Alexander Selkirk

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Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 13 December 1721) was a Scottish sailor who spent four years as a castaway when he was marooned on an uninhabited island. It is probable that his travels provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.


Early life

The son of a shoemaker and tanner in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland, Selkirk was born in 1676. In his youth he displayed a quarrelsome and unruly disposition. Summoned on 27 August 1695 before the Kirk Session for his "undecent carriage" (indecent behaviour) in church, he "did not comper [appear], having gone away to þe [the] seas: this business is continued till his return"[sic].

At an early period he was engaged in buccaneer expeditions to the South Seas and in 1703 joined in with the expedition of famed privateer and explorer William Dampier. While Dampier was captain of the St. George, Selkirk served on the galley Cinque Ports, the St. George's companion, as a sailing master serving under Thomas Stradling.


In October 1704, after the ships had parted ways because of a dispute between Stradling and Dampier, the Cinque Ports was brought by Stradling to the uninhabited archipelago of Juan Fernández off the coast of Chile for a mid-expedition restocking of supplies and fresh water. Selkirk had grave concerns by this time about the seaworthiness of this vessel (indeed, the Cinque Ports later foundered, losing most of its hands). He tried to convince some of his crewmates to desert with him, remaining on the island; he was counting on an impending visit by another ship. No one else agreed to come along with him. Stradling, who was tired of Selkirk's troublemaking, declared that he would grant him his wish and leave him alone on Juan Fernández. Selkirk promptly regretted his decision. He chased and called after the boat, to no avail. Selkirk lived the next four years and four months without any human company. All he had brought with him was a musket, gunpowder, carpenter's tools, a knife, a Bible, some clothing and rope.[citation needed]

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