A real-life Robinson Crusoe who has spent 20 years living on a desert island. He says he doesn’t have to worry about terrorist attacks.
Former millionaire David Glasheen, 73, moved to the idyllic Restoration Island, located off North East Australia, in May 1997 after losing his fortune in the stock exchange crash of 1987. The ex-gold mining tycoon and property magnate, who at his most successful was worth an estimated $27 million, now lives in a wooden beach shack with only his loyal dog Polly for company.
But despite having limited electricity, fresh water and facing regular battles against deadly wildlife, the bearded exile insists he feels safe on the island. He said: “Here there are snakes, spiders and crocodiles but it is safer here than lots of other parts of the world when you hear about terrorist attacks.“I love it here because I have my safety, no matter how old and how tough you are you still want to go to bed knowing you are not going to be attacked.”
David, who was born in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to an Irish family, added there is nowhere he’d rather be than on his “heaven on earth” natural paradise. He said: “I want to die here – where else would I? This is my heaven on earth.
“When I came here I was sick of money – money is what makes people sick – and my marriage had broken apart. “But being on your own you do miss intelligent conversation and the physical contact of other people. “I would love to find a partner who wants to live with me here, or a couple of ladies who want to come and visit a couple of times a year. “The elements and wildlife are dangerous – if you do get into trouble here, you are pretty much dead. The saltwater crocodiles are beautiful animals – they are dangerous but I love them.”
Born to a wealthy family originally from County Cork, Ireland, David was educated at a private boarding school and began a career as a businessman after university. He developed a gold mining company in Papua New Guinea but lost an estimated $6 million in the 12 months after the October 1987 global financial crash.
Soon after David’s wife left him and when he met a new girlfriend who told him she wanted to run away to a desert island he began searching for such a place. He first visited the 100-acre Restoration Island – located almost 621 miles from Cairns, the nearest city, in 1993 before moving for good when he secured a 50-year lease from the state of Queensland in May 1997.
And though his then-partner decided life as a hunter gatherer was not for her, David said he has made the exiled existence his own despite legal wrangles over the years. Over the years the bearded castaway has entertained backpackers, tourists and even Russell Crowe to his isolated oasis – but now visitors have dwindled to just a trickle of 12 a year.
The wilderness was named by famous seafarer Captain Bligh, who stopped at the island to restore his crew’s health in 1789 after a mutiny on board the ill-fated Bounty. An internet connection allows David to follow the news, keep in touch with the outside world via social media and watch Britain’s Got Talent videos on YouTube, his guilty pleasure.
But he has no direct electricity – relying on solar panels and a backup generator – and limited running water was only installed a few years ago. David travels to Cairns once a year to complete a grocery shop – picking up essentials like olive oil and rice and luxuries like gummy bears and mars bars. But aside from that annual trip to the civilization, the castaway mostly lives off the land, growing his own vegetables and catching fish, crabs and shrimp.
Apart from being airlifted to the hospital when he was bitten by a poisonous whitetail spider several years ago, he has stayed in remarkable health over his two decades shipwrecked. Yet, he does long for a partner to share his marooned life with and has previously used his limited internet connection to scour dating sites. He said: “I used to get backpackers coming more regularly but that has dropped off now.
“I have a lot of respect for the land – I am glad we never decided to develop the island because we would have destroyed it. “I miss theater and live music – the sound of a real band. And just the social interaction of things like dinner parties with men and women together. “But my recollection of a lot of that is there was a lot of anger and bitterness there, I was not the only person to experience a marital breakdown.
“People want to check Facebook 10 times a day now but I am too busy – a lot of people would struggle here not being able to do those things. “It is a different world now but it is still a great world.”
“I was a chairman of a major company when [the crash] came out of nowhere, I lost $10 million and my whole lifestyle fell apart.
“I was what you’d classify as clinically depressed and made the decision not to get back into the stress of the mainstream when a new lady friend and I started talking about how an island is supposed to be the most non-stressful place to live.”