For other uses, see Castaway (disambiguation).
U.S. merchant seamen try to revive a shipwrecked Filipino fisherman rescued in the South China Sea
Castaways may need to survive on a desert island.

A castaway is a person who is cast adrift or ashore. While the situation usually happens after a shipwreck, some people voluntarily stay behind on a deserted island, either to evade captors or the world in general. A person may also be left ashore as punishment (marooned).

The provisions and resources available to castaways may allow them to live on the island until other people arrive to take them off the island. However, such rescue missions may never happen if the person is not known to still be alive, if the fact that they are missing is unknown or if the island is not mapped. These scenarios have given rise to the plots of numerous stories in the form of novels and film.

Real occurrences


Icelander Thorgisl set out to travel to Greenland. He and his party were first driven into a remote sound on the east coast of Greenland. Thorgisl, his infant son and several others were then abandoned there by their thralls. Thorgisl and his party traveled slowly along the coast to the Eystribyggð settlement of Erik the Red on the southwest coast of Greenland. Along the way they met a Viking, an outlaw who had escaped to East Greenland. This history is told in Flóamanna saga and Origines Islandicae and occurred during the early years of Viking Greenland, while Leif Ericson was still alive.

Grettir Ásmundarson

Main article: Grettir Ásmundarson

Icelander Grettir Ásmundarson was outlawed by the assembly in Iceland. After many years on the run he and two companions went to the forbidden island of Drangey, where he lived several more years before his pursuers managed to kill him in 1031.

Fernão Lopes

The Portuguese Fernão Lopes was marooned on the island of Saint Helena in 1513. He had lost his right hand, the thumb of his left hand, his nose and his ears as punishment for mutiny and apostasy for converting to Islam. For the rest of his life - he died about 1545 - Lopes stayed on the island, except for two years around 1530, when the Portuguese king helped him travel to Rome, where the Pope granted him absolution for his sin of apostasy.

Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina

In April 1520, a mutiny broke out in Magellan's fleet while at the Patagonian seashore. Magellan put it down and executed some of the ringleaders. He then punished two others: the King of Spain's delegate, Juan de Cartagena and the priest, Pedro Sánchez Reina, by marooning them in that desolate place. They were never heard from again.

Gonzalo de Vigo

Gonzalo de Vigo was a Spanish sailor (Galician) who deserted from Gonzalo Gomez de Espinosa's Trinidad, part of the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan, when being in the Maug Islands in August 1522. He lived with the Chamorros for four years and visited thirteen main islands in the Marianas till he was unexpectedly found in Guam in 1526 by the flagship of the Loaísa Expedition, on its way to the Spice Islands and the second circumnavigation of the globe. Gonzalo de Vigo was the first recorded European castaway in the history of the Pacific Ocean.[1]

Marguerite de La Rocque

A French noblewoman, Marguerite de la Rocque was marooned in 1542 on an island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, off the coast of Quebec. She was left by her near relative Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval, a nobleman privateer, as punishment for her affair with a young man on board ship. The young man joined her, as did a servant woman. They later died, as did the baby she bore. Marguerite survived by hunting wild animals and was later rescued by fishermen. She returned to France and became well-known when her story was recorded by the Queen of Navarre in her work Heptaméron.

Jan Pelgrom de Bye and Wouter Loos

In 1629 Jan Pelgrom de Bye van Bemel, a cabin boy, and Wouter Loos, a 24-year-old soldier, had been on board the Dutch ship Batavia. The ship was famous because it was wrecked on Morning Reef of the Wallabi Group of the Houtman Abrolhos, (off the west coast of Australia) leading to the infamous Batavia Mutiny and mass killings. When all culprits were arrested on the islets, most of them were either hanged or sent to court in the town of Batavia (now Jakarta). However, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos were marooned on the Australian mainland, probably at or near the mouth of Hutt River in Western Australia, on 16 November 1629. They were the first Europeans to reside in Australia. Abel Tasman (whose last name now names Tasmania) was subsequently ordered to search for the castaways on his voyage along the coasts of northern Australia in 1643-44 but did not sail that far south. They were not seen again by Europeans. It has been argued by Rupert Gerritsen in And Their Ghosts May Be Heard and subsequent publications that they survived and had a profound influence on local Aboriginal groups such as the Nhanda and Amangu.

