Castaway in Paradise explores the reality in the myth through the exciting stories of castaways who, because of shipwrecks, perfidious sea captains, or their own choice, found themselves true-life Robinson Crusoes.
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James C. Simmons is the author of seven books, including The Big Book of Adventure Travel: 500 Great Escapes and Passionate Pilgrims: English Travlers to the World of the Desert Arabs. His last book, Americans: The View from Abroad, won first prize as the Best Travel Book of 1990 in the Lowell Thomas competition of travel journalism. He has contributed articles to such publications as American Heritage, Audubon, Reader's Digest, Travel and Leisure, and TV Guide. He holds a doctorate in British Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, and now lives in San Diego, California. His travels have taken him to almost every island mentioned in the book.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
One night Selkirk had a dream in which he watched his ship, the Cinque Ports, break up and sink with all hands during a violent storm. As the seventh son gifted in foreknowledge, he never questioned the truth of his dream. He resolved to leave the vessel at the first opportunity.
The lack of provisions and proper supplies at last forced Stradling to return to Mas a Tierra Island. He hoped to recover the men and the stores left there several months before. Soon after his arrival at the island he learned from two crewmembers who had successfully eluded capture that the other six sailors and all the supplies had been captured by the French.
The Cinque Ports remained a full month in Cumberland Bay undergoing repairs. Selkirk made a careful inspection of the ship, saw leaking seams badly in need of caulking and planks honeycombed with marine-worm borings, and decided she must be careened and thoroughly repaired or she would sink long before she returned to England. Stradling disagreed and ordered the ship to sail.
Selkirk then made up his mind to risk a lifetime of solitude on Mas a Tierra Island rather than certain death on the Cinque Ports. He requested to be put ashore. The captain agreed, happy to be rid of an officer he saw as mutinous. Selkirk took ashore all his earthly belongings: the clothes on his back, a sea chest, a musket, a pound of gun powder, a bag of bullets, a flint and steel, several pounds of tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, a Bible, and several books of devotional writing and navigational treatises. He landed on the beach a man richer in this world's goods than William, the Miskito Indian who had been stranded there years before.
The longboat deposited Selkirk on the beach in October 1704. Suddenly, as the boat started back through the surf, he had a change of mind. "His heart yearned within him, and melted at the parting with his comrades and all human society at once," it was later written. In a paroxysm of terror, he ran down the beach and splashed into the sea. The oarsmen briefly stopped in their stroke. Selkirk begged to be taken back on board. But Stradling mocked him and left him standing there in the surge.
Selkirk returned to the beach and sat down next to his small pile of belongings. He watched in despair, as the Cinque Ports unfurled her sails, slipped out of the harbor, and slowly disappeared over the horizon.
The despair lasted for eighteen long months, as Selkirk kept to his beach, paralyzed by his predicament. The futility of his situation became apparent to him the moment he had stepped ashore from the longboat. There he was, an Englishman in the midst of the "Spanish lake," where there were no other British ships and none likely to venture in again for many years. Ahead was an uncertain future on an unknown island. But for a sailor used to performing his duties in the midst of bustle and fellowship, the solitude of the remote island offered up the greatest terrors. Selkirk simply went to pieces.
For many days, he sat on his sea chest on the beach, scanning the horizon and hoping his ship would return. He ate only when driven to it by hunger. "He grew dejected, languid, and melancholy, scarce able to refrain from doing himself violence, till by degrees, by the force of reason, and frequent reading of the Scriptures, and turning his thoughts upon the study of navigation, after the space of eighteen months, he grew reconciled to his condition," wrote Richard Steele, who interviewed Selkirk after his return to London.
Selkirk finally moved into a shallow cave along the edge of the beach. But he still refused to explore the interior, fearful he might miss a ship. His diet consisted largely of shellfish that he collected along the shore during low tide. He found that what he missed most were salt and bread.
One night he was awakened by a strange chorus of unfamiliar animal sounds. In the early light of dawn he discovered that hundreds of seals and sea lions had come ashore to whelp and breed. At first he was fearful. Then he realized that the flesh of the young seals offered him a pleasing change from his monotonous diet of shellfish. He waded into the herds, wielding his hatchet, taking only what he needed for his food. The sea lions proved too fat and oily to eat. But he discovered another use for them. "The hair of their whiskers was stiff enough to make exceedingly fine toothpickers," he told Steele.
The annual migration of seals and sea lions to Mas a Tierra Island changed Selkirk's life in other ways. He could no longer pass his days moping on the beach, lost in self-pity. Now that he had been evicted, he began to explore the interior of the island. Each day he went farther afield, finding more and more about his island that fascinated him. In the valley behind his beach he discovered all sorts of wonders - lush forests, running streams, numerous herbs growing wild, also acres of turnips, cabbage palms, wild peppers, and, best of all, black plum trees that yielded fresh fruit in season and dried prunes for the rest of the year. Everywhere he saw wild goats. Slowly, Selkirk began to pull out of his despair over being marooned and take control, first of himself, and then of his situation...
...Selkirk's establishment of himself on Mas a Tierra Island was essentially an act of creation. The island became his little kingdom and his adventure one of individual enterprise. His four years there were a declaration of human independence. Those virtues of courage, practical intelligence, forbearance, and a stolid self-sufficiency allowed him to survive and prosper. His story is singularly unheroic. He never did explore the whole extent of his island, only his valley. He was not an adventurer in a traditional sense. By the reassuring method of hard work, not epic action, he fashioned for himself a profoundly domestic, ultimately familiar world. And this became the key to his survival.
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Book Description Adlard Coles Nautical, 1999. Book Condition: Very Good. New Ed. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP96635105