The Atafu Atoll, Tokelau (image: Earth Observatory, Nasa)
After I finished this excellent GQ piece about the three teenagers who floated, without sustenance, for 51 days in the South Pacific, the very first thing I did was drink a tall, hydrating glass of water and thank my lucky stars. Then, I spent a good 20 minutes on google maps exploring the island from which their nightmare originated. Man do I love the internet.
The Atafu atoll is one of three atolls that make up Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand and one of the most isolated communities on the planet. There are 534 people there, and a ferry that comes once every two weeks. It takes 26 hours to get to the next atoll.
Read Michael Finkel’s full account to hear how 3 teenagers with a milk jug of vodka, a dozen coconuts, and adolescent disregard for personal safety survived on a grand total of a 3,000 calories over 51 days. Survival stories are fun, especially when everyone lives.
But what I found particularly interesting in the article was the two specific call-outs to the internet. “To teenage boys, in Atafu as in every pocket of the planet, rules are made to be broken. And the isolation of Atafu can at times be difficult to bear. There’s now satellite Internet service on the island, which only emphasizes how much fun everyone else is having.”
This is a place that has been inhabited for over 1,000 years, and now, the antics of Lady Gaga and the pull of social media are enough to lure people away. On his facebook, one of the boys described Atafu as “freekin hell.” Was it hell before? Or only hell when you know what else is out there? How long does a community like this last when it gets easier and easier to leave?
The article concludes with the survivors excited to get back to their lives, “to respond to all the ‘Rest in peace’ messages left on their Facebook pages.” So apparently being fifteen is pretty much the same everywhere.
Related Post: Cory Doctorow on Facebook, surveillance and parenting.
Related Post: Things teenage boys like on the internet.