Uncovering the Mystery of the North Sentinel Island


The North Sentinel Island is a secluded area of the Andaman Islands. The inhabitants of the island remain aloof to the entire world. The location of the island facilitates such isolation. Not much has been discovered about the island yet. The island remains one of the fewest places in the world to be untouched by Science and technology. The natives of the island, thus, have formed no immunity against the diseases and conditions of the world. The Government of India provides the island protection. No vessel can go nearer than five nautical miles to the island. They are always on the lookout for external attacks. They are mostly prepared to take anything or anyone down with their bows and arrows. The North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal has remained a mystery to explorers, geographers, and anthropologists. 

The Government had tried several times to make the island accessible to researchers. The islanders have offered strong resistance to the idea of it. Hence, the Government had to retract its hopes of exploring the island. The only law that prevails on the island is the man’s law. However, the islanders have secured protection from the Indian Government. The Indian Navy has been seen on the Bay of Bengal, trying to cover the island’s coast, maintaining the charted distance. Numerous events have taken place on the island, which attracts reporters and researchers who wish to explore more about the happenings of the island and the kind of people who inhabit it. 

North Sentinel Island people

The Sentinelese are the people who inhabit North Sentinel Island. They have remained away from the world outside the island since its inception. Therefore, they have no immunity against worldly diseases. The entire race of Sentinelese would likely be wiped off the face of the Earth. However, the Sentinelese have stood strong in the face of natural calamities. The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake greatly affected this secluded area on Earth. The tectonic plates have raised the coast of North Sentinel Island by a few meters. The North Sentinel Island people have adapted to the changes post-earthquake.

Additionally, their minimal living conditions saved them from the earthquake. They have small huts with slanting thatched roofs. During an earthquake, the destruction caused by the collapsing of such huts is almost negligent compared to the cityscape. The Sentinelese have a very basic standard of living.

Occupation of the people

These people are still hunters and gatherers. They gather wild fruits and vegetables and feed on them. Their construction of small canoes with the help they conveniently engage in fishing. They fish in the shallow waters surrounding the island. They do not venture further. This shows a lack of greed or interest in the unknown and the possibility. The North Sentinel Island people are very protective of their island. No state or nation has been able to befriend them. They consider all outsiders as potential threats. They collect iron from the ships that may have wrecked near their coast. The iron thus collected is used in the making of weapons. 

North Sentinel Island Tribe Pictures
Image Source: Kailash kumbhkar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Weapons used by the people

The primary weapons of the North Sentinel Island tribe are bows and arrows, little knives, and spears. At first sight of an enemy invasion, the Sentinelese prepare to shoot their bows. After the 2004 Earthquake, a helicopter was sent by the Indian Government to check the condition of the inhabitants. The Sentinelese were seen from above, all prepared to launch their arrows at the helicopter at first sight of danger. 

A cargo ship MV Rusley has never recovered since it last set out towards the North Sentinel Island in 1977, and MV Primrose met had the same consequences in 1981. Every time an exploration or research has been initiated, it has met with the same resistance from the Sentinelese. They will neither bow down to anyone and nor will not accept friendship from anyone. Actually, they do not trust any outsiders. They are skeptical of others and are aware of their physical limitations, which divide them from the outside world. 

The North Sentinel Island tribe has avoided any other company to such an extent that no other human race is aware of the Sentinelese language. No other race can decode their language. 


The North Sentinel Island is located exactly 50 meters to the west of Port Blair. It is surrounded by coral reefs, which are drying up due to the extreme weather conditions each year. The island is bereft of any natural harbors. The entire island, barring the shore, abounds in forests. The white sand encircles the outside shore. The island’s remote location has kept the North Sentinel Island people away from the rest of the world.

Not more than 500 Sentinelese are likely to inhabit this island. There has been no accurate number estimation owing to the lack of surveys. But the little that people have gathered from the on and off trying to befriend the Sentinelese, this is the estimation reached. 

North Sentinel Island Facts

  • John Ritchie, representing the East India Company, visited the island to survey the various elements and lives in 1771. Homfray visited the island in March 1867. 
  • In 1867, during the summer monsoon, an Indian merchant ship named Nivenahwas destroyed near the island’s coast. The Royal Navy rescue party rescued them while they tried to keep the Sentinelese from attacking them.
  • Maurice Vidal Portman led an expedition to North Sentinel Island to learn about the natives, customs, and quality of lives led. He kidnapped six Sentinelese and transported them to Port Blair, where they could not survive anymore.
  • Portman tried for the second time in 1883. Even that did not get him the desired results.
  • Triloknath Pandit, the director of the Anthropological Survey of India, had tried to befriend the Sentinelese on many occasions and failed miserably. Eventually, India’s visits to the secluded area ended in 1997. 
  • In November 2018, a US missionary, John Allen Chau, landed on the island to preach Christianity to the North Sentinel IslandTribe. The man is considered murdered even though his body has not been discovered yet. The Indian Government has arrested seven Sentinelese on account of that.

The North Sentinel Island is a small distance from the South Sentinel Island, yet the natives have no contact with each other. Reporters all over the world are always on the lookout for some news about this island in the secluded area. Life here is so different from the rest of the world that it evokes curiosity in all the people who cannot imagine such a way of life in today’s world. No development could touch the island shore yet.

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