Real-Life Robinson Crusoe Castaway Bruce Gordon Part 2

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


The Castaway: Bruce Gordon

Year Marooned: 1757

The long, dark Arctic night set in, and Gordon remained quietly ensconced in the cabin. One night, in the middle of a blizzard, a polar bear broke in. Gordon killed it with a carving knife, sliced the meat, laid it on ice below decks to freeze, and spread out the skin for a rug. He now had at least 100 lb. of good meat. Settling down again, he heard odd, plaintive cries outside and discovered the bear's cub. He fed the animal, named it Nancy after a girl back home, and became its constant companion.

Shortly after Nancy joined him, Gordon discovered an alternate route into the hold. He emerged with freshwater ice, coal, whale meat, beef, ham, whiskey, pipes, tobacco, and blubber for Nancy. They were now well provisioned for the duration of the winter. Gordon and Nancy spent their time sleeping, reading from the Old Testament, and playing. Sometimes they'd stroll on the ice, with Gordon dressed in the captain's Sunday best escorting Nancy, whom he had taught to walk upright beside him, her paw on his arm.

When the sun began to reappear, Gordon cut steps into the crest of a giant mountain of ice and used it as an observation post. He knew that when the ice fields began to melt in the spring they could be carried farther north, and his only hope for rescue was to find land. But where? Figuring that the iceberg itself was too large to melt or sink, he used a bar of pig iron to carve a couple of chambers. He stocked the new "apartment with a view" with supplies and lived there for the next two months, hoping to spot land. Nancy was always at his side, and when the ice began breaking up, she kept them well supplied with fish. Eventually their iceberg, including the imbedded hulk of the ship, broke free of the ice field, causing them to drift around the northern seas for another six months. Bruce once sighted a headland and several mountains, and even floated close enough to see a woman on the shore, but the iceberg did not stop moving until a second Arctic winter descended, and once again they became bound by the ice.

One day the sound of gunshots inspired Gordon to pack some supplies and look for land. Attacked by a huge male polar bear, Gordon's life was saved because Nancy aided him in fighting the beast. Both were badly wounded before they killed the bear. The two bleeding friends abandoned their search and struggled weakly back to the ship.

The next winter was much stormier than the last. When spring arrived, Gordon and Nancy again set out. This time they located some hunters, who welcomed Gordon and his muzzled pet. The twosome lived with the villagers for several months. In time, though, Nancy became dissatisfied with tribal life and disappeared one night. Gordon searched for her, but he never saw her again. That summer word reached the village that ships had been sighted to the south. Gordon took a canoe and reached a ship that eventually returned him to Scotland. He had been gone for seven years and one month.

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