AskDefine | Define castaway

Dictionary Definition

castaway adj
1 suffering the misfortune of shipwreck; "shipwrecked sailors"; "castaways marooned on a desert island" [syn: shipwrecked]
2 cast off as valueless [syn: castaway(a), rejected]


1 a person who is rejected (from society or home) [syn: outcast, pariah, Ishmael]
2 a shipwrecked person [syn: shipwreck survivor]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈkæ.stə.weɪ/ /"k

Extensive Definition

A castaway is a person who is cast adrift or ashore. While the situation usually happens after a shipwreck, some people voluntarily stay behind on a deserted island either to evade their captors or the world in general. Alternatively a person or item can be cast away, meaning rejected or discarded. Note that when a person was left ashore as punishment, usually the term maroon (or maroon'd) was used.
The provisions and resources available to castaways may allow them to live on the island until other people arrive to take them off the island. However, such rescue missions may never happen if the person is not known to still be alive, the fact that they are missing is unknown or if the island is not mapped. These scenarios have given rise to the plots of numerous stories in the form of novels and film.

Real occurrences


Icelander Thorgisl set out to travel to Greenland. He and his party were first driven into a remote sound on the east coast of Greenland, then Thorgisl, his infant son and several others were abandoned there by their thralls. Thorgisl and his party traveled slowly along the coast to the Eystribyggð settlement of Eric the Red, on the southwest coast of Greenland. Along the way they met a Viking, an outlaw, who had escaped to East Greenland. This history is told in Flóamanna Saga and Origines Islandicae and occurred during the early years of Viking Greenland, while Leif Ericson was still alive.

Grettir Ásmundarson

Icelander Grettir Ásmundarson was outlawed by the assembly in Iceland. After many years on the run he, with two companions, went to the forbidding island of Drangey, where he lived several more years before his pursuers managed to kill him in 1031.

Fernão Lopez

The Portuguese Fernão Lopez was marooned on the island of Saint Helena in 1513. He had lost a hand and much of his face as a punishment for mutiny. With some interruptions he stayed on the island until his death in 1545.

Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina

In August 1520 a mutiny broke out in Magellan's fleet while at the Patagonian seashore. After he put it down and executed some of the ringleaders, Magellan punished two others, the King of Spain delegate Juan de Cartagena and the priest Pedro Sánchez Reina, by marooning them in that desolate place. They were never heard from again.

Gonzalo de Vigo

Gonzalo de Vigo was a Spanish sailor who in March 1521 deserted from Magellan's fleet in the island of Guam. He was unexpectedly found there in 1526 by the flagship of the Loaísa Expedition, on their way to the Spice Islands and the second circumnavigation of the globe. Gonzalo de Vigo was the first European castaway in the history of the Pacific Ocean.

A Miskito called Will

In 1681, a Miskito named Will by his English comrades was sent ashore as part of an English foraging party to Más a Tierra. When he was hunting for goats in the interior of the island he suddenly saw his comrades departing in haste after having spotted the approach of enemies, leaving Will behind to survive until he was picked up in 1684.

Alexander Selkirk

The Juan Fernández Islands, to which Más a Tierra belongs, was to have a more famous occupant in October 1703 when Alexander Selkirk made the decision to stay there. (Selkirk had been born in Lower Largo in Scotland in 1680). Selkirk was concerned about the condition of the Cinque Ports, on which he was sailing, and remained on the island. The ship later sunk with most of its crew being lost. Being a voluntary castaway, Selkirk was able to gather numerous provisions to help him to survive, including a musket, gunpowder, carpenter's tools, a knife, a Bible, and clothing. He survived on the island for four years and four months, building huts and hunting the plentiful wildlife before his rescue on 2 February 1709. His adventures are said to be an inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, a novel by Daniel Defoe published in 1719. In 1966, Más a Tierra was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island.

Philip Ashton

Philip Ashton, born in Marblehead in New England in 1702, was captured by pirates while fishing near the coast of Nova Scotia in June 1722. He managed to escape in March 1723 when the pirates' ship landed at Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras, hiding in the jungle until the pirates left him there. He survived for 16 months, in spite of many insects, tropical heat and crocodiles. He had no equipment at all until he met another castaway, an Englishman. The Englishman disappeared after a few days but he left behind a knife, gunpowder, tobacco and more. Ashton was finally rescued by the Diamond, a ship from Salem.

Leendert Hasenbosch

Leendert Hasenbosch was a Dutch ship's officer (a bookkeeper), probably born in 1695. He was set ashore on the uninhabited Ascension Island on 5 May 1725 as a punishment for sodomy. He was left behind with a tent and a survival kit and an amount of water for about four weeks. He had bad luck that no ships called at the island during his stay. He ate seabirds and green turtles, but probably died of thirst after about six months. He wrote a diary that was found by British mariners in January 1726 who brought the diary back to Britain. The diary was rewritten and published a number of times.
As late as 2002, the full truth of the story was disclosed in a book by the Dutch historian Michiel Koolbergen (19532002), the first book to mention Leendert by name. Before that time, the castaway's name had not been known. The story is available in English as A Dutch Castaway on Ascension Island in 1725.

Charles Barnard

In 1812, the British ship Isabella, captained by George Higton, was shipwrecked off Eagle Island, one of the Falkland Islands. Most of the crew were rescued by the American sealer Nanina, commanded by Captain Charles Barnard. However, realising that they would require more provisions for the expanded number of passengers, Barnard and a few others went out in a party to retrieve more food. During his absence the Nanina was taken over by the British crew, who left them on the island. Barnard and his party were finally rescued in November 1814. In 1829, Barnard wrote A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures of Captain Charles Barnard detailing the happenings.

Other castaways

Castaways in popular culture

Various novels, television shows and films tell the story of castaways:
Castaways are part of other stories as well, where the event is not the central plot but is still an important aspect. Examples include:
The idea of a character becoming a castaway is common in television series, particularly ones that utilise the scenario for comic effect – it is a more extreme version of a character being stranded, but less likely and therefore more appropriate for non-serious series. Series that have had an episode about castaways include:

Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 chatshow in which the subject is invited to consider themselves as a castaway on a desert island, and then select their eight favourite records, favourite book and a luxury inanimate object to occupy their time. This concept has become so widespread as to have become a part of popular culture.


External links

castaway in Italian: Naufrago

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

DP, Ishmael, abandoned, aground, cast-off, castoff, declasse, deep six, derelict, deserted, discard, discarded, discarding, disowned, displaced person, disposal, disused, dogie, dumping, elimination, evictee, exile, expatriate, expellee, flotsam, flotsam and jetsam, forsaken, foundered, foundling, grounded, high and dry, jetsam, jettison, jettisoned, junk, junking, lagan, left, leper, marooned, on the rocks, orphan, outcast, outcast of society, outcaste, outlaw, outside the gates, outside the pale, pariah, persona non grata, refuse, reject, rejectamenta, rejected, rejection, removal, rubbish, scrapping, set fast, shipwrecked, social outcast, stranded, stuck, stuck fast, swamped, throwaway, trash, unacceptable person, undesirable, untouchable, waif, waifs and strays, wastrel, wrecked
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