When the Panamanian-registered freighter the Primrose became stranded off the shore of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman archipelago in 1981, its predicament seemed a thing of the 18th century. The inhabitants of the island had had almost no contact with the rest of humanity and, although anthropologists called them "Sentinelese," nobody knew how they referred to themselves or even what language they spoke. Neither did anyone know whether their primitive state was one of savagery or innocence. Although there is no apparently simple explanation for the island's isolation, the place had little appeal until it became a historical curiosity as the last place on earth where the Age of Discovery could play out its tragedy and farce. The writer discusses the history of North Sentinel Island and efforts to study the Andamanese aborigines.