(Sept. 26, 2005) The island home of Alexander Selkirk, the man whose true story inspired the famous novel “Robinson Crusoe,” has finally been uncovered on Robinson Crusoe Island, 645 kilometers off the coast of Chile in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.

Although the island has long been known as the place where Selkirk was cast away by the captain and crew of his British privateer, the location of his home where he spent four years waiting to be rescued has always been a mystery.

Japanese archaeologist Daisuke Takahashi led the expedition, sponsored by the National Geographic society, which discovered the remains of Selkirk’s base camp. Takahashi is the author of the Japanese best seller, “In Search of Robinson Crusoe” and has been searching for the site for over 13 years. He once spent a month alone on the island just to understand what Selkirk went through as a cast away.

The team found the remains of a fire pit, animal bones, and ceramic pots while surveying likely locations around the island. After carbon analysis confirmed that the artifacts matched the dates of Selkirk’s stay on the island, 1704 to 1710, they further excavated the area and unearthed the remains of two structures Selkirk built, as well as the tip a pair of navigational dividers buried in the dirt.

Selkirk was a Scottish sailing master aboard the British privateer Cinque Ports, pirating Spanish vessels off the coast of South America in the early 1700s. After a series of sea battles, the Cinque Ports was left badly damaged. Selkirk feared the ship would soon sink and asked the captain to set him ashore. When none of the other sailors joined him on shore, he begged the Captain to take him back but was refused and left on what was then the uninhabited island known as Más a Tierra. Weeks later the ship and most of its crew sank off the coast of Peru, the captain and other survivors were picked up by the Spanish and thrown into a Peruvian prison.

Selkirk spent four years and four months on the deserted island waiting to be rescued. In 1709 he was picked up by a British privateer and continued pirating the treasure laden Spanish ships off the coast of South America for another four years. Having made his fortune he returned to Scotland in 1712 and published the account of his adventures on Más a Tierra that was later fictionalized by famous author Daniel Defoe.

Takahashi’s is now working with Chilean officials and the National Geographic Society to reconstruct Selkirk’s island home using his original design. The findings will be published in the October issue of National Geographic.


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