One man's island, another man's dream

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 3:13am

You might know them as the Diaoyu or the Senkaku islands, but my people call them the Bezotteneijlanden, which once sheltered our ancestor Jakobus de Pechvogel, when he lived there as a castaway 500 years ago.

In fact, as confirmed by a search of the online databases of the Dutch East India Company, the Ming empire and the Tokugawa shogunate, Pechvogel is the first human to have survived more than 24 hours on the Bezottens, a fact of which we are in awe.

Pechvogel landed up on the Bezottens after he was set adrift from his ship, the Vrolijke Vrijbuiter, which needed to lose ballast to compensate for a heavy cargo of spices, silks and computer components. It seems that his disputatious and stubborn nature had added to the crew's burden of living within the small confines of a wooden ship far from home. We, the descendants of Pechvogel, bear no ill feeling towards the crew, not least because Pechvogel survived his 12 seasons in exile, thriving on molluscs, rainwater, seaweed and furious arguments with the seagulls about the true nature of the human condition. Honestly, who needs more than that? And how did he make it back to the Cape? Well, let's just say it was on board the Vliegende Hollander, the vessel which you call the Flying Dutchman, under a captain called Vanderdecken.

We are grateful for Pechvogel's sojourn on the Bezottens because it means that, today, indisputably, they belong to us, his descendants, no matter what you may read elsewhere. In fact, when Japan and China started the argument a few years ago about who owns the Bezottens, both sides offered us 10 tonnes of silver and a year's supply of cloves and nutmeg to give up the Pechvogel claim. Needless to say, we refused, and, even as I write, plans are being made to raise an expedition to reassert our rights, just as soon as we can work out who the hell do we think we are.

Alex Lo is on leave