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A Lifetime Ban from Tristan da Cunha

Simon Winchester visited the island of Tristan da Cunha, known as the most remote inhabited island in the world. He toured the island, met the people, and looked into its history. Then wrote a book about the islands of the Pacific, and included a story he knew about Tristan da Cunha. Twelve years went by, and Winchester was invited to take a cruise through the Pacific in exchange for telling stories about those places to the other passengers. He entertained them while informing them about places they were to stop.

Then on a Friday morning, during a half gale just north of the Antarctic convergence, I gave my talk about the history of Tristan. We arrived the following evening, and when we were comfortably at anchor off the Edinburgh mole, we were boarded, somewhat surprisingly, by a very large imperial policeman. He had a brief announcement to make: everyone would be permitted onto the island the following morning, but regrettably not—the ship’s passenger manifest had been radioed ahead—Mr. Winchester.

I had, he explained sternly, betrayed an island secret. I had been warned; I had actually been implored. But I had gone ahead, and now the islanders were every bit as hurt and upset as Kenneth Rogers had forewarned. The constable was implacable, immovable. And so the passengers, most of them greatly amused, filed past me down to the gangway, boarded their Zodiacs, and were swept off behind the riprap into Calshot Harbor—named for the village in Hampshire to where the islanders had been evacuated in 1961—and off to see the sights of Edinburgh. When they returned an hour or so later they shook their heads as one: why would anyone want to live there? And then they puzzled over my exclusion: it’s not as though you had killed someone.

Winchester was banned from ever going ashore at Tristan da Cunha for the rest of his life. That made him ponder his actions, and the actions of others in setting foot in exotic places and going against the wishes of the locals. Read the story that led to the ban, and how it is only one incident in a history of globetrotting rudeness, at Lapham’s Quarterly. -via Digg

(Image credit: michael clarke stuff)


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He does a lousy job of hiding his bias, attributing negative opinions of the place he was banned from, to a group of strangers. Conveniently proclaiming his lack of interest in returning, despite his repeated attempts to do so. Much like a pouting child. Makes me wonder how fairly he is conveying the rest of the story... Plenty of journalists have intentionally revealed things they were told in confidence, distorted the truth for dramatic effect, etc. Maybe his infractions weren't so minor as he claims.
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It's the writer's 'arrogance' that gets me angry. To think that he felt he had the right to exploit other people's lives for his book show his hubris, inconsideration and lack of self-reflection. He brought shame to the poor woman and, in turn, to the islanders, too. Sometimes, in our wish to be important or knowledgeable, we stop thinking about others as being 'real' people and do things to others that under different circumstances we would be appalled to even attempt to do.
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I frankly still don't understand it. The "Betrayal" was referencing a past reference. Maybe it hearkens back to the the only time a woman should be mentioned in print should be her birth, marriage and death. Miss Emily has now been mentioned in three other publications. Booy's memoir, Winchester's book and the linked article. le scandal. the shame of it all.
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