Warner achieved fame in 1966 when he rescued a half-dozen boys who’d been stranded on a deserted island for more than a year. Their situation was compared with “Lord of the Flies,” but unlike the fictional book, the boys made a nice society for themselves and looked out for each other.
At first the boys lived off raw fish, coconuts and birds’ eggs. After about three months, they found the ruins of a village, and their fortunes improved — amid the rubble they discovered a machete, domesticated taro plants and a flock of chickens descended from the ones left behind by the previous inhabitants. They also managed to start a fire, which they kept burning for the rest of their stay.
The boys built a makeshift settlement, with a thatched-roof hut, a garden and, for recreation, a badminton court and an open-air gymnasium, complete with a bench press. One of the boys, Kolo Fekitoa, fashioned a guitar out of debris from the boat, and they began and ended every day with songs and prayer.
They established a strict duty roster, rotating among resting, gathering food and watching for ships. If a fight broke out, the antagonists had to walk to opposite ends of the island and return, ideally having cooled off. When Stephen broke his leg, the others fashioned a splint; his leg healed perfectly.
However, the moral of the story is not that “Lord of the Flies” was wrong and people are basically good. It’s more complicated than that. The island was deserted because slavers carried off much of the population a century earlier, and the remainder fled to avoid capture. Also, the boys stole the boat they got shipwrecked on.