The Lost Memoirs of Alexander Selkirk The Lost Memoirs of Alexander Selkirk

The Lost Memoirs of Alexander Selkirk

A Real-Life Robinson Crusoe
Andrzej Kula
time 15 minutes

They say my adventures inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe, but that’s only part of the truth. What I experienced is far more interesting, dramatic and exciting. And of course, it really happened.

My name is Alexander Selkirk and I’m soon going to die. Here, off the west coast of Africa, I will end my days as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy on board HMS Weymouth. I will be one of the many victims of a disease that is decimating our crew called yellow fever. Many a man on board can now be found shaking and vomiting, or bleeding from his eyes and mouth. On 23rd October 1721, we counted 72 healthy men. The next day there were 57. Soon my time will come.

I only hope I won’t be a nameless victim, that Alexander Selkirk will be remembered for years to come. This is highly likely, because people like to hear and read about the adventures of seafarers. Not long before I embarked on this journey, a book written by Daniel Defoe had met with great success. It was titled: The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner: who lived eight and twenty years, all alone in an un-inhabited island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great river of Oroonoque; having been cast on shore by shipwreck, wherein all the men perished but himself. With an account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by pyrates. Written by himself. Despite its long and hard-to-remember title, the book sold well, had several reprints, and a few months after its release, Defoe had to write a sequel (they say he has also written the third part).

We never met, but I heard that the writer had acquainted himself with the press reports and might have been inspired by my adventures. However, Robinson Crusoe’s fate is completely different – he was a castaway and I was an exile, he had a black slave and I had no-one, I spent four years and four months on a desert island, he spent 28 years.

Therefore, before I die, I want to write down everything I remember. Here are the main events


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Adam Węgłowski

The greatest excursion in human history – until the first trip to the moon – began inconspicuously: at dawn, with no fanfare. The party left the Spanish port of Sanlúcar, the same one that saw Columbus take off on his third travel to the ‘New World’ (and unlucky at that, as it ended in shackles). Time showed it to be a bad omen. But who could have suspected it back then…

Perhaps there were some sceptics among the crew, though: the Spanish sailors. The expedition was led by a man who failed to inspire trust. His name was Ferdinand Magellan and he was Portuguese, which made him a representative of a rival colonialist empire. Beforehand, Magellan had tried convincing the Portuguese monarch to support his ideas, but he lost his position in court instead. In Madrid, he fared considerably better. The young king Charles V and his advisors remembered that Columbus, also a foreigner, ended up contributing to Spanish glory and wealth. And so they decided to trust Magellan too, if not without hesitation. The sailor was given command over five ships and a crew of 270 men. Enough people to ignite a spark of rebellion over the long trip.

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