Chile—Robinson Crusoe’s Island—Once Occupied by the Castaway, Alexander Selkirk


This photograph of a scene on Más-a-Tierra Island, the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile, is from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. The island is best known as the place where the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk lived in complete solitude for more than four years in the early 1700s, thereby inspiring Daniel Defoe’s fictional classic, Robinson Crusoe (1719). Arriving off the coast of the island in October 1704, Selkirk had a falling out with his captain and asked to be put ashore. Equipped with only his clothes and bedding, a firelock gun, some powder and shot, a little tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, a flint and steel, his mathematical instruments, a Bible, and some navigation books, Selkirk managed to survive until he was rescued, in February 1709, by an English privateer, the Duke. In 1712 Woodes Rogers, the captain of the Duke, published A Cruising Voyage Round the World: First to the South-Seas, thence to the East-Indies, and Homewards by the Cape of Good Hope, which contained an account of Selkirk's ordeal.

Title in Original Language

Chile - Robinson Crusoe's Island--Once occupied by the castaway, Alexander Selkirk, and now the site of a penal colony and the fishing ground of lobstermen

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Physical Description

1 photographic print

Last updated: December 1, 2014