North Sentinel Island

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North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island.jpg
2009 NASA image of North Sentinel Island; the island's protective fringe of coral reefs can be seen clearly.
North Sentinel Island is located in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
North Sentinel Island
Location of North Sentinel Island
Location Bay of Bengal
Coordinates 10°58′34″N 92°13′12″E / 10.976°N 92.22°E / 10.976; 92.22Coordinates: 10°58′34″N 92°13′12″E / 10.976°N 92.22°E / 10.976; 92.22 [1]
Archipelago Andaman Islands
(Sentinel Islands)[2]
Adjacent bodies of water Indian Ocean
Total islands 5
Major islands
  • North Sentinel
  • Constance    
Area 47.5 km2 (18.3 sq mi)[3]
Length 7.8 km (4.85 mi)
Width 7.0 km (4.35 mi)
Coastline 31.6 km (19.64 mi)
Highest elevation 122 m (400 ft)[4]
Union territory Andaman and Nicobar Islands
District South Andaman
Demonym North Sentinelese
Population 250 to 300[5] (2005)
Pop. density 5.00 /km2 (12.95 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Sentinelese[2]
Additional information
Time zone
PIN 744202[7]
Telephone code 031927 [8]
Official website
ISO Code IN-AN-00[6]
Literacy 0.0%
Avg. summer temperature 30.2 °C (86.4 °F)
Avg. winter temperature 23.0 °C (73.4 °F)
Sex ratio 1/
unit_pref Metric
Census Code 35.639.0004

North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The island belongs to the South Andaman administrative district, part of the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.[9]


North Sentinel is 36 kilometres (22 mi) west of the town of Wandoor in South Andaman Island,[2] and 59.6 kilometres (37.0 mi) north of its counterpart South Sentinel Island. Most of the island is forested.[10] It is small, located away from the main settlements on Great Andaman, surrounded by coral reefs, and lacks natural harbours. the island is lying 50 km (31 mi) west from Port Blair. It belongs to the Sentinel Islands. North Sentinel Island has about 47.5 km2 (18.3 sq mi) and a roughly square outline.[2] There is a narrow beach encircling the island, behind which the ground rose 20 m (66 ft), and then gradually to between 46 m (150 ft)[11]:257 or 122 m (400 ft)[1] near the centre. Reefs extended around the island to between 800 and 1,290 metres (0.5–0.8 mi) from the shore.[1] A forested islet, Constance Island, also "Constance Islet",[1] is located about 600 metres (2,000 ft) off the southeast coastline, at the edge of the reef.

The 2004 earthquake tilted the tectonic plate under the island, lifting it by 1 to 2 metres (3 to 7 ft). Large tracts of the surrounding coral reefs were exposed and became permanently dry land or shallow lagoons, extending all the island's boundaries – by as much as 1 kilometre (3,300 ft) on the west and south sides – and uniting Constance Island with the main island.[12]:347[13]

Apart from the narrow original beach and the uplifted reefs, the island is densely covered by forest.[2]


The Onge were aware of North Sentinel Island's existence and their traditional name for it is Chia daaKwokweyeh.[2][12]:362–363 They also have strong cultural similarities with what little has been remotely observed amongst the Sentinelese.[12]:362–363 However, Onge who were brought there by the British during the 19th century could not understand the language, so a significant period of separation is likely.[2][12]:362–363

Chola dynasty[edit]

Rajendra Chola I (1014 to 1042 CE), one of the Tamil Chola dynasty kings, conquered the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to use them as a strategic naval base to launch a naval expedition against the Sriwijaya Empire (a Buddhist empire based in the island of Sumatra, Indonesia). They called the islands Tinmaittivu ("impure islands" in Tamil).[14]

Maratha empire[edit]

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a whole provided a temporary maritime base for ships of the Maratha Empire in the 17th century. The Maratha navy's admiral Kanhoji Angre established naval supremacy with a base in the islands and is credited with attaching those islands to India.[15][16]

British occupation[edit]

British surveyor John Ritchie, observed "a multitude of lights" from an East India Company hydrographic survey vessel, the Diligent, as it passed by the island.[2][12]:362–363[17] Homfray, an administrator, travelled to the island in March 1867.[18]:288 Toward the end of the same year's summer monsoon season, the Nineveh, an Indian merchant ship, was wrecked on a reef near the island. The 106 surviving passengers and crewmen landed on the beach in the ship's boat and fended off attacks by the Sentinelese. They were eventually found by a Royal Navy rescue party.[12]:362–363 An expedition led by Maurice Vidal Portman, a government administrator who hoped to research the natives and their customs, accomplished a successful landing on North Sentinel Island in January 1880. The group found a network of pathways and several small, abandoned villages. After several days, six Sentinelese (an elderly couple and four children) were captured and taken to Port Blair. The colonial officer in charge of the kidnapping wrote that the entire group, "sickened rapidly, and the old man and his wife died, so the four children were sent back to their home with quantities of presents".[2][17][18]:288 A second landing was made by Portman on 27 August 1883 after the eruption of Krakatoa was mistaken for gunfire and interpreted as the distress signal of a ship. A search party landed on the island and left gifts before returning to Port Blair.[2][18]:288 Portman visited the island several more times between January 1885 and January 1887.[18]:288

Modern period[edit]

Indian exploratory parties under orders to establish friendly relations with the Sentinelese made brief landings on the island every few years beginning in 1967.[2] In 1975, Leopold III of Belgium, on a tour of the Andamans, was brought by local dignitaries for an overnight cruise to the waters off North Sentinel Island.[17] The cargo ships MV Rusley and MV Primrose ran aground on coastal reefs in mid-1977 and August 1981 respectively. The Sentinelese are known to have scavenged these wrecks for iron. Settlers from Port Blair also visited the sites to recover cargo. In 1991, salvage operators were authorised to dismantle the ships.[12]:342