68 passengers and crew from the Vergulde Draeck

In the early hours of 28 April 1656 a Dutch vessel belonging to the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the Vergulde Draeck, struck a reef off Ledge Point on the central west coast of Western Australia, about 5 kilometres from shore, and approximately 90 kilometres north of where Perth now stands. At least 75 individuals made it to shore, where they camped. Seven men departed in a boat, making for Batavia, now known as Jakarta, at the western end of Java. They arrived there on 7 June 1656 and raised the alarm. A number of ships were then dispatched over the following two years to search for the survivors who had remained behind, but an incorrect latitude meant the searches focused on the wrong area. The original campsite, by then abandoned, was not found until 26 February 1658, by a shore party led by Upper Steersman Abraham Leeman.[2] There has been much speculation as to the fate of the 68, who may have ended up east of Geraldton, approximately 350 kilometres to the north, ultimately integrating with the local Aboriginal population.[3] Two stone arrangements, the Ring of Stones, found to the north in modern times may have been markers left by the 68 survivors. Archaeological investigations are continuing in an endeavour to locate the original campsite.

Upper Steersman Abraham Leeman and 13 others

On 28 March 1658, while searching for the 68 survivors of the wreck of the Vergulde Draeck along the lower central west coast of Western Australia, Upper Steersman Abraham Leeman and his boat crew of 13 from the Waeckende Boey[4] were inexplicably abandoned by the skipper, Samuel Volkersen of that ship. They were then about 180 km north of present-day Perth. Their boat was in poor condition, they had no water, just a few pounds of flour contaminated by seawater, and some rashers of bacon.

Leeman, who kept a journal,[5] rallied his crew. They found water by digging on an offshore islet, and then killed seals and dried the meat, using the skins to raise the sides of the boat. Leeman even constructed his own compass. They then set sail for Java. They made their way up the Western Australian coast, and after a voyage of 2500 km reached the eastern end of Java with the loss of only one man. In endeavouring to land their boat was wrecked and many of the men ran off into the jungle. Leeman and his three remaining companions then walked the full length of the south coast of Java, through jungle, volcanic country, braving marauding tigers along the way. Upon getting to the western end of Java they were captured by a Javanese prince and held for ransom. The Dutch then paid the ransom and Leeman and his compatriots finally made it to Batavia (Jakarta) on 23 September 1658.[6]

A Miskito called Will

Main article: Will (Indian)

In 1681, a Miskito named Will by his English comrades was sent ashore as part of an English foraging party to Más a Tierra. When he was hunting for goats in the interior of the island he suddenly saw his comrades departing in haste after having spotted the approach of enemies, leaving Will behind to survive until he was picked up in 1684.

Alexander Selkirk

Main article: Alexander Selkirk

The Juan Fernández Islands, to which Más a Tierra belongs, would have a more famous occupant in October 1704 when Alexander Selkirk made the decision to stay there. Selkirk was born in Lower Largo in Scotland in 1676. Selkirk was concerned about the condition of the Cinque Ports, on which he was sailing, and remained on the island. The ship later sank with most of its crew being lost. Being a voluntary castaway, Selkirk was able to gather numerous provisions to help him to survive, including a musket, gunpowder, carpenter's tools, a knife, a Bible, and clothing. He survived on the island for four years and four months, building huts and hunting the plentiful wildlife before his rescue on 2 February 1709. His adventures are said to be an inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, a novel by Daniel Defoe published in 1719. In 1966, Más a Tierra was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island.

Philip Ashton

Main article: Philip Ashton

Philip Ashton, born in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1702, was captured by pirates while fishing near the coast of Nova Scotia in June 1722. He managed to escape in March 1723 when the pirates' ship landed at Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras, hiding in the jungle until the pirates left him there. He survived for 16 months, in spite of many insects, tropical heat, and crocodiles. He had no equipment at all until he met another castaway, an Englishman. The Englishman disappeared after a few days but he left behind a knife, gunpowder, tobacco, and more. Ashton was finally rescued by the Diamond, a ship from Salem, Massachusetts.[7]

Survivors of the Zuytdorp

The Zuytdorp departed from the Cape of Good Hope on 22 April 1712 with at least 200 to 250 people on board, including women and children, and disappeared. It is now thought to have struck the Zuytdorp Cliffs on the central coast of Western Australia in early June 1712. The first signs of the wreck were found in 1927 but it was not until 1959 that the identity of the wreck was confirmed by Dr Philip Playford.[8] The discovery of a considerable amount of material from the wreck on the scree slope and top of the cliffs established that many people had managed to get off the stricken vessel and on to shore. Exactly how many people survived the disaster is uncertain and estimates vary from 30 up to 180 or more. There has been speculation that the survivors headed east along the Murchison River, 60 kilometres to the south. However, finds of a coin and a 'Leyden Tobacco Tin' at wells to the north, as well as linguistic and technological evidence suggest they headed north, perhaps ending up in the northern Gascoyne, about 450 kilometres north of the wrecksite.[9] In both cases it is thought the survivors ultimately integrated with local Aboriginal populations.

