Autobiography of Robinson Crusoe the Colonist – The History of Cocos Island
by Zoltan Andrew Simon (Red Deer, Canada; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
– August 2012)
Robinson Crusoe’s memoirs form “the most fascinating boy’s book ever written”
as Leslie Stephen stated. It is a self-help book if ever there was one; you become a man while you read. The first issue of the book was published in London on April 23, 1719. The reception was immediate and universal. Before the end of the year, this first
volume had run through four editions. Within a matter of decades, it had reached an audience as wide as any book ever written in English. It had become part of the literary consciousness of European civilization. It is the most widely read book after the Bible,
although the Guinness Book of World Records claims the same rank.
The present author, as the consequence of a total coincidence, began his research
about the adventures of Robinson Crusoe in 1976. He – as an average person with higher education – learned in his childhood that its writer was Daniel Defoe, and the book is the first English novel. The mainstream scholars always held that Defoe
once met Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned in an uninhabited island, and his life gave him the brilliant idea. This is a literary dogma but there is no evidence that the two persons have ever seen each other.
The impartial scientific research through hundreds of evidence revealed that a more plausible explanation does exist. Namely, the story was real history. It was the autobiography of Mr. Robinson-Kreutznaer, a simple but very practical Englishman, prototype
of a British Colonist.
This manuscript summarizes the intriguing scientific proofs in the fields of literature, philosophy, history, geography, geology, botany,
zoology, climatology, archaeology, ethnology, linguistics, anthropology, genealogy, and other sciences.
These serious irregularities in our human sciences
may belong to the area of philosophy between history and literary criticism. The very existence of a famous English author has been rigidly denied so far, for two centuries. Such procedure is extremely unfair, particularly because Daniel Defoe has always denied the authorship of the literary work. Which man would deny that he has written a bestseller?
The area is interdisciplinary,
since literature fails to acknowledge Crusoe's merits or achievements. Similarly, history as a science denies his existence and his travels, including a long and well documented journey from China – through Siberia – to Europe.
THE SCIENTIFIC ESSAY
Robinson Crusoe’s memoirs form “the most fascinating boy’s
book ever written” as Leslie Stephen stated. It is a self-help book if ever there was one; you become a man while you read. The first issue of the book was entered in the Stationers’ Register in London as 23 April 1719. The reception was immediate
and universal. Before the end of the year, this first volume had run through four editions. Within a matter of decades, it had reached an audience as wide as any book ever written in English. It had become part of the literary consciousness of European civilization.
It is the most widely read book after the Bible, although the Guinness Book of World Records claims the same rank. By the end of the nineteenth century, Crusoe had appeared in at least 700 editions, translations, and imitations (Shinagel,
“Such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years –
generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco – and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of the mortal life... When my spirits are bad – Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice – Robinson Crusoe. In past
times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have a drop too much – Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service. On my lady’s last birthday she gave me a seventh, …
Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.” (From Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone.)
No single book in the history of Western literature has spawned more editions, translations (even into languages such as Eskimo, Coptic, and Maltese), imitations, continuations, and sequels than Robinson Crusoe. There have been hundreds of adaptations
in dozens of languages, from the brilliant Swiss Family Robinson, to Luis Buñuel’s film version (1954) that seems hardly available.
first part of the Crusoe series is called The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, …Written by Himself.The second part, called The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, was intended to be the
“last part” of the stories, according to the original title-page of its first edition. Part One was composed in London not long before its publication, but Defoe (1660-1731) knew no more of Selkirk than he had read in the published accounts of
his island experiences (Secord, 1924: 22). The author’s handwritten manuscript for Robinson Crusoe is lost (Shinagel, 1975: 239), unlike other manuscripts of Daniel Defoe who had been in this case probably asked to return it to the real author
after the editing.
The modern Everyman’s Encyclopedia (Volume IV) acknowledges the apparent artlessness of the book’s
unadorned yet intensely dramatic and arresting style, the irresistible reality of its atmosphere … The genius that made part one immortal is no longer present in the second and third volumes. We add an observation that the author’s name is spelled
Cruso on the map of his island under “Defoe” in the Encyclopedia, and on Crusoe’s world map, both published in the second part. The third part, entitled Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe is a series of moral essays
with Crusoe’s name attached to them to give interest (Secord, 1924: 21).
This vividly real story is a just history of fact, therefore it is
improperly called “the first English novel”; neither is there any appearance of fiction in it. Defoe even implies that the book was really written by a man named Robinson Crusoe, and that he is only the editor of the manuscript (Trumbull, 1965:
xxx). Indeed, Defoe claimed several times that he had not been the author, only the editor of the book. He was likely pressed to make that statement, since the real author was still alive as Defoe admitted. Besides, no author would deny he had written a best
“As every schoolboy used to know, the prototype of Robinson Crusoe was a stubborn and refractory Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk, …
although nothing is known of Defoe having ever met” him, according to James Sutherland. The Selkirk conjecture rests primarily on the assumption that Defoe usually capitalized on current events. In 1709 Alexander Selkirk was rescued by Woodes Rogers’
expedition after four years on the island of Juan Fernández. Rogers’ Cruising Voyage was published in 1712, with an account of Alexander Selkirk’s ordeal, but no journalist would agree upon the probability of this seven-year waiting
period from 1712 to 1719.
It is not clear whether Defoe borrowed from Cruising Voyage extensively in Crusoe, wrote Seidel. “The
assumptions which, when pursued in one direction, lead to more serious misconceptions about Robinson Crusoe,” noted J. Paul Hunter. “The influence of the Selkirk story on Robinson Crusoe has been greatly exaggerated,” wrote
John Robert Moore (1970: 223). As Professor W.P. Trent has observed, Selkirk’s island is not Crusoe’s island; and I may add that Selkirk is not Crusoe (Secord, 1924: 32). Chalmers has satisfactorily vindicated Robinson Crusoe from being
a piracy of Alexander Selkirk’s papers (Rogers, 1972: 57)
Sir Walter Scott, who knew the eighteenth century well, had this observation: It is not certain
that the author was obliged to the real hermit of Juan Fernández even for the original hint, and the account of Robinson Crusoe’s thoughts and occupations so distinctly traced, that the course of the work embraces a far wider circle of investigation
into human nature, than could be derived from that of Selkirk (Rogers, 1972: 77).
According to some, the language of Robinson Crusoe is more
archaic than that of his contemporary authors, or even that of Defoe’s other works (Lannert, 1910: 18). He depicts an author less intelligent or more senile than Defoe, one who “often begins with a certain grammatical construction, but further
on in the sentence he either forgets the beginning of the statement, or by some confusion of thought caused by the complex arrangement of the clauses, he finds himself unable to finish the sentence as he first intended” (Shinagel, 1975: 304).
Robinson Crusoe’s vocabulary and grammar shows very unique linguistic pecularities. Many words do not reflect Defoe’s language. Crusoe wrote
phonetically. We examined the Greenwich House edition of Defoe (1982), with page numbers: wandring 297 or 58; wondring 256; diswaded 298; perswade 262, 244; handsome 274, handsom 57, 283; cloath(s) 57, 233, 248, 283; cloathed 253; neckcloaths 270; easie 253;
uneasie 225; dye 253 [die]; weakned 254; entred 256; lookt 225; bisket 43, 257; haling 259 [hauling]; (gat) frighted 260 [got frightened, often used 47-51, although also in Defoe]; the jobb 261; jarrs 43; sparrs 68;tittle 261; inchanted 263; encrease(d) and
245-6, 273; effectually 251, 268; ousy 251; two a clock 252; shoar [shore] often in the first third; catcht 44; reacht 44; patroon 47; oftener 42 [also Defoe]; vittle 227; heartned 231; extasy 238; straiten him 278; ballanced 279; scarce set/knew
231, 248, 280, 292; scorcht 294; rankling [rancid?] 295; sensless 295; who [whom] to trust 281; intollerable and benumbing 284; hollowed 286 [both missing in etymological dictionaries]; dismallest 287; eccho 287; clumsey 287; thither
243; surprising and surprizing vary; crys [cries]; he used canibal, then switched to cannibal. Crusoe may have learned the contemporary English spelling from Defoe. Proviedor, moiety, moidores
[‘moeda de oro’ as gold coin], ingenio, “to accompt”, molassus, cruisadoes 279, padres 282, barco-longo 274, calenture 40, generalissimo 264 all from Portuguese
or Spanish words, and Crusoe spoke the latter (252). Defoe may have spot-checked the manuscript, and then Crusoe corrected some of his own misspellings.
claim to some autobiographical relevance cannot be wholly rejected: Robinson Crusoe is the only book for which Defoe made the claim, according to Byrd (1976: 56) who perhaps overlooked “Moll Flanders.” As Foster says, “Robinson
Crusoe could only have been written by a man of solitude and self-sustainment” and has its just allusion to a real story, with the inimitable life of Robinson Crusoe (Rogers, 1972: 138). In contrast, Jonathan Swift’s hero is quite different: Gulliver
hardly has a character. The sooner he is in Lilliput the better, so he is shipwrecked on page three.
Robinson spends 28 years castaway on his island. Little
by little, bit-by-bit, he makes over the island, converts it into a habitable estate. He returns home to England just before the 1688 Bloodless Revolution that dismissed the Stuart kings and eventually brought the Hanoverian succession to England. Robinson
is not a hero but an everyman. He begins as a wanderer, aimless on a sea he does not understand; he ends as a pilgrim, crossing a final mountain to enter the Promised Land, according to J.P. Hunter.
Young E. Allison (1853–1932) depicts Crusoe as a negative character, “The cold selfishness and gloomy egotism of this creature mark him as a monster and not as a man.” He claims that our hero was unable to give love. He failed to mention
the names of his dog and cats or their burials, and he had the same loveless attitude towards his parents and wife for not mentioning their first names. We must add that Crusoe did nor mention his own first name either. Therefore, he did not love or respect
himself. Thus, he was not an egoist. On the other hand, Defoe as a professional writer and novelist would not have made such “mistakes” if the story was his own work. He would have dwelled on those names and burials, exploiting those themes through
easily invented details.
Despite its simple narrative style and the absence of the supposedly indispensable love motive, no modern book can boast
of such worldwide esteem. Novelist James Joyce eloquently noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe. He is the prototype of the British colonist. The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious
cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity (Shinagel, 1975: 356). Wherever he set down his foot, he took permanent possession of the country, winning the American continent for the dominant
Stephen (1868) wrote of the book’s “autobiographical element which makes a man speak from greater depths of feeling than in
a purely imaginary story,” that “De Foe was a man of very powerful but very limited imagination” and that “Crusoe himself is all but impossible.” He adds, “Selkirk had almost forgotten to talk; he had learnt to catch goats
by running on foot; and he acquired the exceedingly difficult art of making fire by rubbing two sticks … It is probable from other cases, that a man living fifteen years by himself, like Crusoe, would either go mad or sink into the semi-savage state,”
to the level of animals (Rogers, 1972: 174). It is quite possible that Robinson almost forgot how to speak good English after 25 years of solitude. Therefore his rescuer may have discredited the story of the apparently crazy old man altogether.
Other castaways were reduced to an extremely primitive condition, or lost the use of speech, in a space of a few years. One report describes a Frenchman who, after
two years of solitude on Mauritius, tore his clothing to pieces in a fit of madness brought on by a diet of nothing but raw turtles. Another story has to do with a Dutch seaman who was left alone on the island of St. Helena as punishment. He fell into such
despair that he disinterred the body of a buried comrade and he set out to sea in the coffin (Voyages by Mandelslo, 1662: 246). Another castaway, Peter de Serrano, was rescued after seven years of solitude, according to Rycaut and Secord. However,
studies of life on desert islands were neither long nor detailed. Perhaps two or three covered more than a dozen pages. To plunder from any one of these a story so abundantly stocked with detail as Robinson Crusoe is manifestly impossible (Secord,
Similarly to Defoe’s method, Sigüenza y Góngora (1690) edited an autobiography of the vicissitudes of Alonso Ramírez
in Spanish. The latter was a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The reader can feel that the story has been based on true facts, starting in the year 1682. The latitude of Acapulco given is quite correct, the names of the Islas Marianas, the isle of Gan [Guam],
the mouth of S. Bernardino, the islands of Capul, Ticao, Burias, Masbete, Banton, Mindoro with Lobo [Lubang] and Galván [Calapan] all reveal that, indeed, those places existed in the Philippines. As Sigüenza, Daniel Defoe applied little or no changes
in the original stories of the travellers. They were simply editors, not authors.
Defoe must have been fully convinced of the genuine historical
truth of Robinson Crusoe’s memoirs; consequently the story was published by a house that specialized in everything but fiction. The publisher was W. Taylor; his long list of titles shows that his readers wanted to know about science and practical realities
of their world. Freeman (1950: 242) added that this type of book was entirely new to Defoe, who noted, “The story is told with Modesty, with Seriousness and with religious Application of Events.” Defoe contented that if Robinson Crusoe was
a lie, the London Journal was also full of “many Fables and forged Stories, not to say Lies.” On the other hand, “Defoe does not appear to have been especially impressed with his milestone in literary history,” wrote Paula
Backscheidler. Her statement makes sense if Defoe was not the author.
When Robinson Crusoe’s autobiography, his Life and Strange Surprising
Adventures was issued on the 25th of April 1719, its extraordinary and immediate success filled the poor hack-writers with envy. A success so tremendous was unheard of before. Gildon, an insufferable hack critic, figured he had spotted a ruse. In his
The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Mr. D_____ De F__, of London, Hosier (1719), he surmised that the story was a skullduggery. His excited envy prompted him to attack Robinson Crusoe and its editor. He was an embittered blind man.
We learn from Dottin that “The book, of course, was read to Gildon.” It must have been painful for him to hear about the glittering crystals of the grotto. It is unfortunate that the world blindly followed his optical reasoning, without realizing
that it was easier to write a bad criticism than a good book. His main argument was that a person entering a cave from tropical sunshine would perceive it as a pitch-black place. However, the human eye can accommodate after a few seconds, and Crusoe would
have been able detect the light reflected by a goat’s eyes.
Gildon was full of jealousy at the easy triumph of Robinson Crusoe’s editor
who always wrote hastily, was no scholar, and who had formerly abused him in two poems. Gildon, who wishes to find fault with Defoe at any price, also insinuated that Robinson Crusoe was an immoral book because, in it, Crusoe’s disobedience
to his parents was not punished. (Today a critic may argue that a man cannot live without drugs, eyeglasses or dental floss for 28 years, or, with rotten teeth.)
Wrapping up our arguments against Defoe’s authorship, we suggest a perfect handbook text of Robinson Crusoe’s history. It is the Norton Critical Edition, edited by Michael Shinagel, which also includes a range of critical reaction to Robinson
Crusoe over the centuries. A.W. Secord, and Michael Seidel prepared similar masterpieces.
Our next aim is to help the reader to find additional
proofs supporting this “new” theory. Therefore, we try to guide you through the book step by step, in chronological order. Your good memory can be very useful in this search.
Let us begin with the family tree of our hero, Robinson Crusoe. The hero’s father may have been John Cruso, who was born in Bremen and settled in Norwich, then in Hull, and later married a
granddaughter of William Robinson. This William Robinson was Lord Mayor of York in 1581 and 1594, head of “a very good family in that country,” according to the first page of the book. Thus, Robinson Crusoe’s mother may have been a daughter
of Frances Metcalfe and Sir William Robinson (who was M.P. in 1628). We read in the Internet: "William Robinson, an eminent Hamburgh merchant, was lord-mayor of York in the years 1581 and 1594, and was
twice chosen M.P. for the same city."
Unfortunately, It is hard to find data for that unnamed daughter on the Internet. Perhaps she married Mr. Kreutznaer between 1628 and 1632 but the
available registry records end in 1628. Whatever the case may be, in the Robinson family there was a habit to give the mother's surname for a child as his first name, like in the case of Metcalf Robinson. (Metcalf was not a regular first name.) Thus, Robinson
Crusoe's first name originated from his mother's surname. Although twice in the story he was called "Rob" by his friend, it does not mean that his first name was Robert but rather Robinson, just like in the Spanish first name "Nelson." Also, he signed the
Foreword of the sequel as "Rob. Crusoe."
The Wikipedia on the Internet has an article entitled Robinson
Baronets. The Robinson Baronetcy, of Newby in the County of York, was created in the Baronetage of England on 30 July 1660 for Metcalfe Robinson, Member of Parliament for York. The title became extinct on his death in 1689. Our book does not identify
this Sir Metcalfe Robinson with the father of Robinson Crusoe. The only reason is the mentioning of the double family name. Comparing the compound family name “Metcalfe Robinson” with that of “Robinson Crusoe” it is interesting that,
in both cases, the first component refers to the maternal surnames: Metcalfe and Robinson, respectively. The second components (e.g., Robinson and Crusoe) always refer to the paternal family name. For a Hungarian author this is quite odd. Similarly, it makes
little sense in Spanish where normally the first name is followed by the father’s surname then by the maternal surname.
no means, time or energy to research deeper this unusual way or sequence regarding family names in the 17th century England. Perhaps this was a widespread usage in the whole country. But if it was not, such unique sequence of family names would offer us a
point of argument against Defoe’s authorship.
We read in the Internet: "William Robinson, an eminent Hamburgh merchant, was lord-mayor of York in the years 1581 and
1594, and was twice chosen M.P. for the same city."
The refractory Timothy Cruso (1656–1697) was a longtime
friend of Daniel Defoe. He may have been one of Robinson Crusoe’s nephews. Crusoe’s second brother may have been John, who died in a “battle near Dunkirk.” (The town was a Spanish dominium from 1648, and became French in 1661.) The
famous battle of the Dunes and the catch of Dunkirk are dated at 1658, but minor battles may have taken place in that region before 1658. The First Anglo-Dutch War, against the Spanish dominions there, commenced on 28 May 1652, but it is possible that skirmishes
had started earlier when English ships served to escort Spanish vessels along the Dutch shores. Thus, Crusoe's brother may have been shot aboard on an English ship near Dunkirk before the beginning of the real war. Crusoe wrote that his older
brother has been killed by Spaniards, not by Dutchmen.
The old Crusoe’s late recollections have been a bit confused. Perhaps he
remembered his father weeping when remembering this second brother, but that could have been an injury long before the battle of Dunkirk, and Crusoe’s friend the widow wrote him of his death later. Also, maybe John Cruso was a lieutenant colonel and
lost his life in a less important sea battle near that port. The mentioning of “an English regiment on foot in Flanders, formerly commanded by the famous Coll. [sic.] Lockhart” refers to Colonel Sir William Lockhart (1621-76). However,
the word “formerly” means in relation to the writing of the book, not before Crusoe’s first going aboard in September 1651.
The www.zeno.org web site offers the complete text of Robinson Crusoe’s adventures, based on the 1829 edition in the German language. It contains Part 2 as well. The text
is the true translation or version of the original English text. However, I realized at least one major difference at the first glance. The German text adds several first names at many locations. For instance, we learn that our hero’s father was Wilhelm
(William) Kreuzner [not Kreutznaer] whose wife was the only daughter of Sir Robert Robinson. The friendly Spaniard is not nameless but called Don Gusman [‘Guzman’ in Spanish genealogies of Costa Rica]; Crusoe learned from him the events on the
island before 1694. Finally, he mentions some of his companions’ names (Campbell, Richardson, and Wilson) in their expedition through China and Russia. Many of these names are missing in the English edition that deals with his further adventures, if
my memory is correct.
I wonder if Daniel Defoe or the
printer has returned the manuscript to the old Crusoe who may have inserted those names later as an afterthought. Then, after his death, perhaps there was a brief contact between his grandchildren and a publisher in Germany in the 1820s. Supposing such explanation
we may hope that one day a Wilhelm Kreuzner of Bremen and a Sir Robert Robinson of Yorkshire could become identifiable as historical persons.
Crusoe must have written the first two volumes between 1694 and 1718. He wrote at the very end of his book that he was seventy-two years old. Therefore, he must have concluded Part 2 shortly after September 1704.
J.M. Cowper has pointed out (Notes and Queries, 1886: 158) that the name Cruzo appears in the register of Canterbury’s Holy Cross Church in the year 1659,
while “Defo” appears in 1693. The name “Friday” (perhaps a descendant of our Friday) occurs in the register of St. Dunstan’s parish near Canterbury in the 1700s, where the names “Cruzo” and “Defoe” also
appear in the late seventeenth century (Secord, 1924: 57). A number of Robinsons are mentioned here, according to a kind letter of the Rev. Hugh Albin, addressed to me. Peter Earle notes in his book that the parish of St. Mary Magdalen kept a register of immigrants.
We suggest that the unique name “Kreutznaer” may have been recorded there. Another document that may yield some names of Robinson Crusoe’s family members is the Monmouth Roll that recorded 2611 names of rebels. Defoe was one of them.
Between 1674 and 1679 Defoe attended the rigorous and scientifically minded Morton’s Academy at Newington Green, the excellent dissenting college run by Charles
Morton, who would later play a leading role in the founding of Harvard University. One of Defoe’s schoolmates was the above-mentioned Timothy Cruso, a later acquaintance in London as well. It is interesting that all the required “personal ingredients”
resided in the London area within the same time frame: Robinson Cruso(e), Timothy Cruso, and Daniel Defoe. This circumstance would have enabled them all to participate in the book’s birth. (Thanks to Gildon, we know that the book was written at Stoke
Newington.) Timothy Cruso may have introduced our hero to Defoe before 1695 and Defoe may have heard Crusoe's story verbally. Perhaps he encouraged Robinson Crusoe to write down his autobiography in a preliminary manner what Crusoe did. He possibly
submitted his manuscript to Defoe between 1705 and 1718, likely in 1718.
After all the much fruitless speculation that Defoe
interviewed Selkirk (Secord, 1924: 39), it might not appear futile to consider a possible meeting between Defoe, Timothy Cruso, and Bob Robinson Cruso(e). Also, one may reasonably conclude that if many of the relatives of an author were historical persons,
that the author himself simply cannot be a fictitious hero.
Crusoe was born on September 30, 1632, in the city of York. Aitken (Notes
and Queries, 7th Series, I, page 89) found in 1886 a Cruso family at Lynn, which had passed the first name Robinson from father to son from “time immemorial.” The constant combination of these two names is probably not coincidental. Crusoe
is no doubt from Timothy Cruso, and Kreutznaer is not far from the German word Kreu(t)zen, to cross or to cruise, and C(k)reu(t)z, a cross. It is also interesting that a Cruso family of Leek had as its motto “Sub cruce,” that means “under
the cross” (Secord, 1924: 42-43), and there was a cross in the family’s coat of arms (Miscellanea Genealogica, Oct. 1867) that would fit the above-mentioned meaning pf the word Kreutz in German. We also learn that Dr.
Howard has printed the Cruso pedigree there. Finally, the name Cruso appears on Robinson Crusoe’s original map of his island, also on the map of the world attached to his work. But let us return from the Cruso family to the original editor,
In 1698 Defoe directly offered a proposal to King William for settling key South American coastal territories, including the Orinoco River
basin where he arbitrarily set Robinson Crusoe. The project became one of Defoe’s dreams. He would propose it again in 1711 and yet again in 1719, urging the South Sea Company, whose “charter begins at the River Oroonoque,” to develop
Guiana. There is another explanation for Defoe’s decision in placing the story in Guiana. Robinson noted that he did not consider the island as a crown colony: it was his own property. It is quite understandable that he did not wish to reveal its exact
geographical location to Defoe, so nobody could take it from him. However, Defoe was forced to specify a location. Therefore, he may have been glad to have a free choice regarding the location. This enabled him to emphasize the advantages of that region, where
a single Englishman could own a vast and rich property, and to pacify even the cannibals. Sir Walter Raleigh was one of Defoe’s favourite historical characters; his account of his voyages near the Orinoco River was published within a year after
the publication of “Robinson Crusoe.”
Defoe has overlooked Robinson’s statements that his island was located “some hundreds
of leagues [i.e., thousands of kilometres] out of the ordinary course of trade” and that English ships did not have any traffic in that part of the world. Defoe was the editor of a geographical atlas. He could not have written such a silly statement,
knowing that “next-door” Tobago had an English population in the 17th century – let alone other islands in that region –, and it was first claimed by the British in 1605. Tobago is only 200 kilometres away from the Orinoco’s mouth.
However, our hero has not arrived there yet. His first misfortunes took him captive to Salee (i.e., Sale, or Sallee), a holy city on the coast of Morocco.
This was the chief harbour of pirates on the Atlantic coast of Africa during the 17th century. In 1623 the Salee rovers captured forty fishing vessels on the Newfoundland Banks and took their crews to market as slaves. The pirates sailed up the English Channel
and took one thousand seamen from their ships in England. Salee rovers captured John Dunton, a London seaman, along with 50 men and boys and 7 women. They were all sold at Salee, and became slaves in Africa. These pirates tried to capture as many English women
as possible, as they fetched higher prices than any other slaves. The last recorded Moorish piracy and slave raiding in British waters took place in the River Thames in 1817. (From Captain A.G. Course’s book.) Robinson mentions someone named Ismael,
who was also called Muley. He probably did not invent this, since the name Muley also shows up later in Bowen (1747: 428) as the name of an Arabian king.
Having been shipwrecked on a desert island, Robinson Crusoe took an astronomical observation during his first days in the island, in order to determine his position. He got shipwrecked in the afternoon of September 30, 1658. In the afternoon of October 1 he
visited the wreck. One of his first decision must have been to take the ship's sextantHe got 9 degrees 22 minutes north of the line or equinox that meant the Equator. Yet, he assumed that the sun was “in its autumnal equinox” during the
first days of October. His italicized words suggest that he was aware of the difference between the Old Style and the New Style (O.S. and N.S.). For example, if he made his observation on the 3rd of October in the Gregorian calendar (N.S.), he knew that it
corresponded to the 22nd of September in the Julian calendar (O.S.), for there was a difference of more than 11 days between the two systems. Believing that the English Old Style date fell on the autumnal equinox, he did not seem to apply any correction. Crusoe
was a relatively simple person and not an expert on calendars. He may have assumed that the English system was more accurate than the one used by the Portuguese, and his guess was wrong.
An astronomer wrote me many years ago that on October 2, 1658 the sun’s apparent declination at Cocos Island was –3º 32' 49" (below the ecliptic), and
on October 3 it was –3° 56' 09", both at 0:00 local time. Therefore – at noon on October 2 –, Robinson Crusoe should have subtracted approximately 3° 44.5' (three degrees and forty-four and a half minutes) from his observed reading
of 9 degrees 22 minutes, in order to get the correct latitude. Using the excellent www.skyviewcafe.com software you can calculate that his physical observation was out by only a minute or less, at noon of October 2. Crusoe apparently found
a sextant on board of the wreck on October 1, and he made an observation by that instrument at noon on October 2 on the shore, before he went to the wreck for the second time. He wrote about observation, without any calculation for any correction
due to the days that have passed after ther fall equinox. He must have known that the Brazilian date was ten days ahead of the Old Style date then still used in England. He may have reasoned that October 2 was only September 22 in England. Also, he
may have known that the day of the fall equinox was September 22. This was a good excuse him not to apply any correction. He was in the belief that he took his observation on the day of the fall
equinox. In any case, he could not find any chart or book about such necessary correction, and he had no experience how to apply that.
The exact latitude
of Cocos Island, that is our candidate as Robinson’s island, is 5° 33' north, with a western longitude of 87° 04'. (Wikipedia shows 5° 32' North.) Geographical atlases usually do
not show Cocos Island at all. However, you can reconstruct the map of the Cocos Island on your own, using the web site of Martin Veinelt (www.planiglobe.com) about OMC. How did Defoe know that one can make an actual observation of 9 degrees and 22 minutes
north in Cocos Island on October 2, 1658 or 1659? Was it his "intelligent guess"?
A naval expert could verify Robinson Crusoe’s description,
whether on October 1, 1658 (New Style) the ebb tide took place “a little after noon” in the Cocos Island. According to Colnett (1798: 72), “The ebb is 16-18 feet perpendicularly …The ebb setting to the Eastward, and the flood to the
Westward” in Cocos Island.”
A modern web site cites a detail from an old description of Cocos Island, “The time of high
water is about 2h. 10m. after the Moon passes the meridian.” (From “Sailing directions for the west coast of North America” published by James Imray, London, 1853: 190.) This is an extremely important piece of information. The useful
Sky View Cafe astronomy software of Kerry Shetline (2000 to 2020) displays the moments of the Moon's passing through the local meridian of Chatham Bay of Cocos Island as follow. On October 1, the high tide took place at 18:22 (and 5:52); On October
2, it happened at 19:22. On October 3, it took place at 20:22. During his firs night, spent on a tree, the hight tide lifted up the wrecked ship from its eastern location and carried it near the rock against which the waves dashed him. Although the highest
tide occurred at 5:52 in the night, the ship was probably drifted there between 5:30 and 7 o'clock a.m.
Crusoe tells that November 11th in the year of his shipwreck (1658) was a Sunday, adding that he had lost a day for some reason, maybe due to his grave illness -- probably malaria. He was right: that date corresponds with Monday in the Gregorian calendar.
As he was only a participant, not the captain, of a Brazilian expedition, it seems logical that everything was organized according to their New Style. It is hard to imagine that Defoe would have troubled to double-check these details. As for Crusoe’s
“Sabbath” day, it meant Sunday. Since the Reformation, Sabbath was often applied to “the Lord’s day.” The old author must have confused the year of his shipwreck. He wrote that it had occurred on his 26th birthday, but he may
have written it on the board of his wooden pole only in 1659. He spent on the island 28 years, 2 months, and 19 days from 30 September 1658 till 12 December 1686. His time periods add up quite well since he was born on September 30, 1632.
The uninhabited Cocos Island is a national park of Costa Rica, 500 kilometres from the continent. Its discoverer was Joan Cabezas de Grado, an Asturian.
It first appeared on the map of Nicolás Desliens in 1541, and it was also called Santa Cruz, from having been discovered on the day of the Holy Cross. Nicolás Desliens’ planisphere, drawn in 1556 in Dieppe, placed the Isle de Coques
about one and a half degrees north of the Equator (Boza-Mendoza, 1981: 255, and Lievre, 1962: 134). Blaeu’s Grand Atlas, originally published in 1662, has a colour world map on the back of its front cover that shows I. De Cocos right
on the Equator. Frederick De Witt’s Atlas, 1680 shows it similarly. The Hondius Broadside map of 1590 shows I. De Cocos at the latitude of 2° 30' north, while in 1596 Theodore de Bry shows the Galapagos Islands near 6°
to the north of the Equator. Bowen (1747: 586) tells that the Galapagos stretch 5° north of the Equator, obviously including Cocos Island as part of that archipelago. Robinson Crusoe was not more inaccurate than these famous cartographers were.
Robinson’s neighbouring Terra Firma is shown on one of our maps as an illustration. This map of the northwestern corner of South America belongs
to the early group of plates printed by William Blaeu from 1630 onwards, although our map combined with its cartouche shows Jan Jansson, the original cartographer of Amsterdam.
The properly called Terra Firma was the Isthmus of Darien (Bowen, 1747: 593, and Middleton, 1777: 448). Friday’s two references to the cruelty of the Spaniards in Mexico, observed by Crusoe, are against a South American island as well. The words
Terra Firma do not appear in the Greenwich House edition of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1982) that is based on the copy of the first edition in the Library of the University of London, and incorporates the alterations made in the third
edition (1982: 313). It would be important to see some differences between the first and the third editions. For example, if the first edition always used Main instead of Terra Firma, then perhaps Crusoe instructed Defoe to make those consistent
changes for the next editions. These questions would need further studies, and could offer new clues.
E. Belcher established an eastern magnetic
declination of 8° 23' 49" on Cocos Island on April 3, 1836. The magnetic declination was 6° 30' at the end of 1894, according to Passmore, with a yearly variation of –1' 56" on Cocos Island. He wrote that there was some gold ore in the island
(Revista de Costa Rica, 1895: 79). This reminds us of Robinson Crusoe’s description of gold in a cave. Not all islands have clay (Secord, 1924: 91), but there is clay on Cocos Island (La Nación, May 1, 1977), which Crusoe used
to make vessels. The only thing he could not produce for years was a tobacco pipe of clay. Defoe, on the other hand, had experience working with clay at his business adventure at Tilbury (Secord, 1924: 68). He had baked tobacco pipes in his kilns (Moore, 1970:
224), and would have used this knowledge in his own novel, describing his method. He could have also borrowed the idea from Pitman, a contemporary who described how to use a crab’s claw “for want of pipe.” Instead, he has left in Crusoe’s
pipe problems without suggesting an ingenious, bragging solution. (For us these are indications that the story is not a compilation of borrowings by Defoe.) Crusoe has found sandstone on his island that may correspond to the loose volcanic tuff of Cocos Island.
Friday had never seen snow in his life, and Robinson Crusoe had never noticed snow, ice, hail, or frost on his island. These things could not be found on Cocos
Island either. The maximum temperature there was 27.4 °C and the minimum was 19.5 °C during a four-month period from May to August (La Nación, January 12, 1980). Crusoe said that the weather felt hot in December, and the sun stood at
the zenith on the 30th of September. All these would disqualify the Juan Fernández Islands as candidates. There the winter lasts from June to July, and there can be frost and a little hail, according to Captain Woodes Rogers’ account, but the
sun never stands at the zenith there.
Robinson Crusoe wrote, “From the 14th of August to the 26th, incessant rain.” Cocos [Island] has
only two seasons: wet & dry, and receives over 27” of rain annually. Since August is in the middle of the wet season, it did indeed rain every day with only a few breaks of sun. (See http://www.westnet.com/~wjakab/diving/cocos/cocos.htm)
Robinson Crusoe’s distances and his description of the island perfectly match with the actual topography of Cocos Island. He often “went out to
the West End, and to the South West corner” in order to look for canoes. His fortress was “about three miles or more” distant from the highest lookout hill, apparently Cerro Yglesias; its elevation is reported variously as being between 575
and 850 metres, originally shown as 2788 feet. Another peak is 1580 feet high.
Crusoe’s directions and the visibilities between certain points of
the island are correct. For example, when an easterly wind drifted the Spanish ship towards the island, Crusoe saw the flash of a gun’s fire only once – although he only heard the next ones. First he heard the sound about 30 seconds after the flash,
which – using the sound velocity – would yield us a location about 10 kilometres away from him. Our detailed topographical map just allows a visibility for the ship 10 kilometres distant in that direction. Please note that the same map depicts
Robinson Crusoe’s dangerous boat trip. His route is not to scale because that very remote point “A” was so far away to the southeast from Cocos Island that he could hardly see the land from the distance. At that point “A” he managed
to change direction and turned back towards the island. (Somehow we had to squeeze this point into our map below.)
A treasure map, drawn
by Hammond Smith in 1820, was available for me by the Disch-Lauxmann web site (1996). Now the map seems to belong to Mr. Wolfgang Lietz, a German treasure hunter living in Berlin.) The Disch-Lauxmann web site does not seem to exist anymore. However, the web
site http://www.sailoroffortune.com/cocosisland_photos.htm shows even much more useful and beautifully illustrated material about Cocos Island, with several excellent links.
It is written by Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. (2000-2006) but it does not seem to exist anymore. Interestingly, the map of Smith clearly depicts – near the bottom left corner – a very long ledge of underwater rocks. That ridge is shown as a long and rippling
triple line to the bottom of the old map. Robinson Crusoe described the same unique geographical feature at the same location. This may be an unmistakeable geological formation and a unique topographical feature for the correct identification of his island.
At this point I must confess an interesting circumstance to the gentle reader. You may wonder, how the hell how any person on Earth with sound mind could
identify the Isla del Coco with Robinson Crusoe’s island. Cocos Island is like a tiny dropping of a fly, so to speak, on any world map. Many famous geographical atlases do not even show it at all. You are absolutely right and your question makes
The truth goes back to my childhood. Before a Christmas, probably in 1958, my mother asked me about a wish. My request was a world atlas. It seemed
just a dream that could not be fulfilled. (My family was poor so we seldom ate any meat. After the tragic death of my father – our apartment building accidentally got a Soviet missile during the revolution – my mother had to support our family
of five alone. The world atlas cost about six dollars in those days.) But she purchased the atlas. Gradually I became a collector of maps. However, Hungarians were unaware of a detailed map showing the Isla del Coco before 1975 (when I went to Italy).
In the camp near Trieste we were waiting for our immigration to Canada. One of the boys lent me a fiction book for young readers, in Hungarian. It was about the further
adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
A few weeks later an interesting explanation offered itself. I bought a beautiful Italian magazine of geography and archaeology
called “Atlante.” It was a kind of Italian “National Geographic Magazine.” In the November 1975 issue there was an article about treasure hunters on the Isla del Coco. The article had a small but quite detailed map
of the island.
The outlines of the island in the map stroke my eyes at the first glance. I had the impression – a déjà vu
feeling – that somewhere I have seen the map before. But it was impossible. I was positive that I have never seen a map of Cocos Island. This mystery did not let me sleep for a week. Then I realized that the Hungarian juvenile book was the culprit. Its
author – András Dékány – included a map in the inside cover. It was based on his creative reconstruction of Robinson Crusoe’s island. It was a “fictitious” map in a fiction book. But when I collated the map
of the Atlante with the Hungarian map, everything started to make sense. I had to rotate one of the by about 160 degrees. In that position the two outlines started to resemble each other.
A few months later I received a reply from the family of Mr. Dékány. He passed away a few years earlier, but they sent me photocopies of his handwritten sketches of the map. The preliminary sketch did not show great similarity to the Atlante
map. It meant that his mental reconstruction of Crusoe’s island was independent from any cartographer’s work related to Cocos Island (Isla del Coco) of Costa Rica.
At the beginning of the year 1976 I wrote a brief article in English and submitted it to the editors of the De Agostini’s Atlante in Novara or Milano. (It was not easy. In 1975 my Spanish was a bit better than my English. Therefore one of my
friends helped to translate it into English.) The essence of my article was the theory that Robinson Crusoe’s real island was the Isla del Coco. Soon I received a kind reply from the Atlante. They found my article interesting. However, they
sent a copy of it to Mons. Jacques Dumas, a famous underwater diver, for review. Mr. Dumas advised them that any research in the island would be quite futile, due to the dense tropical vegetation. This circumstance meant a hibernation of three decades for
time to return to Robinson Crusoe. Our hero has survived a terrible earthquake on the island, thinking that its epicentre was under the ocean. Both Crusoe and modern geologists stated that Cocos Island lay in an active earthquake zone, on the tectonic Cocos
Plate. Augustin Guido also experienced an earthquake on the island, and suspected a submarine volcano was nearby. John Davis (1687), navigating over these seas, described a terrible shock. It was so violent that he took it for granted the ship had struck
upon a rock, but it was actually an earthquake (Dalrymple, 1771: 122).
Robinson Crusoe made detailed descriptions about the complicated ocean currents
around his island. Our modern reconstruction of his almost fatal voyage with his boat places his critical starting point at Lionel Head. He reported a strong current that was similar to the sluice of a mill. It is intriguing that modern maps call this promontory
“Punta Peligro” in Spanish that means “Cape Danger.” Well, Robinson was in serious danger at this point, and he may have passed his knowledge to his Spaniard friends, thus for posterity. Costa Rican periodicals similarly
reported that there were strong and tricky ocean currents around the island. Furthermore, the magazines describe an anchoring possibility in Wafer Bay, at high tide, by the channel of a little river (Rio Genio). Robinson Crusoe reported the landing of his
raft at the same place and in the same manner. He mentioned the hidden rocks off the south end of the island that were particularly dangerous at high tide and in the night. Modern records of navigators and their nautical charts report these rocks, using the
Crusoe’s dimensions expressed in miles are very good, but his “leagues” are somewhat mysterious and incorrect. (Three
miles usually formed a league.) He may simply have interpreted a league as a mile measured over the sea. However, similar mistakes can be found in the travel reports of more famous authors: Ides, the envoy of a Tsar, wrote that Lake Baikal was only six German
Miles broad, and forty long (Ides, 1706: 36) that is half of its real length. Captain Vancouver stated that Cocos Island was four miles long. However, Capt. Colnett (1798: 74) noted its breadth as four miles, and its length as 12 miles, but shown on his map
as 15 miles. Dampier estimated that the island was 7 or 8 leagues round (36 kilometres); Chubb (1933) wrote it was about four miles in diameter that would make it 32 kilometres in circumference. A modern illustrated treasure-hunter book shows that Cocos Island
is about six nautical miles long and a little less in width, adding that there are no snakes. The web site of Tim McGuinness claims the same.
Crusoe’s original map depicts a rectangular island that resembles the true shape of Cocos Island. Later several captains have drawn maps of Cocos Island. Some of them showed it with a circular outline, others as having a square shape, or extremely
elongated. Some travellers reported a little lake or pond in the island. Robinson’s map shows that as well, to the northwest of his bower with Poll crying “Poor Robin Cruso.” The style, quality, and accuracy of the map drawn by Robinson “Cruso,”
or perhaps his friend the young French priest, are comparable with the features on the map of Mactan Island, where Magellan met his end (Dor-Ner, 1991: 313). Crusoe’s map was probably drawn in 1695, when he returned to his island, or,
perhaps during his third visit.
We have drawn a modern topographical map of Cocos Island (see below), and superimposed on it the key locations mentioned
in his autobiography. (I have received the original map with the contours from a “mapa sin control” – a map without control – in 1982 from Costa Rica Expeditions in San José. They do not exist anymore. Obviously, the
map’s original is a product of an aerial survey, without terrestrial land survey control as for the elevation of the peaks and the exact horizontal dimensions, possibly relying only on the flight elevation shown by the instrument of the airplane.)
Our map – that has been based on the map mentioned above – shows Robinson’s first “cave” with his “castle,” his cornfield,
his raft port or harbour at the mouth of Rio Genio, the location of the old boat of their ship, the escape route of Friday from the cannibals’ landing place near Eaton Head, Crusoe’s bower, and a suggested location for the temporary dock of his
boat. Crusoe’s ship was originally wrecked somewhere near Weston Bay, but the tide drifted the wreck into Wafer Bay. (Disch-Lauxmann’s photograph, taken at high tide, does not show the sandy beach of the bay.) The map of Mr. Tim McGuinness calls
it “Dirty Rock” and it is Gissler Island on other maps. We took the liberty to give the additional name “Dashing Rock” because we guess that the immense wave dashed Crusoe against this rock near the shore. (Similarly, we show some rocks
that the nautical map of 1833 labelled as “Spanish Wreck Rocks.” It is hard to conclude that these rocks or the one to the left of the scale bar on the map mentioned above were referred to during Crusoe’s perilous navigation. Both of these
rocks are dangerous, and are located near Dampier Head.) Robinson Crusoe met the captain of the ship and the other two men probably on the shore of Chatham Bay.
It is quite easy to find the location of Robinson Crusoe’s fortress on a modern map of Cocos Island. According to Robinson, “This plain was not above an hundred yards broad, and about twice as long, and lay like a Green before my door,” and
the front of the hill “towards this little plain, was steep as a house-side.” He had to mount his ladder in two stages in order to climb this vertical wall. Today there is a high and dominating promontory over its Chatham Bay, with steep sides
and artificially levelled crest all covered by an extremely dense grass taller than a man. (Perhaps this was Crusoe’s barley, now growing wild.) This vegetation is in marked contrast to the surrounding jungle, and provides evidence of former human activity
at this point. The Norwegian archaeological expedition encountered several small terraces formed by cut and fill, perhaps to support small dwellings. (We note that Crusoe’s map shows little houses or huts, verifying Heyerdahl’s theory.) The levelled
and equally overgrown summit plateau that measured about 60 metres in width and about twice as much in length could not have been formed without a considerable amount of labour. A vertical cut about 4 metres high through the rock and soil on the inland side
formed the western limit of the [artificially] levelled area (Heyerdahl, 1966: 465).
Crusoe’s raft harbour “was upon a low moorish ground
near the sea.” This is true, since “at the head (of Wafer Bay) a swampy deltaic plain extends some half-mile inland,” according to Chubb (1933: 27). Chubb added that there were no coral reefs, but Eduardo J. Van Den Bossche found many spots
rich in corals, describing them in his book entitled “Wir kommen aus dem Meer.” This author has studied the underwater life in Wafer Bay, and found two old shipwrecks there. We believe that one of them once may have belonged to Robinson
Crusoe noted that his "raft port" was located in a swampy and unhealthy spot. He may have been bitten by a mosquito here, and contracted a malaria
fever. The symptoms of his sickness corresponds with the symptoms of uncomplicated malaria, including the alternating "better" and "worse" days. Of course, he has not mention any fly, spider, ant, or mosquito on his island but those exist on most islands.
He was not a zoologist or botanist either.
