How MH370 Could Have Landed in the Stone Age

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
March 14 2014 5:44 PM

How the Malaysia Airlines Plane Could Have Landed in the Stone Age

478591415-royal-malaysian-air-force-navigator-captain-izam-fareq
Royal Malaysian Air Force Navigator captain, Izam Fareq Hassan (R) and pilot major Ahmad Shazwan Mohammed (L) show locations on a map during a search and rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane over the Strait of Malacca.

Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

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The frustrating search for the missing Malaysia Airlines 777 took yet another turn with a Reuters report suggesting the flight was deliberately taken off course and flown toward the Andaman Islands, an archipelago far west of the initial search area.

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One island in the Andamans, North Sentinel, is remarkable for being home to the Sentinelese — Stone Age hunter-gatherers who have remained isolated despite the increasing encroachment of the industrialized world.

From 1967 through the mid-1990s, Indian anthropologists embarked on periodic "contact expeditions" to North Sentinel Island. Approaching by boat, they attempted to coax out members of the tribe by depositing coconuts, machetes, candy, and, once, a tethered pig onto the beach. The Sentinelese almost always responded to these "gifts" by shooting arrows, throwing stones, and shouting at the unwelcome visitors.

India discontinued its attempts at peaceful contact in 1997 and ruled that the islanders be left alone, but visits still occur — in 2006, a fishing boat drifted too close to the shore, and Sentinelese archers killed the two men on board. An Indian helicopter sent to retrieve their bodies was also fired upon and could not land.

The possible presence of Flight MH370 in the vicinity of North Sentinel makes for prime conspiracy fodder. (Where's the perfect place to park a plane so no-one will find it? On an island where people are still living in the Stone Age!) It's a ridiculous notion, certainly, but no more ridiculous than some of the speculation already running rampant. If MH370 did somehow end up at North Sentinel, intentionally or otherwise, the retrieval process will need to be extra delicate.

andamans
The Andaman Islands.

Photo: Venkatsh K/Creative Commons


View North Sentinel Island in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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