An Island of One's Own

 A Life of Isolation.

Tom Neale fantasized about living his life as a castaway for over 30 years before actual realizing his dream at age 51. He was first introduced to the Cook Islands at the age of 18 while in the Royal New Zealand Navy. After his military service ended, he worked as shopkeeper on the islands and met writer Robert Dean Frisbie, who fascinated him with stories about Suwarrow, a nearby deserted atoll. He knew, once he visited the atoll, he was indeed home. 

In October 1952, Neale gathered food supplies, tobacco, various tools and two cats and embarked for the island. He lived in buildings left behind by the military during WWII. 

Neale adapted to island life fairly easily and lived off of fish, crabs and clams, chicken eggs, coconuts, breadfruit, bananas and wild-grown vegetables. Occasionally, he welcomed visitors who wanted to meet the real life Robinson Crusoe. 

Neale lived on the island until 1977 when cancer forced him to return to the mainland. He died eight months later. His grave is in the RSA cemetery on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands opposite the airport.

Neale wrote about his experiences on Suwarrow in a memoir called, An Island to Oneself.