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On This day – 2nd February

2nd February 2019 @ 6:06am – by Webteam
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The 2nd of February 1709

Robinson Crusoe is one of the most enduringly popular stories in English. Daniel Defoe , its author, almost certainly took his inspiration from the life of Alexander Selkirk, marooned for more than four years on the island of Aguas Buenas 470 miles or so off the coast of Chile.

Selkirk was born in Lower Largo in Fife , destined for a more adventurous life than his shoemaker father. Young Alexander ran away to join the ill-fated Darien expedition when he was a teenager, then graduated to a life among privateers preying off Spanish vessels in the Pacific. In 1704 he was sailing master on a galley named Cinque Ports, at odds with its captain Thomas Stradling. When the ship put in to Aguas Buenas Selkirk deserted, fearing the worm-ridden vessel was doomed (he was no bad judge, it soon did so with the loss of all bar seven hands).

As Cinque Ports was about to depart Selkirk changed his mind, but the captain was glad to be shot of him and ignored his plea. For the next four years Selkirk, with only a few possessions, survived and eventually thrived on the island: he ate goats descended from some left by other ships; was bothered by rats likewise; and used a third introduced species, cats, to solve that problem.

On February 2 1709 two privateers arrived at the islands, and he was rescued, going on to tell his tale to their captain and to a journalist who spread his fame, which doubtless reached the eyes or ears of Daniel Defoe, who published Robinson Crusoe in 1719.

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