Leendert Hasenbosch

Main article: Leendert Hasenbosch

Leendert Hasenbosch was a Dutch ship's officer (a bookkeeper), probably born in 1695. He was set ashore on the uninhabited Ascension Island on 5 May 1725 as a punishment for sodomy. He was left behind with a tent, a survival kit, and an amount of water for about four weeks. He had bad luck in that no ships called at the island during his stay. He ate seabirds and green turtles, but probably died of thirst after about six months. He wrote a diary that was found in January 1726 by British mariners who brought the diary back to Britain. The diary was rewritten and published a number of times.

As late as 2002, the full truth of the story was disclosed in a book by Dutch historian Michiel Koolbergen (1953–2002), the first to mention Leendert by name. Before that time, the castaway's name had not been known. The story is available in English as A Dutch Castaway on Ascension Island in 1725.[10][11]

Chunosuke Matsuyama

In 1784, Chunosuke Matsuyama, a Japanese seaman and 43 of his companions began a voyage to find buried treasure on a Pacific island. During the voyage, a storm blew the group's ship onto a coral reef and forced the sailors to seek refuge on a nearby island. However, the crew was unable to find fresh water or sufficient food on the island. With a limited food supply, consisting mostly of crabs and coconuts, the sailors began to die from dehydration and starvation. Before his own death, Matsuyama carved a message telling the story of his group's shipwreck into thin pieces of wood from a coconut tree, which he inserted into a bottle and threw into the ocean. Approximately 151 years later, in 1935, a Japanese seaweed collector found the bottle. The bottle had washed ashore in the village of Hiraturemura, where Matsuyama was born.[12]

Charles Barnard

In 1812, the British ship Isabella, captained by George Higton, was shipwrecked off Eagle Island, one of the Falkland Islands. Most of the crew was rescued by the American sealer Nanina, commanded by Captain Charles Barnard. However, realising that they would require more provisions for the expanded number of passengers, Barnard and a few others went out in a party to retrieve more food. During his absence, the Nanina was taken over by the British crew, who left them on the island. Barnard and his party were finally rescued in November 1814. In 1829, Barnard wrote A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures of Captain Charles Barnard detailing the happenings.

Crews of the Grafton and Invercauld

On January 3, 1864, the 56 ton schooner Grafton was wrecked in the north arm of Carnley Harbour, Auckland Island. The five-man crew, led by Captain Thomas Musgrave and Francois Edouard Raynal as mate, spent twenty months on the island until three of them went out for rescue in the ship's dinghy, sailing more than 400 km up north to Stewart Island. All men survived. Unknown to them, on May 11, 1864, the ship Invercauld bound from Melbourne to Callao was wrecked in bad weather on the west coast of the same island. From the initial crew of 25, only 19 made it to shore and after more than a year spent on the island only 3 men survived starvation and cold, being rescued by a ship looking for a shelter to make repairs.

Other castaways

Other castaways in history include:

Castaways in popular culture

Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe Illustration of Crusoe standing over Man Friday after freeing him from the cannibals.

Various novels, television shows and films tell the story of castaways:

Pre-20th century


This is a list of fiction. There are also memoirs such as Castaway.


