Today's Article - Alexander Selkirk

This article is for quizzes on Monday November 21st...

Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 13 December 1721), also known as Alexander Selcraig, was a Scottish sailor who spent more than four years as a castaway (1704–1709) after being marooned on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean, or South Sea.
Selkirk was an unruly youth, and joined buccaneering expeditions to the South Sea during the War of the Spanish Succession. One such expedition was aboard Cinque Ports, commanded by William Dampier. The ship called in for provisions at the Juan Fernández Islands off Chile, and Selkirk judged correctly that his craft was unseaworthy and asked to be left there.

By the time he was rescued, Selkirk had become adept at hunting and making use of the resources that he found on the island. His story of survival was widely publicised when he returned home, becoming a probable source of inspiration for writer Daniel Defoe's fictional character Robinson Crusoe.

Selkirk's long-awaited deliverance came on 2 February 1709 by way of Duke, a privateering ship piloted by William Dampier, and its sailing companion Duchess. Thomas Dover led the landing party that met Selkirk. After four years and four months without human company, Selkirk was almost incoherent with joy. The Duke's captain and leader of the expedition was Woodes Rogers, who mischievously referred to him as the governor of the island. The agile castaway caught two or three goats a day and helped restore the health of Rogers' men, who were suffering from scurvy.

Captain Rogers was impressed by Selkirk's physical vigour, and also by the peace of mind that he had attained while living on the island, observing: "One may see that solitude and retirement from the world is not such an insufferable state of life as most men imagine, especially when people are fairly called or thrown into it unavoidably, as this man was". He made Selkirk the Duke's second mate, later giving him command of one of their prize ships, Increase, before it was ransomed by the Spanish.

 Selkirk returned to privateering with a vengeance. At Guayaquil, in present-day Ecuador, he led a boat crew up the Guayas River, where a number of wealthy Spanish ladies had fled, and relieved them of the gold and jewels they had hidden inside their clothing. His part in the hunt for treasure galleons along the coast of Mexico resulted in the capture of the Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación y Desengaño, renamed Batchelor, on which he served as sailing master under Captain Dover to the Dutch East Indies. Selkirk completed the around-the-world voyage by the Cape of Good Hope as the sailing master of Duke, arriving at the Downs off the English coast on 1 October 1711. He had been away for eight years.


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