty, where social media, newspapers, television and mostly money have not corrupted the land.

I am so curious to see how these amazing people live, but at the same time, I hope I never find out.

thank you once again gentlemen,

James

Capt. Robert Fore March 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Hello James,

First, let me thank you for taking my request to heart, and submitting your comments concerning the Primrose rescue. Your response was exactly what I had hoped for. Considered questions and comments will hopefully inspire us to look at this as more than a good tale, but also a good measurement of our existence, both in historical and current world perspectives.

As you quoted in your comments, I have often wondered if perhaps something wonderful might have come to pass over the years, because the members of the Primrose crew survived, and were able to continue on with their lives. Perhaps it is a bit of a flight of fancy on my part, but what if a child or daughter yet to be born would someday in their future, became a scientist, and discovered a cure for some disease, or perhaps a great writer, composer, etc. The ramifications, even though it may not happen on such a grand scale, are very interesting to contemplate. Even if the family went thru their lives without particular notoriety, it most certainly still must have had important impacts on their families themselves.

But it must also be said that there may have been negative consequences to those men and families. The most interesting thought about this, is simply how profound the resultant actions of the rescue generated might have actually been. And, as you stated, there is no way of ever knowing the real answers to such questions. There simply is no crystal ball we can use to obtain the answers.

For me, this is exactly what is so mystifying and intriguing about the island and its inhabitants. And I agree wholeheartedly with you and your statement, that these may be questions that are best left unanswered.

In my career, I have seen many different cultures, some quite primitive in their nature. I know the idyllic life many people dream of and wish they could submerge themselves into, be it a remote tropical island paradise, or a beautiful jungle clearing by a magnificent waterfall. But I can assure you that many factors such as disease, lack of companionship, lack of the stimuli of music, art, modern conveniences, interacting with different cultures, would in short order bring a perhaps rude awakening to this idyllic existence.

For a modern person to live such an existence permanently with no hopes of ever again seeing a television or radio, watching your children get sick with some strange malady, and to know there is little hope for them to survive, that you and your succeeding generations will never leave your island Paradise, or to not even know anything except the daily grind of existence, this would probably leave you with a serious question in your mind concerning tropical island paradises. But yet, take a North Sentinelese, and this would be perhaps his ideal paradise, most likely because he has nothing as a frame of reference to compare to. In fact it would not at all surprise me if a Sentinelese were to be thrust into our modern day world, that he would certainly have serious issues with understanding what we are all about. In fact, it could do serious harm to them mentally, as well as physically and in other ways as well. They might even consider our world to be a sort of hell, and want nothing to do with it.

Perhaps that is the greatest gift this experience told here on Eternal Idol can give. The ability of allowing us flights of fancy and broadening our perceptions of both our humanity, and our shortcomings. So, if there are never any definitive answers to our questions, I will still be happy with the journey we are engaged in.

Dennis March 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I thought I’d post this latest bizarre development in an utterly bizarre case – The Independent newspaper reports that the Indian navy is now searching the Andaman and Nicobar islands – which will presumably include North Sentinel Island – in an attempt to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

“Meanwhile, VSR Murthy, a senior official with the Indian Coastguard, said Indian assets were now searching not only along the eastern coast of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, but was looking at the islands themselves.”

James March 14, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Dennis,

I did wonder if this would be the case when I heard they had expanded the search to the Andaman sea, I even joked with my friend that this would all be like lost and they would be alive on North Sentinel Island. As much as I hope they find the passengers and the plane, I pray they do not storm the island and jeopardise the natives.

James

Dennis March 14, 2014 at 7:31 pm

James, I’ve just posted this on the front page of Eternal Idol concerning Flight MH370. Strange days.

Gregor March 15, 2014 at 5:36 am

Thank you all for your wonderful and fascinating contributions….I have been reading through all of the submissions after stumbling on this site whilst trying to understand what might have become of MH370. From what I can gather recently there has been a lot of smoke observed on satellite coming from the island but this was confirmed as having started before MH370 went missing. It would be a terrible shame if the future of the North Sentinelese became adversely affected by these recent tragic events.

Gregor

Joe March 16, 2014 at 7:18 am

Hello all,
Anyone know what happened to the Primrose afterwards? Was it towed away? If not, it’d be interesting to know if the islanders went aboard later on…

Capt. Robert Fore March 18, 2014 at 4:59 am

Joe,

I am a bit late in responding to your question, concerning the fate of the Primrose, but if you have access to Google Earth, and type in “North Sentinel Island” in the search box on the upper left of the screen, and hit enter, the program will take you to the location of the island itself. Once you have the island satellite photo on the screen, zoom in on the upper left side of the island (northwest corner), and then track slowly to the right (east) you will see a shipwreck in the shallow waters near the beach. This is what remains of the Primrose. When it ran aground in August of 1981, it was immediately obvious to me, when we were flying the rescue mission, that the ship was doomed to remain there for eternity. While it possibly had a double hull, the massive waves continued pushing the vessel far up onto the reef, and within a short distance from the shore. There would have had massive damage to its hull, and there would be no sense, let alone method of pulling the ship back into deep waters.

As for the current ship’s condition, some years ago, the Mohammed Bros. arranged for and conducted a salvage operation, which pretty much disassembled the vessel down to the waterline.

As for the natives of North Sentinel boarding the vessel, there is no way of knowing for certain, but I would have been very surprised indeed if they had not done so, in order to salvage anything they could get that they might possibly figure a use for. A great movie (comedy) called “The Gods Must Be Crazy”‘, from the 1970s or 80s, was a good example of what a previously uncontacted tribe in Africa might have experienced if something from the modern day world, which they really know little if anything about, is introduced into their lives.

In the movie, a pilot flying past at higher altitude in a light aircraft throws his empty Coca Cola bottle from the plane, and it almost hits a bushman who happens to be passing near the impact site. Since it is the hardest material they had ever encountered (I guess there were no natural rocks in that area of the Kalihari) and could hold water, or used as a tool for cooking, or building, etc. in short order everyone needed the use of the bottle for their own work, and this began to lead to discord amongst the tribes people. It was declared a thing of evil, and it was decided that it must be returned to the gods.

The movie was very well done, and definitely worth a look if you can find it. It was a bit of a cult hit at the time, and may still be found in video stores, and almost certainly at some online websites dealing in movies.

Estela March 18, 2014 at 9:59 am

My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right.

This post actually made my day. You can’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for
this info! Thanks!

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: