A History Lesson With Booze ®

A Real-Life Robinson Crusoe

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Alexander Selkirk left his home in Scotland aboard a mercenary vessel, he thought he was in for a life of adventure – but the reality was a different than he imagined. He jumped ship, found himself marooned alone on an island, and eventually became the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.


The fictional hero Robinson Crusoe was a castaway. But the guy on whom he was based was more like a runaway.

He was a Scot named Alexander Selkirk. And he had good reason to flee his circumstances. In 1704, he set sail with other seafarers to wage war against the Spanish. And after a few battles, he realized the captain was nuts, and the ship was ready to sink.

So when they got to the South American island of Mas A Tierra, Selkirk insisted they just leave him there. Which they did. All alone. With nothing but clothes, a few tools, tobacco, and a Bible.

Selkirk survived by hunting and eating goats. He slept near feral cats, so rats wouldn’t attack him at night. One day, he spotted a ship and ran out to greet it but it turned out to be Spanish, and they shot at him. That was his only human contact for over four years.

In February 1709 he was rescued! British sailors saw his signal fire and came ashore. Luckily, one of them was on Selkirk’s original expedition, which is how he knew the “wild man” they found dressed in goat skins was actually their countryman.

Some question whether Selkirk’s story inspired “Robinson Crusoe,” but it’s accepted enough that Mas A Tierra was later renamed “Robinson Crusoe Island.” One thing’s for sure: Selkirk made the right decision to stay there. His original ship sank off the coast of Peru.

The Good Waters

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Washed up by Trafford Murphy of 52 Canoes Tiki Den in Edinburgh, Scotland, near Alexander Selkirk’s home.

  • 3/4 oz Rum Zacapa 23
  •  1/4 oz Pusser’s Navy Rum
  •  3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  •  1 1/2 oz blood orange juice
  • 3 dashes orange bitters

Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain through a funnel into a message-in-a-bottle style glass bottle. Do not drink before sailing in unknown seas.