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Alexander Selkirk

(1676—1721) mariner, castaway, and probable source of inspiration for the character Robinson Crusoe


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(1676–1721),

British seaman and the model of Robinson Crusoe in the story by the same name written by Daniel Defoe (c.1660–1731). He was born in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland. In 1703 he volunteered to become a member of the crew of a privateer, Cinque Ports, for a voyage to the South Seas. In 1705, after a violent disagreement with with his captain, Thomas Stradling, Selkirk asked to be marooned on the island of Juan Fernandez. He survived on the vegetables and fruit which grew there in abundance, and on the goats left there by the original Spanish discoverers of the island. He remained there until 1709 when he was rescued by Woodes Rogers (d. 1732) during the latter's circumnavigation. He was so good a seaman that Rogers put him in charge of one of the prize ships captured by the expedition.

After his return to England in 1711, Selkirk told his story to Richard Steele, who wrote an account of Selkirk's adventures which was seen by Daniel Defoe. Shortly after his return, Selkirk volunteered for the Royal Navy and at the time of his death was master's mate in HMS Weymouth. There is a statue of him on the wall of the house in Lower Largo in which he is thought to have been born.

Subjects: world history — maritime history.


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