Biography of real-life Robinson Crusoe Alexander Selkirk Part 1

About the castaway Alexander Selkirk the real-life inspiration for Robinson Cruesoe, his biography, the capture of the crew of Cinque Ports his ship.

ALEXANDER SELKIRK (1676-1720). Castaway.

Though few will recognize him by his true name, he was the real-life prototype for the most familiar character in all fiction--Robinson Crusoe.

Church records in the tiny Scotch fishing village of Largo, County Fife, identify him as Alexander Selcraig, a hot-headed youth, perpetually in trouble and at odds with the community. He was the 7th son in the Selcraig family and his mother thought him destined to a fine future. But by the time he was 19, his chief accomplishment was getting kicked out of town for beating up rivals in the middle of church services.

Alexander signed aboard a Dutch sailing vessel bound for the West Indies. He returned to Largo 6 years later and was soon in trouble again. This time he roughed up his father and several of his brothers in a family brawl. Rather than make public apology before the kirk, he left to join a band of privateers in search of gold-laden Spanish galleons in the South Seas. By now he was calling himself Selkirk, not wanting to bring further odium on the family name by having it linked with piracy.

His ship, the Cinque Ports, left the London docks in September, 1703. Though Selkirk would eventually see England again, the Cinque Ports would not. Even before they weighed anchor, he was clashing with his immediate superior, Lieut. Thomas Stradling. The Cinque Ports was old and overcrowded. As it lumbered toward the east coast of South America, the grumbling Selkirk emerged as the leader of a whole dissident faction within the crew. They rounded the Horn and encountered the hated Spanish off the coast of Chile. The ship survived the battles but was in need of emergency repairs.

They anchored off a rocky strip of beach known to the mapmakers as Mas a Tierra, part of the Juan Fernandez group. When Stradling was ready to leave again, Selkirk was not, arguing that the ship was not yet seaworthy. The rash young sailor said he would rather be put ashore on that desert island than continue in a leaky ship with an ignorant commander. Stradling was happy to oblige. At the last minute, Selkirk changed his mind. He waded into the surf, begging to be taken back. But Stradling jeered at him and sailed on. Selkirk's judgment was ultimately correct. The Cinque Ports waddled 1,000 mi. up the coast and ran aground off Peru. The entire crew was captured by the Spanish, tortured, and thrown into chains.

Back on Mas a Tierra, there was no consolation for Selkirk. He took stock of his few possessions and spent his 1st night shivering in a tree, afraid of wild beasts. The 1st 8 months were the hardest. When he wasn't scrounging for food and fresh water, he was agonizing over his forced withdrawal from the human race. Because he would not take his eyes off the horizon to hunt for other food, he had to subsist on turtles and fish until he was sick of them.

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