The True Story behind Robinson Crusoe
Cast away on a desert island, surviving on what nature alone can provide, praying for rescue but fearing the sight of a boat on the horizon. These are the imaginative creations of Daniel Defoe in his famous novel Robinson Crusoe.
Yet the story is believed to be based on the real-life experience of sailor , the real Robinson Crusoe, marooned in 1704 on a small tropical island in the Pacific for more than four years, and now archaeological evidence has been found to support contemporary records of his existence on the island.
In 1704, adventurer Alexander Selkirk traveled to the South Seas and, fearing for the safety of his ship, asked its captain to leave him on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernández. He spent four years there, struggling to survive, before being rescued in 1708. It's widely believed that Daniel Defoe modeled his hero Robinson Crusoe on the Scotsman, and in 1966 the island was renamed Isla Robinson Crusoe in his honor.
The tropical island is located 414 miles off the coast of Chile, and has two neighbors (now called Alexander Selkirk and Santa Clara). It was originally named for its founder Juan Fernández, who set foot on it in 1575. However, until Selkirk got there, it had really only been a refuge for pirates.
Below is the cave on Isla Juan Fernandez, Chile in which Alexander Selkirk (the original Robinson Crusoe) lived while he was marooned for four years in the early 18th century.
Not only is it strikingly beautiful, with its dramatic craggy coastline, but it also boasts a unique ecosystem of ferns and orchids, fur seals and firecrown hummingbirds. As a result, the archipelago has been designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
It has also become, in its own way, a tourist attraction. Life may not be as hard as it was in Selkirk's day, but it's still pretty demanding. The local authorities describe it as a 'savage and virgin nature' – making it great for scuba divers and other adventurers.