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Dead Chest Island, British Virgin islands

“Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest”

Dead Chest Island lies a little less than a half mile north east of Deadman’s Bay on Peter Island in the British Virgin islands (BVI). It’s a small scrubby cay with no fresh water and no big trees for shade. Legend has it that the notorious pirate Blackbeard punished a number of his crew by marooning them on the island for 30 days leaving each man with only a cutlass and a bottle of rum. By the time Blackbeard returned to the cay, most of the pirates had perished.

When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, which was modeled after nearby Norman Island, he included the well known ditty:

“Fifteen Men on the dead man’s Chest,
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.”

Dead Man’s Chest, being one of the names given to what today is called Dead Chest Island.

In 1994, the record of the surviving pirates of dead Chest island was broken by journalist, Quentin van Marle who marooned himself for 31 days on the inhospitable island. Van Marle wrote the book, Marooned, 31 Days on Dead Man’s Chest about the ordeal.

Van Marle explains: “In 1994, in conjunction with the Sunday Times, and in some sort of honour to Robert Louis Stevenson and Treasure Island, I deliberately marooned myself on the uninhabited island of Dead Man’s Chest (part of the British Virgin Islands). Surviving for a month on a barren rock of 300 square metres by 100 metres high was a tough call. The book is a weekly diary of what became quite an ordeal. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.”

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