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The Original Robinson Crusoe

The Original Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe wouldn’t have been inspired to write the great novel without knowing his story.

Neither would William Cowper have written the great poem:

The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk,” which gave us this stirring line:

“I am monarch of all I survey…”

The real life “monarch” was onboard the Cinque Ports, an explorer ship, visiting an island, in an uninhabited archipelago of Juan Fernández, off the coast of Chile.

He had grave concerns about getting back on the ship since he didn’t think the old “bucket” would last another journey.

Apparently, he couldn’t convince his crewmates, since he was left marooned with only his sea chest and bedding, shouting from the beach for mercy.

He was a mess the first year, surviving on shellfish, scanning the ocean daily for rescue, scared to move inland since he heard “strange” noises.

Then a stroke of luck.

Hordes of raucous sea lions mating on the beach drove him inland.

At first he was tormented by vermin: “the rats gnawed his feet and clothes whilst asleep” but he tamed cats to keep them away, and goats, “to divert himself,”  with whom he “would now and then sing and dance.”

Selkirk found fresh water and food, a few of his “dance partners” for protein, and plums for vitamins.

After almost five years, his rescue occurred in 1709 courtesy of Captain Woodes Rogers, captain of the Duke, (and famed pirate hunter) who referred to this wild-eyed man with a long beard, dressed in goatskins,  as “Governor of the island.”

Robinson Crusoe Island - Peterman's EyeIf you’re in the neighborhood do visit his Island, now called “Robinson Crusoe Island.

As Journalist Richard Steele, who interviewed Selkirk, put it at the time in “The Englishman:”

“This plain Man’s Story is a memorable Example that he is happiest who confines his Wants to natural Necessities; and he that goes further in his Desires, increases his Wants in Proportion to his Acquisitions.”

Though I’m not recommending being a castaway, there is a lesson in this tale somewhere.

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