Title Director Notable cast Summary Released Notes
The Blue Lagoon W. Bowden, Dick Cruickshanks Molly Adair First film adaptation of the novel. 1923
Mr. Robinson Crusoe A. Edward Sutherland Douglas Fairbanks A yachtsman makes a bet his friends that he can swim ashore on a remote island in the South Seas with nothing but a toothbrush and be "living the life of Riley" when they return. 1932
The Blue Lagoon Frank Launder Jean Simmons, Donald Houston Second film adaptation of the novel. 1949
Robinson Crusoe Luis Buñuel Daniel O'Herlihy Adaptation based on the book of the same name. Lead actor Dan O'Herlihy, playing Crusoe, was nominated for the 1955 Academy Award for Best Actor - making him the only actor to receive a nomination for the role. 1954
Swiss Family Robinson Ken Annakin John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur Walt Disney adaptation based on the book of the same name. 1960
In Search of the Castaways Robert Stevenson Hayley Mills, Maurice Chevalier, George Sanders, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Michael Anderson, Jr. Walt Disney adaptation based on the book of the same name. 1962
Lord of the Flies Peter Brook James Aubrey, Tom Chapin and Hugh Edwards Based on the book of the same name. 1963 Awards: 1 NBR Award
Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. Byron Paul Dick Van Dyke Walt Disney adaptation based on the book of the same name. 1966 Awards: 1 Golden Laurel
Hell in the Pacific John Boorman Lee Marvin, Toshiro Mifune An American pilot and a Japanese naval captain match wits when both are marooned on an uninhabited island during World War II. 1968
Swept Away Lina Wertmüller Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato A rich woman and a communist sailor are stranded on a Mediterranean island. 1974 Awards: 1 David di Donatello Award, 1 other award
The Blue Lagoon Randal Kleiser Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern Two shipwrecked children grow up on a tropical island. 1980 Third film version of the novel.
Castaway Nicolas Roeg Oliver Reed, Amanda Donohoe Based on the book of the same name. 1986
Lord of the Flies Harry Hook Balthazar Getty, Chris Furrh, Danuel Pipoly Shipwrecked on a tropical island, a group of English schoolchildren eventually revert to savagery in spite of the efforts of a few rational children. 1990 Remake of the 1963 film of the same title.
Return to the Blue Lagoon William A. Graham Brian Krause, Milla Jovovich, Lisa Pelikan The son of the original castaways is marooned with a young girl on a tropical island. 1991 Sequel to The Blue Lagoon.
Robinson Crusoe Rod Hardy, George T. Miller Pierce Brosnan Film adaptation loosely based on the novel. 1997
Six Days Seven Nights Ivan Reitman Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer A New York magazine editor and a pilot fight pirates and face other dangers after crash landing on a deserted South Seas island. 1998
Cast Away Robert Zemeckis Tom Hanks After surviving a plane crash, a FedEx systems analyst finds himself stranded on a deserted island. 2000 Awards: 1 Golden Globe, 15 other awards
Swept Away Guy Ritchie Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood Remake of the 1974 film of the same title. 2002
Survival Island Stewart Raffill Billy Zane, Kelly Brook, Juan Pablo Di Pace A love triangle turns deadly when a husband and wife, and her lover, are stranded on a desert island. 2005
The Breed Nicholas Mastandrea Michelle Rodriguez, Oliver Hudson, Taryn Manning A group of college students fly to a "deserted" island for a party weekend find themselves under siege by murderous hounds. 2006
Life of Pi Ang Lee Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain A boy along with a tiger gets cast away in sea in a shipwreck. 2012 Awards: 4 Academy Awards, 1 Golden Globe, 2 BAFTAs, 51 other awards


