Life Video

By Tui Benjamin


A former millionaire turned real life Robinson Crusoe has celebrated 20 years living as a desert island castaway with only a dog for company.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

David Glasheen, 73, abandoned civilisation and moved to the inhospitable Restoration Island, a tiny landmass off North East Australia’s most remote peninsula, in May 1997 after losing his fortune in the stock exchange crash of 1987.

The ex-businessman and property magnate, who at his most successful was worth an estimated $28.4 million, now lives in a wooden beach shack with only loyal Dingo cross Polly for company after his first dog Quassi was killed by a taipan snake in 2015.

But despite having limited electricity, fresh water and internet and facing regular battles against Australia’s deadly wildlife and unforgiving elements, the bearded exile insists there is nowhere he’d rather be than marooned on his ‘heaven on earth’ natural paradise.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

Self-sufficient David, who was born in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to an Irish family, 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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

“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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

“My favourite thing about living here is the peace and enjoying nature – it is just a beautiful place in a remote part of the country most people do not know about. I just love it.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

“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.

There is no routine, that’s what I love about it – every day is different. I do what I want to do, not what I have to do.”

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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

He developed a gold mining company in Papua New Guinea but lost an estimated $7 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 inhospitable 100-acre Restoration Island – located almost 1,000km (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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

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.

And when David arrived the former property magnate swapped a swathe of luxury homes for his current living quarters, a wooden beach shack dating back to pre-WWII.

In the past the 73-year-old claims he was threatened with eviction over allegations he was illegally squatting on the island and said if he is forced to leave in future he will sleep in the remains of a shipwrecked yacht off the beach so he is not technically on the disputed land.

Previously he planned to develop a hotel complex on the island but now instead wants to build a small, eco-friendly not-for-profit health retreat instead.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

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 otherwise lives off the land, growing his own vegetables and catching fish, crabs and prawns.

And he even has a gifting system in place with others who visit the island so he can indulge in treats such as the occasional tipple.

Apart from being airlifted to hospital when he was bitten by a poisonous whitetail spider several years ago, he has stayed in remarkable health over his two decades shipwrecked.

However, he does long for a partner to share his marooned life with and has previously used his limited internet connection to scour dating sites.

David said: “I used to get backpackers coming more regularly but that has dropped off now.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News – David before his adventure on the island.

“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.

“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.

Pic from Alvaro Cerezo / Docastaway / Caters News 

“I miss theatre 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.”