To Patrick, they were alarming. Around , I tried initiating contact. I put them on the kayak and began waving to the house we had seen. As I was about yds out, I heard women looing and chattering.
Then I spotted two dugout canoes with outriggers. I rowed past one, then saw movement on shore. Two armed Sentinelese came rushing out yelling at me—they had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer.
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I love you and Jesus loves you. Jesus Christ gave me authority to come to you. Here is some fish! I regret I began to panic slightly as I saw them string arrows in their bows. They kept coming. I slid the barracuda off. It started to sink but my thoughts were directed toward the fact I was almost in arrow range.
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I backpaddled. When they got the fish, I turned and paddled like I never have in my life, back to the boat. Lord protect me and guide me. As John entered his twenties, Patrick had reasons to hope that his son would change course before it was too late. John followed the family example by heading to ORU to study health and physical education, and he hinted to his parents that he was considering a career in medicine. In Tulsa he would escape whenever he could, fishing on his lunch break and on weekends bouldering, trekking, and paddling around the Ozarks.
Some trips took him farther afield. After graduating in , John traveled to Kurdistan with More than a Game, a Christian soccer charity, then headed back to Cape Town for a third stint there. By the summer of , John seemed to have decided to live as much of his life outdoors as possible. He qualified as a wilderness medic. He led trekking expeditions around Mount Adams in Washington. For three years, beginning in , he worked for six months as a park guide in Northern California, basing himself at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, where he lived in a one-room cabin owned by the National Park Service.
More and more, John was choosing to experience the outdoors alone. He backpacked solo around South Africa and India. Back in the U.
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At times, John complained of loneliness. But his compulsion for the wilderness often found him heading out unaccompanied. He started a blog called That Solitary Path. He filled his Instagram feed with pictures of empty tracks heading into the hills, tiny tents in vast landscapes, and one-man campsites high up in the snow, his hiking gear artfully arranged in the foreground.
He called himself an explorer, and his posts depicted an existence almost continuously on the road, chasing down a new peak or trekking route or ice-cold swimming hole in a hidden mountain ravine. He liked to pose for selfies as if roaring and tell stories of close escapes, such as making it off the Cascades as a wildfire closed in and recovering from a rattlesnake bite.
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On Instagram, he presented himself as the consummate trail bro. Only rarely did the mask slip. In his first posts, he quoted psalms and missionaries. The pair would connect whenever John passed through, a total of four times by October All that John had told him was that he had friends in the Andamans. By late , Patrick felt that time was running out to try and stop his son. John had made a second trip to the Andamans and seemed more determined than ever. He confronted his son, telling him that what to him might seem like righteous commitment was evidence to anyone else of a trapped and blinkered mind.
lichnostnyj-rost.kovalev.com.ua/assets/98.php John stuck to his belief that it was his duty to go to North Sentinel. It felt ordained, John said, like God was calling him. Patrick believed his son was deceiving himself.
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He described his son as a victim of fantasies, fanatacism, and extremism. The argument ended without resolution, and Patrick never raised the matter again. He was never able to shake the feeling that he was watching his son walk calmly and confidently toward his own death. The islands appear out of the ocean after two hours over open water—first one, then five, then dozens of dots of dark jungle ringed by bright halos of shallows.
Only when the plane banks does a small settlement of rusted roofs and dusty roads appear at the end of a forested headland, the one sign of human habitation where otherwise there is only water, mudflats, beaches, and trees. On the ground, Port Blair initially resembles any provincial Indian town.
The slums are squeezed onto its highest, most distant hills. A closer look reveals a town struggling to impose itself. The roads are buckled. The walls are cracked and crumbling under black mold.
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The jetties have splintered under the assault of the dozens of cyclones and storms that roll in off the Bay of Bengal every year. The sense is of a place that could disappear at any moment. The injunction contends that long-distance travel does not broaden the mind, as commonly supposed, but putrefies the character by exposing it to impurity. This view of exploration as corruption—either because what the traveler finds infects them, or perhaps because finding themselves so far from home, they hang up their moral compass—finds support in the long history of foreigners showing up on the islands and behaving abominably.
Anthropologists speculate that the ancient hostility recorded by Ptolemy and Marco Polo was a reaction to slave raiders. That reasoned xenophobia was reinforced by British colonialists, who turned their muskets and cannons on the islanders, stole their land, then stood back as pestilence carried off most of the population. Among Indians, kala pani came to refer to the jail itself. For two decades, Portman made ceaseless expeditions to find the various Andaman tribes, who he would kidnap and transport to Port Blair. But his ambivalence about whether his subjects lived or died is explained by the view, common in Europe at the time, that the beings before him were so distantly of his species, they were best categorized as fauna.
We cannot be said to have done anything more than increase their general terror of, and hostility to, all comers. The end of colonialism was accompanied by evolving ideas about indigenous peoples. Among the theories gaining currency were those of Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, a British researcher who visited the Andamans from to , whose study of the tribes was foundational to the new discipline of social anthropology.
Radcliffe-Brown rejected the notion that all societies followed the same path to progress and that the tribes were less advanced and thus inferior to Europeans. Such ideas spelled the end of a consensus that racism had scientific justification, and the emergence of the notion that all human beings are of equal worth. Against this history, a Westerner setting off into the jungle to find a lost tribe presents a uniquely unfortunate image.
Once, that figure had been me. This, I began to think, was the essence of the kala pani curse: obsession, arrogance, self-deception, even moral rot, all of it buttressed by an almost inhuman absence of doubt. At the time I was going after the tribes, I never questioned myself.
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