Title Network Notable cast Summary Years Notes
Gilligan's Island CBS Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells Classic sitcom about seven castaways stranded on a desert island. 1964-1967 Awards: 3 TV Land Awards, 1 other award
The Admirable Crichton NBC Norman Barrs, Pamela Brown, Edward Cicciarelli A group of English aristocrats are shipwrecked when their yacht runs around on a South Pacific island. 1968 Television film
The New People ABC Tiffany Bolling, Zooey Hall, David Moses A group of young college students are stranded after their plane crashes on a mysterious island in the south Pacific Ocean. 1969-1970
Lost Flight NBC Lloyd Bridges, Anne Francis, Ralph Meeker The crew and passengers of a jet airliner crash struggle to survive on an uninhabited South Pacific island. 1970 Television film
Der Seawolf ZDF
Edward Meeks, Raimund Harmstorf, Reinhard Glemnitz Based on the book of the same name. 1971-1973 Television mini-series
The Cay NBC James Earl Jones, Alfred Lutter III Based on the book of the same name. 1974 Television film
Shogun NBC Richard Chamberlain, Toshiro Mifune, Yoko Shimada An English navigator and his crew are shipwrecked in feudal Japan. 1980 Television mini-series.
Awards: 3 Golden Globes, 5 other awards
Danger Island NBC Lisa Banes, Richard Beymer, Maria Celedonio A group of vacationers survive an airliner at sea on a flight and are cast ashore on a mysterious island. 1992 Television film
Mysterious Island Family Channel Alan Scarfe, Colette Stevenson, Stephen Lovatt Based on the book of the same name. 1995
Bermuda Triangle ABC Sam Behrens, Susanna Thompson, Lisa Jakub After their boat sinks in an unusual storm, a family become stranded on an island in the "27th dimension". 1996 Television film
Forbidden Island Nikita Ager, Paul Kersey, Grayson McCouch Survivors of a plane crash are stranded on a mysterious tropical island which possesses supernatural powers. 1999
Survivor/Expedition Robinson Various N/A Reality game show in which contestants various remote island areas while competing in challenges and progressively vote each other out of the game 1997-
Castaway 2000 BBC N/A Reality television series in which a volunteer community lived for a year on the previously uninhabited Taransay in the Outer Hebrides 2000-2001
Jumping Ship Disney Channel Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Andrew Lawrence Three brothers sailing to Australia for summer vacation are forced to abandon ship during an encounter with modern-day pirates. 2001 Television movie. Sequel to Horse Sense.
Dinotopia ABC Tyron Leitso, Wentworth Miller, David Thewlis Two American teenage boys on a joyride in their father's plane crash land on an isolated island where humans and sentient dinosaurs peacefully coexist. 2002 Television mini-series.
Awards: 1 Primetime Emmy, 5 other awards
Lost ABC Terry O'Quinn, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia Drama series about the 48 survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 as they try to survive on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. 2004-2010 Awards: 1 Golden Globe, 56 other awards
Mysterious Island Hallmark Channel Kyle MacLachlan, Gabrielle Anwar, Patrick Stewart Based on the book of the same name. 2005 Television film
Flight 29 Down Discovery Kids Allen Alvarado, Jeremy James Kissner, Johnny Pacar Adventure series about teenagers after a plane crash on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. 2005-2010
Blue Lagoon: The Awakening Lifetime Indiana Evans, Brenton Thwaites Remake of the The Blue Lagoon set in the 21st century. 2012 Television film
Arrow WBTD Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell Based on the fictional character Green Arrow. Oliver Queen is a castaway, and to survive he must forge himself into a weapon. He goes on to become a vigilante crime-fighter to clean up his city. 2012-


Minor part of the story

Castaways are part of other stories as well, where the event is not the central plot but is still an important aspect. Examples include:

Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 interview show in which the subject is invited to consider themselves as a castaway on a desert island, and then select their eight favourite records, one favourite book (in addition to The Bible and books by Shakespeare), and a luxury inanimate object to occupy their time.

See also


  1. Coello, Francisco. "Conflicto hispano-alemán", Boletín de Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid, t.XIX. 2º semestre 1885, Madrid, pp233, 301
  2. Rupert Gerritsen 2011 Selected Transcriptions and Translations, and Collation of Information ... ... Relating to Material Evidence from the Vergulde Draeck ... 1656 - 1658, Canberra: Batavia Online Publishing.
  3. Rupert Gerritsen 1994 And Their Ghosts May Be Heard, South Fremantle: Fremantle Art Centre Press. pp.232-46.
  4. Also known as Waeckende Boeij ("Watching Buoy")
  5. ‘Journaal of te dag register van mijne voyagie ...’
  6. See James Henderson 1982 Marooned, Perth: St. George Books.
  7. "Pirate Biographies" at The New England Pirate Museum. Accessed 4 December 2005.
  8. Philip Playford 1960 "The Wreck of the Zuytdorp On the Western Australian Coast in 1712", Nedlands: Royal Western Australian Historical Society.
  9. Rupert Gerritsen 1994 And Their Ghosts May Be Heard pp.252-60; Philip Playford 1996 Carpet of Silver: The Wreck of the Zuytdorp Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press pp.213-17.
  10. Alex Ritsema, book A Dutch Castaway on Ascension Island in 1725 (2010), ISBN 978-1-4461-8986-3
  11. Michiel Koolbergen, book Een Hollandse Robinson Crusoë (2002), ISBN 90-74622-23-2
  12. Robert Kraske, "The Twelve Million Dollar Note: Strange but True Tales of Messages Found in Seagoing Bottles" (1977), pp.30-32. ISBN 0-8407-6575-4.
  13. Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World. (2003). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2431-0
  14. "Pacific castaways find long-lost relatives". Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  15. "Kiribati man has shark to thank after 105 days lost at sea". Radio New Zealand International. Retrieved September 19, 2012.

External links

Look up castaway in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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