On 2 August 1981, the ship Primrose grounded on the North Sentinel Island reef. A few days later, crewmen on the immobile vessel observed that small black men were carrying spears and arrows and building boats on the beach. The captain of the Primrose radioed for an urgent drop of firearms so the crew could defend themselves, but did not receive them due to a large storm stopping vessels from reaching them. Heavy seas kept the islanders away from the ship. After a week, the crew were rescued by a helicopter working under contract to the Indian Oil And Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

The first peaceful contact with the Sentinelese was made by Trilokinath Pandit, a director of the Anthropological Survey of India, and his colleagues on 4 January 1991.[18]:289[19] Indian visits to the island ceased in 1997.[2]

The Sentinelese survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and its after-effects, including the tsunami and the uplifting of the island. Three days after the event, an Indian government helicopter observed several of them, who shot arrows and threw stones at the hovering aircraft.[2][12]:362–363[20] Although the tsunami disturbed the fishing grounds of the Sentinelese, they appear to have adapted.[13]

On 26 January 2006, two fishermen were killed by Sentinelese when their boat drifted near the island.[21]


Politically, North Sentinel Island is part of Port Blair Tehsil.[22]


A group of indigenous people, the Sentinelese, live on North Sentinel Island. Their population is estimated to range from 50 to 400 individuals.[2] The Sentinelese reject any contact with other people, and are among the last people to remain virtually untouched by modern civilisation.[17] The population faces the potential threats of infectious diseases to which they have no immunity, as well as violence from intruders. The Indian government has thus declared the entire island, which is approximately the size of Manhattan, and its surrounding waters extending 3 nautical miles (5.6 kilometres) from the island, to be an exclusion zone.[23] At the 2011 census, the India surveyors counted 15 natives on the shore of the island.[24]

The Andaman and Nicobar Administration has stated in 2005 that they have no intention to interfere with the lifestyle or habitat of the Sentinelese and are not interested in pursuing any further contact with them.[5] North Sentinel Island is not legally an autonomous administrative division of India. However, scholars have referred to it and its people as autonomous,[25][26] or "independent."[25][27]

Census Population estimate[28]:120
1901 117
1911 117
1921 117
1931 80
2011 15

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands § 9.8 North Sentinel Island". Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal (PDF). Sailing Directions (Enroute). Pub. 173 (8th ed.). Springfield, Virginia: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 2014. p. 266. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Weber, George. "Chapter 8: The Tribes; Part 6. The Sentineli". The Andamanese. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "Islandwise Area and Population - 2011 Census" (PDF). Government of Andaman. 
  4. ^ pro star
  5. ^ a b Bhaumik, Subir (5 March 2005). "Extinction threat for Andaman natives". 
  6. ^ Registration Plate Numbers added to ISO Code
  7. ^ "A&N Islands - Pincodes". 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016. 
  8. ^ code
  9. ^ "Village Code Directory: Andaman & Nicobar Islands" (PDF). Census of India. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  10. ^ Weber, George. "Chapter 2: They Call it Home". The Andamanese. Archived from the original on 2 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "North Sentinel". The Bay of Bengal Pilot. Admiralty. London: United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. 1887. p. 257. OCLC 557988334. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Pandya, Vishvajit (2009). In the Forest: Visual and Material Worlds of Andamanese History (1858–2006). Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-4272-9. LCCN 2008943457. OCLC 371672686. OL 16952992W. 
  13. ^ a b Weber, George (2009). "The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami". Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Government of India (1908). "The Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Local Gazetteer". Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta. ... In the great Tanjore inscription of 1050 AD, the Andamans are mentioned under a translated name along with the Nicobars, as Nakkavaram or land of the naked people. 
  15. ^ "Andaman & Nicobar Origin | Andaman & Nicobar Island History". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Welcome to Alibag / Alibaug. Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre". Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c d Goodheart, Adam (Autumn 2000). "The Last Island of the Savages". American Scholar. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Sarkar, Jayanta (1997). "Befriending the Sentinelese of the Andamans: A Dilemma". In Pfeffer, Georg; Behera, Deepak Kumar. Development Issues, Transition and Change. Contemporary Society: Tribal Studies. 2. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 81-7022-642-2. LCCN 97905535. OCLC 37770121. OL 324654M. 
  19. ^ McGirk, Tim (10 January 1993). "Islanders running out of isolation: Tim McGirk in the Andaman Islands reports on the fate of the Sentinelese". The Independent. London. 
  20. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (6 February 2010). "With one last breath, a people and language are gone". The New Zealand Herald. The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  21. ^ Foster, Peter (8 February 2006). "Stone Age tribe kills fishermen who strayed on to island". The Telegraph. London. 
  22. ^ Tehsils
  23. ^ number23 (8 May 2015). "The Island Tribe Hostile To Outsiders Face Survival Threat". Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  24. ^ census
  25. ^ a b Dr. V.R. Rao, Tsunami in South Asia: Studies of Impact on Communities of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Allied Publishers Private Limited, 2007, chapter 8.
  26. ^ Claire Wintle, Colonial Collecting and Display, Berghahn Books, 2013, p. 9.
  27. ^ Ed. Aruna Ghose et al, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: India, 2014, p. 627.
  28. ^ Venkateswar, Sita (2004). Erni, Christian; Stidsen, Sille, eds. Development and Ethnocide: Colonial Practices in the Andaman Islands. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. ISBN 87-91563-04-6. ISSN 0105-4503. LCCN 2005419099. OCLC 57255778. OL 5877534W.