Winner of the Whitbread Biography Award: The true story of the shipwrecked Scottish buccaneer who inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel.
This action-filled biography follows Alexander Selkirk, an eighteenth-century Scottish buccaneer who sailed the South Seas plundering for gold. But an ill-fated expedition in 1703 led to shipwreck on remote Juan Fernández Island off the coast of Chile. Selkirk, the ship’s master, was accused of inciting mutiny and abandoned on the uninhabited island with nothing but his clothing, his pistol, a knife, and a Bible. Each day he searched the sea for a ship that would rescue him and prayed for help that seemed never to come.
In solitude and silence Selkirk gradually learned to adapt. He killed seals and goats for food and used their skin for clothing. He learned how to build a house, forage for food, create stores, plant seeds, light a fire, and tame cats. Then one day, a ship with wooden sails appeared on the horizon. The crew was greeted by a bearded savage, incoherent and fierce. Selkirk had been marooned for four years and four months. Now he was about to return to the world of men.
The story of a verdant, mysterious archipelago and its famous castaway is both a parable about nature and a remarkable account of the survival of a man cut off from civilization.