On February 1, 1709, Alexander Selkirk, the probable inspiration for novelist Daniel Defoe’s shipwrecked character Robinson Crusoe, was rescued after four years alone on a South Pacific island. Selkirk had been left by his privateering ship, fearing it needed major repairs in order to be seaworthy. (He was right—the ship, the Cinque Ports, soon sank and its surviving British crewmembers imprisoned by hostile Spanish forces in South America.)Mas a Tierra, the island on which Selkirk lived, is one of the remote Juan Fernandez Islands, now a part of Chile. (Today, Mas a Tierra is called Robinson Crusoe Island.) Previous sailors had visited the island, and accidentally introduced species such as cats and goats. These feral animals helped Selkirk survive—the goats provided meat and skins for clothing, while the cats were easily domesticated to fend off the island’s aggressive rats. Selkirk crafted a knife from the rings of a barrel left on shore, sewed clothing using a rusty nail for a needle, and sang psalms to keep his language and grammar intact.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry acuity Noun
clarity or sharpness of thought.
to tame or adapt for human use.
strong and long-lasting.
wild or untamed, but descended from domesticated animals.
confrontational or unfriendly.
to confine or put in a jail-like facility.
something that influences the development of an idea.
introduced species Noun
a species that does not naturally occur in an area. Also called alien, exotic, or non-native species.
body of land surrounded by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: island privateer Noun
private ship or person commissioned by a government during war.
sacred song or musical poem.
distant or far away.
person who works aboard a ship.
any aquatic animal that has a shell.
strength and power to endure difficulty.
to abandon or leave in a vulnerable position.
root vegetable related to a radish.
final or maximum.