Xavier Rosset spent 300 days alone on an island called Tofua in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with just a machete and a swiss army knife.
Imagine it. You're the only person on a remote island for 300 days, thousands of kilometres from civilisation. Oh yes, it also has an active volcano on it. And it was all your own idea.
Xavier Rosset is a Swiss adventurer, and he likes to make documentaries of his expeditions. In 2008, his destination was a tiny volcanic island called Tofua, a 62km-squared, oval-shaped island in the Tonga archipelago. All he had with him was a machete and a Swiss army knife, a solar panel to charge his camera equipment, medicine, and a satellite phone in case of an emergency.
Although small and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Tofua has a bit of history. The famous Mutiny on the Bounty occurred 56km away from the island on 28th April 1789. According to Wikipedia, "Disaffected crewmen, led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, seized control of the ship from their captain, Lieutenant William Bligh, and set him and 18 loyalists adrift in the ship's open launch." Unfortunately for a crewman named John Norton, the natives of Tofua didn't take kindly to them landing there and stoned him to death.
Tofua also hosted 23 survivors from the stricken Liberty ship SS Phoebe A Hearst for a month in 1943. The ship had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on 30th April, and the crew survived on shellfish and coconuts until they were picked up by the US Navy a few weeks later in May.
The island has been deserted for many years, the last inhabitants chased off by the erupting volcano. There are still buildings dotted around, but Rosset chose not to use them, instead, he built his own shelter using palm leaves.
During those 300 days, Rosset only saw other human beings twice. The first time, a man from Tonga appeared at his campsite. He and a friend travelled to Tofua once a year to cultivate cassava, which they use to make a bitter drink. Unfortunately, his friend cut his finger with a machete. This traveller had heard about Rosset's adventure and thought he may have a medical kit and be able to help.
As a gift for his medical assistance, they brought him a young dog to keep him company. They believed Rosset was lonely, and the dog would be an enjoyable companion. They also gave him seeds to plant, watermelon and small potatoes.
Another time, a group of Belgian's on a sailing trip decided to stop on Tofua, they wanted to hike up to the volcano and snorkel in the reef of the island. These guys came with a small gift of beers and cola, a delicious treat when all you've drunk for months is coconut water.
After making a small vegetable garden higher up the mountainside where the soil was fertile, he decided to try to catch a wild pig. He was tired of coconuts and fish, so pork would make a refreshing change. He found a water source he thought the pigs would use, dug a hole on the path a few meters away and covered it with leaves.
When he went back a while later, his trap had worked. Inside, though, he discovered a piglet, no more than three weeks old. Not sure if it would find its mother again and likely die, he took it back to his camp and hand-reared it. The piglet would become another companion, following him around for a couple of months.
On one occasion, he caught a small shark. An absolute feast compared to the little fish he was used to. To cook this, he chose to wrap the chopped up shark in palm leaves, then place this on the hot coals he had made in a dugout. He then buried the whole lot and left it overnight to cook.
He had to make a couple of calls during his time. Twice was to get medical advice for infected injuries, and once on Christmas day to leave a message for his parents. It was an emotional journey, with long periods of loneliness intertwined with small victories. It also illustrated the impact of humanity on a tiny island, with rubbish that had floated thousands of kilometres strewn along the beach.
In the final two weeks, his friend joined him. This was to help him socialise and to get used to eating rich food again. This journey is a testament to man's ability to survive and, in Xavier Rosset's words, "It is a true story between solitude and loneliness."