Real-Life Robinson Crusoe Castaway Bruce Gordon Part 1

About the real-life Robinson Crusoe Bruce Gordon, biography and history of the castaway.


The Castaway: Bruce Gordon

Year Marooned: 1757

Captained by a drunkard, the whaler Anne Forbes left Scotland in 1757 and several months later became trapped in ice somewhere in the polar seas north of Greenland. Seaman Bruce Gordon was ordered to the masthead seconds before two ice fields crushed the wooden ship between them. Thirty minutes later the ship sank and all hands on board were killed--except for Gordon, who was thrown onto one of the ice fields as the Forbes rolled on its side.

His prospects for remaining the sole survivor were grim. Floating on an ice field in an uncharted ocean without food, shelter, or adequate clothing, Gordon's only comfort was the Old Testament--given to him by his mother--which was tucked in his pocket. Then came a lucky break. The day after the disaster, the Forbes resurfaced some distance away and became imbedded, upside down, in the ice.

Gordon realized that his life depended on reaching the wreck. He climbed ice mountains and sank neck-deep into slush pools before finally arriving at the ship. However, he couldn't go inside because the keel was uppermost, and it provided no entrance. As thirsty and hungry as he was exhausted, Gordon searched the area and eventually discovered an ice mountain made of fresh water. With his thirst quenched but his hunger renewed, he foraged through the debris looking for tools. Using a small boat hook and a harpoon, he managed to dig through the ice and reach a cabin window. Upon entering, he made a beeline for the bread locker, ate his fill of biscuits, washed them down with rum and brandy, and fell into a deep, long sleep.

During the ensuing weeks Gordon drank liquor daily in order to keep warm. Unaccustomed to alcohol, he slept a lot, sometimes 24 hours at a time, while lying on a pile of frozen blankets inside the captain's closet. For water he drank frost, which was sometimes 2 in. thick.

Gordon found various utensils, such as knives and forks, in the cabin, but he knew that without a fire for warmth and additional food, he probably would not survive the winter. He had to reach the ship's stores, but with everything upside down and frozen that proved to be a Herculean task. After many days, he forced his way to the hold, only to be frustrated because the weight of the cargo rested against it and prevented him from entering. Further effort brought him to the coal bin, however, and he started a fire with the coal and flint--after jerry-rigging a smoke flue through the keel. During these journeys through the ship, he also located clothes, tools, and other useful supplies.

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