Have you ever wondered how you were related to Robinson Crusoe?
A city called Valparaiso - the Vale of Paradise - had been founded by the Spanish pioneers on the coast of Chile. In the year 1570, voyaging between these two ports, a Spanish navigator named Juan Fernandez, venturing four hundred miles out into the Pacific to escape the contrary currents along the coast, bumpted into an island at the same latitude as Vaparaiso, an island that no human being had ever seen before.
It was a most stonishing island, twelvemiles long by three wide, and covered with grim volcanic crags that rose three thousand feet above the sea. The navigator had difficulty landing for the shoreline was buttressed with an all but continuous wall of cliffs five hundred to a thousand feet high against which the Pacific hurled itself with interminable rage. Only one small bay and stretch of sand were to be found, and there Juan Fernandez landed to name the island after himself and take possession for the King of Spain.
On examining his new discovery he came upon numerous springs of fresh water, groves of sandalwood, thousand of seals, and giant lobsters that swarmed ashore in such coiuntless myriads that they formed a solid carpet on the beach.
The report of this island and its rich resources soon spread abroad, and for the next two centuries it was the rendezvous and provisioning station for all the wild and warlike ships that roamed the South Pacific in those piratical days.
In the year 1704 a British ship stopped by for wood and water. A quarrel had taken place aboard her between the Captain and his sailing master. The latter vowed he'd rather be put ashore on this forbidding and uninhabited island than continue with the ship. The Captain was obliging and set his disgruntled officer down upon the land and sailed away to England. The officer's name was Alexander Selkirk.
For four years and four months Selkirk lived alone in a shallow cave by the sea, snaring wild goats from the skins of which he made his clothes and dining on lobster which he killed when they crawled ashore.
Everyday to watch for a ship he climbed to a notch in the mountain ridge above his abode from which point he could command a view of the entire circumference of his domain. One thousand five hundred and eighty days he kept his vigil before a sail appeared at last. He built a fire to attract attention, and was thus liberated by another British vessel.
In 1711 Selkirk reached England where the tale of his solitary life on Juan Fernandez found considerable audience. Among this audience was DAniel Defoe to whom SElkirk's adventures suggested the fictitious story of Robinson Crusoe. In 1719 Defoe's book was published, but in it he embellished the original facts to such an extent that they are scarcely recognizable. He places Crusoe, not on the Pacific island at all, but on the island of Tobago in the West Indies....
A century and a half after Selkirk's rescue a bronze tablet was erected on a small cliff by a group of admiring countrymen.
"Alexander Selkirk's Empire" by Richard Halleburton in New Worlds to Conquer, 1929, p. 214.
William Selkirk 1700
Robert Selkirk 1776
Thomas McNeil 1821
Thomas McNeil 1845
Henry Ballard 1861
D Ray Shurtliff 1908