Selkirk spent his first eight months as a castaway on the shoreline, eating spiny lobsters and scanning the horizon for possible rescuers, lonely, miserable and distracted. There was no way he could have known that the Cinque Ports had foundered four hundred kilometres off the coast of modern-day Colombia. While Stradling "with six or seven of his Men" survived, they were "taken in their Boat, [and] had been four Years Prisoners at Lima, where they liv’d much worse than . . . Selkirk." (Rogers, A Cruising Voyage)

A couple of factors forced him out of his lethargy. 

The first was an influx of sea lions gathering ashore for the breeding season that forced him to move inland, where feral goats, wild turnips, cabbage leaves and dried pepper berries gave him a more varied diet. 

Faced with the onset of winter forced Selkirk built himself two huts for shelter, one for cooking and the other as sleeping quarters and embarked on a daily routine of religious exercises that, among other things, helped him retain the use of speech. 

The feral cats he domesticated and bred for company took care of the rats which gnawed at his feet and clothes as he slept. After his powder ran out an he was no longer able to shoot wild goats he ran them down and tamed the kids to ensure a source of food when he might not be able to catch the wild animals.

Apart from a narrow escape when a shore party from two Spanish vessels almost apprehended him after he inadvertently showed himself to observers aboard the ships, Selkirk was mostly undisturbed until Woodes Rogers, with two Bristol privateers, the Duke and Duchess, touched at the island for water on 1 February 1709. 


© Ian Hughes 2017