Castaway New York Style: Stranded on a Deserted Island in Jamaica Bay

Purposely stranding one’s self on a deserted island and living off the land until help arrives is a deep-rooted fantasy for most males. Fueled in my youth by the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson, and the characters in Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, I too count myself as a wannabe castaway.

Grant Stoddard does as well. The only difference is that he went and acted on this fantasy. The only problem is that he did not do so on some tropical island full of fruit, fresh springs, and warm weather. No, Stoddard had to make things difficult and desert himself on a sorry little excuse of an island in the middle of New York’s Jamaica Bay.

Inspired by his favorite TV show, Man Vs. Wild, this urban adventurer was recently rowed out to Ruffle Bar, “a 143-acre sandbar in Jamaica Bay,” supplied only with fresh water, a Leatherman, knife, tarp, matches, and Bradford Angier’s How to Stay Alive in the Woods.

Stoddard should have read the book more closely because he nearly made a mockery of the title itself. Not only did he fail to even light a fire to cook the mussels he pried off of some rocks, but he also came down with trench foot–a horrendous condition which could lead to amputation if left untreated.

In this classic Man vs. Nature conflict (as humorously chronicled in this month’s New York Magazine) nature basically kicked Stoddard’s ass due in large part to a storm which blew in shortly after he landed on the island and drenched him to the point of near hypothermia. Falling into the ocean while hunting mussels didn’t help matters either.

Things did not go well for Stoddard and the irony of dying from the elements such a short distance from the world’s most cosmopolitan city weighed heavy on his mind. And so, he threw in the towel early and text his buddy to row out and pick him up–hardly an option available to our old friend Robinson Crusoe.