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interesting Island that from afar almost looks like it is a mirage created by the Ocean, but in fact it is Palmerston. Located 3,200 km from New Zealand, this island houses one of the most secluded civilizations in modern history. However, this is not your average tribe that prefers to stay away from the modern world. The Island is known to house 62 inhabitants who have limited access to electricity, television, and even the internet. The food source is free and almost infinite with coconuts falling down from every branch and surrounded by an Ocean with an endless supply of fish. The only issue that the inhabitants face is potable water which can only be procured through the rain.

The most fascinating is that all the inhabitants are related as they are all the descendants of William Masters, who was not the first person to discover Palmerston island. To get a better understanding, we need to go back in time to the 18th century.

The discovery

Captain James Cook (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The first person to discover this small paradise was Captain James Cook in 1774. With the discovery of New Zealand in 1642, many sailors started to create new trade routes, in order to avoid pirates and also profit from the newly discovered resources New Zealand had to offer. Upon embarking on a new route, Captain Cook discovered Palmerston Island, but he did not set foot on the island until 1777 when his sailors run out of supplies and went on the island in search of food.

Captain James Cook FRS was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the British Royal Navy, famous for his three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to New Zealand and Australia in particular.

Mapping new routes during that period of time was a bit hellish, to say the least. Many accounts were inaccurate just like Captain Cook’s discovery of the island. When Captain Cook mapped out the island, he was about 16 km (10 miles) off the actual location. The exact position of the island was mapped later on in 1969 by its inhabitants.

The island itself remained uninhabited until 1863, when William Marster, the ancestor of all Palmerstonians, landed. Of British origion, Marster had left England (leaving behind a wife and two children) to join the California gold rush. Not having much luck during the California gold rush, Marster decided to embark on a ship heading towards New Zealand. In 1859 Marster arrived in Tahiti, where he lived in extreme poverty as he lost everything looking for gold. To his luck, he was offered a job as the caretaker of Palmerston island which at the time was owned by a Scottish merchant by the name of John Brander, who went on the island twice a year to collect coconut oil.

Before moving to the island, Marsters got married to the daughter of a Cook Islands chief in Tahiti. When he finally moved to Palmerston, he moved with his wife, his cousin, and a cousin of his wife. Between fishing, swimming, and picking coconuts, there was a lot of procreation which led to the birth of 23 children, followed by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. William Marsters died on May 22, 1899, but before his death, he divided the island between his three families:

  • One part to his wife and children on the island
  • One part of his wife and children in England
  • And one part to his children with his wife’s cousin
Gone with the Wynns presenters visiting the descendants of Masters in 2019 (Source: YouTube/Gone with the Wynns)

In 1954 the island became the property of his descendants, although it remains officially under the control of the New Zealand Government. Today over 62 of Wiliam’s descendants still live on the island and do not have any plans of moving from the island. Not many people visit the island as it is very difficult to get there.

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