St Matthew Island

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Ocean island boat cartoon. Comic book. Tintin 'The Black Island' cover. Reindeer. St Matthew Island. A remote outcrop in the Bering Sea 300km from mainland Alaska.
Research building drawing. Cargo ship reindeer cartoon. 1944: The U.S. Coast Guard establishes a LORAN (low-range radio navigation system) on St Matthew Island, staffed by a crew of 19 men. 29 reindeer are released onto the island as a backup food source. Within months the station is decommissioned and the men leave the island. The reindeer are left behind.
Reindeer grazing cartoon. Grass hills field drawing. The reindeer find themselves on an island rich in their favourite food, lichen. With abundant resources and no natural predators the reindeer breed prolifically.
Men researchers reindeer herd cartoon. Island walrus drawing. Summer 1957: Humans visit St Matthew Island on a research trip. In just 13 years the reindeer herd has ballooned from 29 to 1,350 individuals. The reindeer are in excellent health, fat from their nutritious diet of lichen.
Helicopter reindeer herd cartoon. Reindeer eating grass drawing. Summer 1963: The researchers revisit St Matthew Island. In six years the reindeer population has soared from 1,350 to 6,000. The dense herd's huge appetite has eliminated the island's lichen, with the population now grazing on sedge grass. With increased competition for food, the animals body weight has dropped since the last visit.
Reindeer bones cartoon. Dead reindeer antlers drawing. Summer 1966: The researches return to St Matthew Island. They find the island littered with reindeer skeletons. From a population peak of 6,000, only 42 reindeer remain: 41 females and one infertile male. There are no calves.
Graph. Seabird ocean cartoon. With their habitat's resources stretched, the population had been unable to survive the extremes of winter. In a matter of months, the population crashed by more than 99%. Without a way to reproduce, the reindeer population died off completely by the 1980s.
Island ocean drawing. Zoom out Earth cartoon. The island's untapped natural resources became the reindeer's source of prosperity, and also the seeds of their demise. The island was only so big, its resources only so many. How big is our island?
Island ocean drawing. Zoom out Earth cartoon. The island's untapped natural resources became the reindeer's source of prosperity, and also the seeds of their demise. The island was only so big, its resources only so many. How big is our island?Island ocean drawing. Zoom out Earth cartoon. The island's untapped natural resources became the reindeer's source of prosperity, and also the seeds of their demise. The island was only so big, its resources only so many. How big is our island?

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Read some reflections and insights into the St Matthew Island comic and the true story of the reindeer population crash in the blog section of this website.

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22 May 2019

Thanks for making this. After so many years, I keep returning to and relinking this page when I want to make a point in online discussions about sustainability and the very real possibility of collapse.


27 November 2018

Wow, that was so good. You're so talented!

Andru Harden

25 April 2017

it's crazy how there were reindeer skeletons

stupid vaentino

23 March 2017

good job

Johan Martinez

20 March 2017

Very good work.

The Difference Between Math and Modeling with Math in Five Seconds – dy/dan

10 March 2017

[…] more example is the story of St. Matthew Island, which dumps the expectations of pure mathematics on its head at least […]

Lilly Reid

6 January 2017

What about Klein? He did research to see what happened to the reindeer.

Trainer Jeff

17 November 2016

Well drawn!


15 November 2016

nice comic

emily spence

21 August 2016

Now you need to distribute this so that it goes to colleges, universities and high schools. E. O. Wilson told me years ago that education is one of the best ways to offset.


16 August 2016

Transposing from deer to humans, humans (tool users) main food would be cheap fossil oil that runs our machines, when that runs out there will be trouble. The sun will always shine on the planet and as long as the miracle of photosynthesis works, there will be food.


20 June 2016

Just when we thought comics were dead... Thank you Stuart McMillen. Thank you for the nail-biting, stay-up-all-night and nerve-tingling suspense.


20 June 2016

An impressive Comic of suspense and dark horror!


20 June 2016

i don't know how to turn of CAPS LOCK help me.....


20 June 2016



20 June 2016

excited for the sequel


20 June 2016

I`m crying..... I`m so sad


17 February 2016

I'm so sad

Unloading Content | Five Twelve Thirteen

9 December 2015

[…] Matthew Island (Stuart McMillen) A fascinating comic about population growth and carrying capacity. This isn’t strictly a […]


2 June 2015

Great and impotant work. Thanks.

Charles Boisvert

31 May 2015

Is it just me or is the title page inspired from Tintin's album "the black island"?

Gail Howard

28 April 2015

Super. Wish we could print

Shashwat DC

12 March 2015

I hail from a nation that is bustling with humans, and in sometime we would be the most populous nation in the world. I wish, Indians could draw message from the St. Matthew island, how a finite world cannot support infinite men. This strip was evocative and such an eye opener

Snow in Boston | Five Twelve Thirteen

31 January 2015

[…] 1: This comic, by Stuart McMillen, is really awesome. Below is the abridged version, but you should check out the […]

Folke Günther

24 January 2015

The wold have needed a wolf!

Robin Beyers

17 January 2015


Richard Gardner

26 December 2014

A great story I knew nothing about. Just to the right of your Post Comment button you should have a Sign me up for the newsletter only button.

ethyl smith

21 December 2014

Loved the drawings and the underlying message

Lovers and Daydreamers Conquer All | The Oakland Futurist

17 November 2014

[…] actually seems like a misunderstanding of what resources actually are.  Humans aren?t like reindeer on an island who die out after eating up all the food.  Most animals are unable to manage resources around […]

Unleash the Radical Intrapreneurs! | Linear to Circular | Linear to Circular

10 November 2014

[…] well-documented examples of ecological collapse. (I?d start with those of the Aral Sea, and the reindeer of St. Matthew Island, or perhaps the ?success story? of Easter Island?s inhabitants learning to subsist in a state […]

Cindy Wineburgh

7 October 2014

Thanks, Stuart, for this cartoon - my deceased husband George, a character himself (very unconventional doctor/gardener) loved graphic comics to illustrate ideas (he knew of Joe Sacco's work). I find it very easy to understand complex issues this way! best wishes from Indiana/US


30 September 2014

That totally surprised me so much!


30 September 2014

Well done, interesting, but I think the humanity got more adaptation ability than deers, and will achieve to survive (but its environment will be severly downgraded, no contest).

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7 June 2014

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I've truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!


21 May 2014

Excellent, I will show it to my kids


13 May 2014

I love it I crash my car into a person


25 April 2014

I really like this comic and you should make many more!! P.S. I wish our school had these type of stories!!


18 January 2014

- Thus reindeers teach: make love not kids. Isn't it?- Not really. These stupid animals did not even invent war.

dy/dan » Blog Archive » Great Palm Springs Action

4 November 2013

[…] thoughts went to St. Matthew Island, which I'll link without […]


14 September 2013

I'd say that the most interesting thing about the whole story is how fast the population decline happened. In '63, during their population peak, the talk of town among the reindeer might have been something like:"Hmm, food is getting a bit scarce. Might be we can't grow or population more. Perhaps it's even going to have to shrink. A little bit. Over the next ten years or so."They probably had no clue whatsoever that they were just two years away from a rapid population decline 0f 99.3%.Makes me go "hmmm..."


14 June 2013

you're doing good.I love it maybe you can put color on your comic.


21 May 2013



15 May 2013

Wow, it's really shocking. Because, they only started off with 29 Reindeer, first the population skyrocketed for 13 years. --Now, since the food source was scarce, all the reindeer started to die off. I'm not shocked to say that this could happen to another population as well.


14 May 2013

The amount of time it took them to die was crazy.


14 May 2013

interesting good jobs. kept me thinking

Tahtiyonna Solomon

13 May 2013

it is so impressive!reindeer failed to explore outer space before too late, they died off.

Lenay T

8 May 2013

wow. Makes you think. Seriously

Nature Bats Last: Reindeer on St. Matthew Island | Wickersham's Conscience

23 March 2013

[...] paper, missing most of the tables, is here. There's even a comic version by Stuart McMillen here. Ned Rozell visited St. Matthews Island in 2012 and his report is [...]

The Great Disruption (moving to Canberra) - Stuart McMillen blog

4 March 2013

[...] The Great Disruption also helped me to reassess my role as a voice within the ‘sustainability’ community. To date, a huge part of my role has been to communicate issues which are on the fringes of popular understanding. Examples include the linear nature of our economy, the efficient way nature builds itself, and the dangers of unchecked growth. [...]


27 February 2013

I personally think that the best example is the one of Easter Island. Many can argument that the collapse of St Matthew happened because they were just raindeers, not as "smart" as humans, but we see we are heading the same direction and still waste resources without taking any responsability. Freedom is yours as long as you don't disturb the others freedom. what are we doing with the freedom of those who will live after us?. sorry if any error, english is not my mother tongue. Nice comic by the way!!


13 February 2013

I enjoyed this comic, could be very true and realistic to our generation today. Hopefully we'll stop over consuming before it's too late like the comic, in a way.


13 February 2013

Very similar to the "tragedy of the commons" story. Well done!

How To (Really) End The World | Filipino Freethinkers

20 December 2012

[...] Well, that?s just climate change. There are other things that can cause the crash of human civilization without any help from a malevolent Loki figure, like the world?s oil reserves running dry, or overpopulation causing a population crash just like what happened to the reindeer of St. Matthew Island. [...]


27 November 2012

It is in fact not quite, but exactly Malthusian. It is a compact, real-life example of Malthus proposition. I recommend, for examples involving human beings, reading Jared Diamond's excellent book "Collapse", in which he describes in detail the collapse and extinction of a number of human communities due to exhaustion of ecological resources. Though Victorian predictions of the end of civilization due to the accumulation of horse dung and the group of Rome's "Limits to Growth" have been falsified by human invention, we are genuinely looking at the end of some resources that are crucial to the current form of technological civilization. In fact the mere prospect of a shortage can be disastrous: as Diamond demonstrates in his book, humans, unlike reindeer, will fight ruthlessly for diminishing resources, causing chaos and accelerating the demise of society. Beware of the exponential function: it is at play in any situation of population growth and it can easily outstrip countermeasures that are merely linear.


15 November 2012

If it's scary and you'd rather not think about it, then it's Malthusian. What we have to realize is that we are animals and our animal instincts drive us to breed, consume and fight. All the amazing technology that we've developed is driving us faster and faster towards a precipitous population crash. It is not slowing, nor can it prevent the final demise of our civilization. The signs are all there. You just have to open your eyes.


6 November 2012

Hi Stuart, these comics are great! A really good combination of 'education', science and good stories. Well done. All the best, Fie


5 November 2012

Quite malthusian! It's very interesting and well done. But it forgets the human capacity to invent, to innovate. Just remember "the green revolution", that has multiplied the production of grains. The problem of humans is that we have not been able to solve the issue of distribution (justice).Regards and thanks,

Crowdfunding: your generosity needed to fund my next comic. - Stuart McMillen comics

3 October 2012

[...] and thematically, Rat Park will be a mix between St Matthew Island, Supernormal Stimuli and War on Drugs. It is a story I have researched, but have not yet been able [...]

Type III reflections - Stuart McMillen blog

16 September 2012

[...] St Matthew Island and Supernormal Stimuli, Type III is a comic is about many topics at once. On one level it is about [...]

Mariana Tello

29 August 2012

Nonoli1998 is right but I would add one more factor: overpopulation.The time for being fruitful and multiply is gone. We have to start worrying more about the quality of the human race than its quantity.

Purpose reflections - Stuart McMillen blog

27 August 2012

[...] follow-up comic to St Matthew Island, Purpose revisits the theme of environmental sustainability, but focuses on the attitudes behind [...]

» St. Matthew Island. On reindeer and lichen SD Action!

3 August 2012

[...] is all about reindeer. I stumbled upon this comic the other day and was delighted. I had seen it some time ago and thought it to be very neatly [...]


14 July 2012

if we don't stop our endless pollution and destruction of our earth....our only homeland will be the second St Matthew.....

St Matthew Island reflections - Stuart McMillen blog

3 July 2012

[...] on a true story, St Matthew Island describes the introduction of 29 reindeer to a remote Alaskan island free from predators and rich [...]


23 May 2012

A very apt, and unique, analogy - the one about Easter Island has been done to death, but the message of both ecosystems can be found in innumerable examples.... but it's a message that our current global civilization has failed to take heed of in any effective way, and the consequences for us will be the same, albeit slower as our 'island' is a lot bigger... good work Stuart!

chen fan

8 May 2012

it is so impressive!reindeer failed to explore outer space before too late, they died off.think about our humanback in the cold war, human beings were exploring outer space in so uneconomic ways, they were so proud for their ideologies therefore they have done "stupid" things to prove.nowadays, we are much smarter, profit comes first. sustainable development relies on environmental protection.I like to quote a word from my most favor sci-fiction writer"we are like an infant trying to fix our cradle"


2 May 2012

i love this aticle

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