Yessir! Last night I heard something about William Dampier being the first Englishman to hit Australia, which I think I vaguely knew, and the fact that he was a pirate, which I vaguely did not! So here are some FACTS about Dampier and the real life Robinson Crusoe.
William Dampier was one bad ass MFer. He was the first man to circumnavigate the world three times. Also, as I say he was the first Englishman to accidentally bump into the Australian coastline (up near Broome, WA) and also the first to document the country with maps and botanical drawings and stories of Aboriginal people, things that the likes of James Cook and Joseph Banks became famous for doing much later.
He was also a mad pirate!
Dampier spent much of his life at sea as a privateer, raiding Spanish American possessions, attacking their ships, and just generally getting into scraps with the Spanish and collecting the booty. That good old Spanish booty. Yeah boy.
When the War of the Spanish Succession began in 1701 the British government gave him command of a ship, the St George, and told him to go wreck some shit. So he set out, along with a sister ship Cinque Ports captained by Thomas Stradling, and proceeded to…try to wreck some shit. They didn’t achieve many of their big objectives (like raiding a town full of Panamanian gold) so by September 1704 when they found themselves loitering around the Pacific, Captain Stradling decided to part ways from Dampier. After which, the Cinque Ports stopped at the remote and uninhabited Juan Fernandez Archipelago to regroup.
Which brings us to Alexander Selkirk. Dude was a Scottish ne’er-do-well who found a fruitful life as a buccaneer. That sweet Spanish booty. He was part of the crew on the Cinque Ports, and while they were chilling here he…well, voiced concerns about the seaworthiness of the ship (to put it mildly…) and ended up having an extremely frank exchange of views with the Captain. This ended with old Alex exclaiming at his most shrill that he’d rather be stranded here on this deserted island than spend another minute on that rickety leaking deathtrap!
To which the captain replied, “Well, suit yourself,” threw him his bags and promptly left him there.
For four years.
We’re talking a legit deserted island here, 670kms off the coast of Chile, totally uninhabited, about the size of my living room. Selkirk was left with no food, supplies, tools or weapons, and had no human company to speak of. For over four years. And he survived! He fashioned tools out of whatever was handy, built huts to live in, ate whatever he could find, and used the wild goats for food and clothing. He Bear Gryllsed the bejesus out of this deserted island.
(And by the by, the Cinque Ports did in fact shit itself soon afterwards off the Colombian coast, killing many on board and leaving the rest, including Captain Stradling, to be captured by the Spanish.)
At one point after years of solitude, a pirate ship stops by. Unluckily for the Selkster…they were Spanish pirates. So the poor bugger had to desperately hide from the only human beings he’d laid eyes on in years, lest he be tortured or killed as a rival pirate. Finally, four years and four months after being stranded, a British ship named Duke came to the island and rescued him. And this ship was being steered by none other than..
Told you he was a cool dude!
That’s such a beautiful circle of a story right there that I’m going to end on that symmetrical note. Except to say that Selkirk’s story of being deserted on an island was one of the inspirations for the famous story of Robinson Crusoe, one of the best selling novels of all time. So I guess…alls well that ends well. Why don’t they teach this stuff in school?