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Real Life ‘Lost’

Imagine you’re on an idyllic crossing, halfway between Hawaii and Fiji. The sky and sea are impossible shades of blue, the wind fills your sails, and life couldn’t get much better. You see you’re on course for a tiny, pork chop-shaped atoll in the Phoenix Island chain in the Republic of Kiribati, so you decide, "What the heck?" and weave your way into the breathtakingly beautiful lagoon. What greets you is not a jolly, healthy tribe of islanders, but a rag-tag group of 24 malnourished, real-life castaways.

Isolated Kanton Island, located about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, is the northernmost island in the Republic of Kiribati’s Phoenix Island chain.

© Google Earth

That’s what happened this month to British skipper Alex Bond who, while delivering the 33-ft sailboat Mary Powell from Hawaii to Australia, stopped at Kanton Island, the Phoenix chain’s only inhabited island. As Kanton has very few natural resources — except coconuts and fish — the islanders rely on provisions brought in by boat. According to Bond, the supply boat had broken down some months before, leaving the population of 14 adults and 10 children to fend for themselves. "They have no starch, no calcium, no bananas; all they have is fish and coconuts," Bond told a British paper. "Nobody is dying, but the children have got very bowed legs, very serious calcium deficiencies and really bad teeth."

The sole village on Kanton is home to 24 islanders who rely on supply ships for a well-balanced diet.

© USCG

Bond immediately gave the villagers everything he could spare from his own provisions, then placed a call to the Falmouth Coastguard. They got in touch with the Honolulu Coast Guard, who are coordinating a food drop for the island. “They were extremely glad to see us and we’ve stayed on to help coordinate the food delivery," Bond said. "We’re not leaving until I know they are okay. They are wonderful people.”

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We neglected to take any photos of John or Lynn or of the Moorings/Sunsail base on Tortola, so all photos that accompany this piece are of The Baths on Virgin Gorda.
The human brain has some remarkable ways of dealing with extreme situations. In instances of severe trauma, for example, it seems to shut down certain body and brain functions — such as memory — and switch into survival mode.