We wish to recommend you a beautiful bilingual book written by Christopher Weston, entitled “La
Isla del Coco – Cocos Island.” It gives the reader an exceptional insight into the miracles of the splendid and undisturbed underwater life, through many colour pictures. This fascinating book is an excellent source about the Cocos Island
for divers, treasure-hunters, historians, and other scientists as well. Its second edition was under preparation in 1996.)
It is interesting to
note that when four Americans sailed to the legendary island in 1969 aboard Captain Christian Knohr’s fishing boat, they found and recovered from the sea six corroded cannons. They were full of barnacles and rust, with the date 1594 engraved on their
side (Weston, 1992: 180, and the San José newspaper La República, February 2, 1970). Crusoe’s ship also had six guns. That number was not typical at the time. And as 64 years is a reasonable age for a used gun of a small trading
mission, it is probable that the recovered cannons belonged to Crusoe. Weston refers to the latter of Jim Worrel, which says that these six cannons have been sold to a private museum in Miami for $10,000 each. The divers took some photographs during the recovering
action, about half a mile from the shores of Cocos Island. This distance fits the latest location of Crusoe’s wreck.
In general, the number
of cannons on the ships of those decades varied widely. Esquemeling (1976: 167 and 298) wrote of a vessel mounted with 48 great guns and eight small ones, but Captains Sawkins and Sharp had only one and two guns on their ships. Esquemeling (1976: 91
and 309) called the Indian’s canoes or pirogues as “piraguas” and “periaguas” just like Robinson Crusoe did.
Let us examine now some of Robinson’s botanical and zoological experiences. He mentioned the “iron-tree” he had used for tools. Indeed, the iron-tree (palo de hierro in Spanish, or Myristica) is a typical plant on Cocos
Island (Libro Almanaque Escuela Para Todos, 1995: 32, and Revista del Colegio Superior de Señoritas, San José, July-August 1935: 8). Critics still owe an explanation to the public about Defoe’s supposed stealing of this
word, for it does not appear before the year 1719 (Little, 1973: 1113). This circumstance is an evidence of an eyewitness author: Crusoe.
found grapes, “cocoa trees,” melons, orange, lemon, citron, limes, and seals on his island. Similarly, Coulter mentioned vines, “cocoa,” and fur seals on Cocos Island (1847: 95). He stated that the eastern part of the island was densely
wooded that agrees with Crusoe’s map. Robinson Crusoe could not find cassava root, also called manioc, which does not exist on Cocos Island either. Esquemeling (1976: 47) agrees with Crusoe, mentioned the “mandioca, which the Indians by
another name call cassava,” adding that they made a flour of the roots.
The “cocoa trees” show us a strange phenomenon
in the English nomenclature during those centuries. The spelling Cocoa was originated by accident in Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. The spelling Cocoa tree was applied to the cacao tree only since 1876 (Little, 1973: 360). Esquemeling (1976:
255) mentioned a Spanish boat “laden with coconuts (whereof chocolate is made).” Thus, originally the word “cocoa” meant “coconut” but “coconut” meant “cacao” beans.
Many travellers wrote about the “cocoa.” However, they often meant “coco” (coconut) by this word. Belcher in his Voyage Round the World mentioned “Cocoa
trees.” Thomas (1745: 165) referred to “Cacao-Nut-Trees,” Purchas (Vol. XX: 196) to “Cocoa Nut Palm,” and Kao (Ides, 1706: 184) spoke of “the Cocao-nut,” adding that the nuts were as
big as a man’s head. Thomas, a historian of Anson’s voyage, remarked of Cocos Island that it “is reputed to be very fruitful and pleasant, and to produce Limes, Cacao Nuts …, as also abound in hogs.” (Crusoe noted at the end
of his book that he sent hogs to his island after his return to England.) According to page 486 of an old English translation of the geographic dictionary of Alcedo (1967) who lived from 1735 to 1812, Cocos Island abounded in cocoa-trees, although they were
called “cocos” in the original Spanish text. Le Mair(e) and W. Schouten wrote of “cocoa-nut trees, or palmitos,” Abel Tasman (in 1642) of “the water in the cocoa-nuts,” and Roggewein [Roggeween]
of “cocoa nuts to drink” (Dalrymple, 1771: 6-12, 78-81, and 102). Colnett (1798: 74) compared the milk of the “cocoa nuts” to skim milk. Captain Colnett’s exploration on Cocos Island in 1793 was followed by that
of Captain George Vancouver, while commanding H.M. ships Discovery and Chatham in 1795.
Speaking of drinks, Crusoe, like any good middle-class Englishman,
naturally enough thought first of beer after having produced some corn. He did not think of the possibility of making wine. Modern Latin American tropical countries share this attitude, likely for some practical reason: the temperature is too hot for grapes.
But Crusoe had no casks for it either. “Beer was the staple drink of the middle and lower classes. A sailor’s allowance was a gallon a day” (Freeman, 1959: 61).
Crusoe found plenty if vines or grapes on the island. Captain Vancouver wrote about the vegetation, “This thicket, so far as we were able to ascertain, was chiefly composed of a great variety of trees of a moderate size, with an impenetrable underwood
of the vine or supplejack kind, which opposed any excursion into the country; some attempts were, I believe, made to penetrate there by the water course, but this, from rocky precipices and other obstructions, was found to be equally impracticable...”
(Cited from “Sailing directions for the west coast of North America,” 1853.)
Crusoe shot a hawk on the island. Similarly,
Belcher (1843: 187-189) stated, “a hawk and sparrow were the only land birds taken” by them. As for Crusoe’s famous parrot, the interior of Cocos Island is still unexplored. Macaw parrots may still live there, although the numerous wild cats
may have reduced their numbers.
The plants and animals described by Robinson truly correspond to the real flora and fauna of Cocos Island. There
are wild angora cats (see Peterson, 1857, Dr. Edward Taylor, and others), pigs (both species are likely the descendants of the ones mentioned by Crusoe), mountain goats resembling deer (Coulter, 1847: 101), pigeons, ducks, geese, hawks, hares, foxes, turtles,
seals, and penguins. Penguins do not exist in the northern hemisphere, except in the waters around the Galapagos Islands that form the neighbourhood of Cocos Island. The reader can find photographs depicting penguins and seals that live on the Galapagos (National
Geographic Magazine, 1959 May: 696). The turtles, seals, and penguins are able to swim long distances in order to reach Cocos Island.
descriptions say that there are no turtles on Cocos Island. However, a photograph of a mature male hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), startled by the camera’s flash, is known. It was taken by the staff of the ship Okeanos, and
published in the book of Christopher Weston (1992: 234). As Robinson found pigeons and turtles, Colnett also noted “Saint Helena pigeons” and two turtles that have escaped (1798: 71-73).
Crusoe was the only survivor at his shipwreck, but his crew disappeared without a trace. The explanation is that the coastal waters of Cocos Island abound in ferocious sharks.
Robinson and Defoe do not take advantage of the names of the animals living in Guiana, listed by Behn in 1688 (armadillos, tigers, numb-eels). Defoe is also silent about piranhas, although he believed that the currents caused by the Orinoco River reached the
shores of Crusoe’s island. Therefore it is unlikely he borrowed information from her. (Rather, there may have been a borrowing the other way around. Perhaps Crusoe had a conversation with that lady, who was impressed by the idea of Friday, the noble
savage.) Behn believed that nature “better instructs the world, than all the inventions of man,” and that the Caribs “understand no vice, or cunning, but when they are taught by the white men.” She placed her romance in Surinam, claiming,
“the River Amazonas is almost as broad as the Thames.”
