A journey to the coast of North Sentinel Island, home to a tribe believed to be the most isolated human community on earth. The Sentinelese people want to be left alone and will shoot deadly arrows at anyone who tries to come ashore. As the web of modernity draws ever closer, the island represents the last chapter in the Age of Discovery—the final holdout in a completely connected world.
In November 2018, a zealous American missionary was killed while attempting to visit an island he called “Satan’s last stronghold,” a small patch of land known as North Sentinel in the Andaman Islands, a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean. News of the tragedy fascinated people around the world. Most were unaware such a place still existed in our time: an island unmolested by the advances of modern technology.
Twenty years before the American missionary’s ill-fated visit, a young American historian and journalist named Adam Goodheart also traveled to the waters off North Sentinel. During his time in the Andaman Islands he witnessed another isolated tribe emerge into modernity for the first time.
Now, Goodheart—a bestselling historian—has returned to the Andamans. The Last Island is a work of history as well as travel, a journey in time as well as place. It tells the stories of others drawn to North Sentinel’s mystery through the centuries, from imperial adventurers to an eccentric Victorian photographer to modern-day anthropologists. It narrates the tragic stories of other Andaman tribes’ encounters with the outside world. And it shows how the web of modernity is drawing ever closer to the island’s shores.
The Last Island is a beautifully written meditation on the end of the Age of Discovery at the start of a new millennium. It is a book that will fascinate any reader interested in the limits—and dangers—of our modern, global society and its emphasis on ceaseless, unbroken connection.
“Adam Goodheart’s The Last Island thrills you from the beginning with an 18th century-style tale of adventure set in the present day. But it moves into a deeper reflection on a small tribe and its ancient culture standing alone in a globalized modern world. This book is both exciting and important—an adventure worth contemplating.”
—Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
“A thrilling book that will leave you contemplating the concept of civilization.“
—Kirkus, starred review
“The Last Island has the elegance of a spiraling seashell. In the fascinating tale of one small island caught in the mesh of modern imperialism and technology, Adam Goodheart has crafted a narrative that winds outward from a personal obsession to a broad interrogation about the value and purpose of human contact. This beguiling book holds within it the echo of vast historical tides.”
—Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World
“Adam Goodheart takes us on a fascinating journey to a place that has so far eluded the devious entanglements of our hyperconnected world: North Sentinel Island at the outer edge of the Bay of Bengal. Part travelogue, part history, The Last Island is full of teasing enticements and disturbing revelations, a mesmerizing chronicle of a people at the frayed edge of so-called civilization.”
—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and Travels with George
“Adam Goodheart has achieved something most of us can only dream of: finding a place where few of his compatriots have ever been. I wish I had been with him on the journey, but this gracefully written book is the next best thing.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
“In a world that is fully mapped, where distances are not what they used to be, Adam Goodheart’s genius lies in his ability to take us back centuries. The Last Island awakened in me a primordial sense of wonder.”
—Aatish Taseer, author of The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges