What Should Have Happened on Gilligan’s Island?

Those of you who are fans of classic TV will recognize this as introduction to the sitcom “Gilligan’s Island”. This series ran from September 26, 1964 to September 4, 1967. The series revolved around 7 castaways (4 men and 3 women) marooned on an island somewhere near Hawaii.

Over the course of three seasons, the series followed attempts to leave the island, visitors to the island and general incompetence in getting rescued. When the series was cancelled in 1967, the castaways were never rescued.

In 1978, a made for TV movie called “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” aired in which the castaways were rescued. However, at the end of this movie they decided to go on a reunion cruise and became stranded on the same island again after another freak storm. In 1979, another made for TV movie called “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” aired in which they were rescued once again. This time they decide to convert the island to a resort. It was hoped that this premise would generate a new series, but this never happened.

In 1981, a second sequel was created, “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” in which nefarious forces plotted to take over the island and the castaways are saved by the Harlem Globetrotter.

Although this series began before I was born, I watched years and years of reruns throughout my childhood. I must have watched each of the 98 episodes several times each. But there was one question that nagged at me. If there were two women on the island of child bearing age (Ginger and Mary Ann), why didn’t the population grow? Why didn’t nature take its course and lead to new castaways?

Let’s find out how many castaways there should have been in 1978, 14 years after they were originally shipwrecked.

To answer this question, let’s assume that the population on the island is an example of exponential growth. This may or may not be a good choice due to the small size of the population. However, with this assumption the amount of peoplec A on the island n years after 1964 will be given by the equation

A = P (1+r)n

In this situation, P is the initial amount of people on the island and r is the annual growth rate in percent per year.

Since the population of Gilligan’s Island was initially 7, we’ll set P = 7. For the growth rate r, we’ll use a fairly conservative rate of 2% per year. This is about what the world birth rate is. Around the world birth rates vary from a little less than 1% (China) to around 5% (African countries). With these values, we model the population by

A = 7 (1+0.02)n

To predict the population in 1978, I’ll find the value at n = 14.

A = 7 (1+0.02)14 = 7 (1.02)14 = 9.24

According to this growth model, there should have been about 9 people on the island in 1978.


This equation assumed that the initial was 7 in 1964 and grew by 2% in each year after that. That means that if you put in n = 14, you will have multiplied the initial population by 1.02 a total of 14 times (1978).

How many years would you need to go to double the original population?

Since the original population was 7, double that number is 14. So if I put that number into A, I need to solve

14 = 7 (1.02)n

for the number of years n after 1964.

Start by dividing both sides by 7 to isolate the piece with the exponent in it,

2 = (1.02)n

Now take the logarithm of both sides,

log(2) = log((1.02)n)

The reason we need to use logarithms is that powers in front of logarithms may be moved to the front,

log(2) = n log(1.02)

Now divide both sides by log(1.02),

log(2)/log(1.02) = n

Using a calculator to compute the logs gives a value of n of about 35. So in 1964 + 35 or 1995, the population would have increased from 7 to 14 according to the equation.