Robinson Crusoe was not much smarter when he thought that he had lost a day by
crossing the line of the Equator, but the superficial editor Defoe overlooked this error. One can clearly feel that the author and the editor were two persons, and that the island was not near the Orinoco River. In the third part of Robinson Crusoe’s
Adventures it is likely Defoe (or Robinson with continuing education) who adds, “Saturn is at so infinite a distance from the sun, that it has not above one-ninetieth part of light and heat that we enjoy on our earth … Jupiter has only one twenty-seventh
part of the same.” A very silly and a quite intelligent statement do not seem to belong to the same writer.
An unscientific map of Cocos Island
may also be included (Figure 5). The mapmaker was Don Dickerman in 1925, a companion of William Beebe (see his book in the Bibliography).
On a very clear day Crusoe was able to see a mountain from the highest point of the island. It must have been an optical illusion. Maybe he has seen the highest peak of the Galapagos Islands, by a mirage. Corliss (1976: 160-173) has a whole chapter on the
mystery of mirages. He tells, “Mirages sometimes display highly magnified objects. Islands and cities hundreds or even thousands of miles away may appear on the horizon… To magnify in this fashion, the atmosphere must behave like a lens…
a phenomenon so renowned as the Fata Morgana has been the subject of extremely few accurate scientific investigations.” Under normal atmospheric conditions Crusoe would have been unable to see any peak, particularly at Defoe’s proposed location,
because the coastal region of the River Orinoco is extremely flat.
Robinson’s memoirs mentioned that the mountain goats of the island were
extremely shy, and a man hiding above them would not be observed by their optics. This remark is important. A Canadian master of the hunt, George Pék of North Vancouver, confirmed that very few hunters knew this trick. A writer living in London like
Defoe would have been unable to become such an expert hunter. In contrast with these details, Wilfred Whitten noted, “Defoe was sitting on a volcano when he wrote Robinson Crusoe.” Therefore, it is hard to imagine that the story – a Swiss
watch of literature – was Defoe’s work.
Gildon believed that bears could not exist in Friday’s tropical country. However, there
are three species of bears living in Friday’s home country, the modern Costa Rica: Tamandua tetradactyla, Cyclopes didactylus, and Myrmecophaga tridactyla (Boza-Mendoza, 1981: 307).
Now, from the fields of botany and zoology, let us turn towards the humans. Dottin, the modern-day editor, thinks, “Gildon is right: Friday’s intelligence and extraordinary readiness in learning would be impossible in a Caribbean savage”
(1974: 137). The same was said of Xury, who may have learnt the basics of the language from the few English slaves. The assumption regarding their inability to study seems to be somewhat racist, at least for a Canadian reader.
The Spaniards wrote of Cocos Island, “Allí se hallaron ciertos ídolos labrados de piedra” (Oviedo, 1959: 97, similarly Lines, 1940). That is, “certain
idols were found there [on Cocos Island], worked out of stone.” This indicates the visits of some native tribes before (or at the beginning of the) colonial era. The archaeological findings in Heyerdahl (1966) confirm that the Galapagos Islands, at about
the same distance from the continent, had similar visits by South American Indians. It is possible that the temporary homeland or a base port of Friday’s tribe was on Galapagos Islands in those decades.
The word “cannibal” is a corruption of caribal, the Spanish word for Carib. Others (Purchas, Vol. XIV: 451) claim that “Canibal” meant “valiant man” in the language of the Caribs. Some of their
tribes left the region of Venezuela around A.D. 1400, and migrated northwards. Some of the words of the Térraba nation, belonging to the Carib (Caribe or Caraibe) language family, were recorded centuries ago (Arroyo, 1966: 3). Friday must have belonged
to this Térraba tribe that lived in Costa Rica. Robinson Crusoe wrote that “Oowokakee” meant “old men” in Friday’s language. It is very interesting that the above-mentioned Carib tribe used “ova-kegué”
or “ova-kigi” to mean the same thing: “gente viejo” in Spanish, which is “old people” in English (Arroyo, 1966: 118 and 78). Crusoe apparently misunderstood Friday’s comment about the well-known
cruelties of the Spaniards in America. Those did not take a place “a great way beyond the moon” as if referred to a direction, but “many months ago.” Otherwise, this was expressed more clearly in Robinson’s Further
Adventures. Indeed, the words “moon” and “month” correspond to a single word in the Térraba language, in the book of Arroyo (1966). This detail proves that the wording “great way beyond the moon”
is original since no novelist would have inserted such obvious stupidity in a story. Other words cited by Friday (“Oa, oa, waramokoa!” in the sequel may have meant, “No, no, our canoes no!”) may have belonged to the language of the
enemy when those natives realized that their periaguas would be destroyed.
There is no detailed data about the Térraba before
the year 1697. They numbered between 500 and 2000 persons then. Their men were described as being naked and distinct from other Costa Rican tribes by their fame as diligent workers. The governor Don Diego de le Haya wrote in 1719, in the year of Robinson
Crusoe’s publication, that they were also the most belligerent tribe in all America. (This is exactly what Friday has told to Crusoe. Also, Robinson Crusoe observed “that they were stark naked, and had not the least covering upon them.”)
Their mortal enemies were the Changuenes that were mentioned in Spanish documents at least from 1680, as living on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. In 1708-1709 the Térrabas also lived on the coast at Diquis, later called “Grande de Térraba.”
They became very faithful Christians (Meléndez, 1978: 132-135). Robinson Crusoe, Friday, and his father may have played a crucial role in this moral and social development.
Esquemeling (1976: 224-238) wrote unique and quite detailed ethnological information about the Caribbees living in Panama and Costa Rica. He did not seem to describe the Térrabas but rather the customs of some other tribes that wore aprons and were
enemies of the Spaniards. As for the region of the Cape of Gracias à Dios and the islands called De las Pertas, Esquemeling (1976: 114) wrote before 1684, “Some are of opinion that these Indians eat human flesh... Here they found the bones of
the said Spaniard well roasted.”
In summary, we can conclude that Friday belonged to a distinct Costa Rican nation. If librarians cannot find
his words in any other language, perhaps they should consider Robinson’s authorship instead of Defoe’s. (For a short bibliography on the Térraba language, please refer to The Newberry Library’s Indian Linguistics in the Edward
E. Ayer collection, Volume 2.) There is some additional information in Part Two, when the panic-stricken Caribs shouted, “Oa, oa, waramokoa!” It probably meant, “Ay, ay, do not destroy our canoes!” These words may
have belonged to the vocabulary of a rival tribe. It is interesting to note that a paragraph of Part Two utilizes the Spanish words “buen viaje” for good voyage.
Robinson described how the Caribs took their poor victims, hitting them with a club, or wooden sword, some versions mention mace.Serre del Sagués, who was almost his contemporary, recorded the same of the Caribs of Costa Rica, but with more details,
“The victim was sacrificed by a blow to the back of his head. Then the shaman opened the chest by an obsidian knife, took the heart and tasted it. In the meanwhile, his assistants cut up the body to eat it, and distributed grains of maize painted with
blood as fetishes.” A book in the University Library of San José contains the records of Serre del Sagués (1921: 71), in a separate chapter.
Cannibalism was common in each cardinal direction from Cocos Island. It was reported by Landa from Yucatan, Mexico (1978: 4), by Purchas from Popayan, Columbia, and from the Marquesas Islands of Polynesia where man-eating was called “long pig”
(Knight, 1987: 45-50). It is recorded about the natives of the “captainrich” of Seregipe (Brazil), “They eat human flesh when they can get it, and if a woman miscarries devours the abortive immediately. If she goes her time out, she herself
cuts the navel-string with a shell, which she boils along with the secondine, and eats them both” (Bowen, 1747: 532). Cannibalism does not exist anymore in remote places. However, in 1994, such a case was reported from within the heart of Europe, in
the concentration camp of Manjaca (Yugoslavia), and occurred due to starvation.
Robinson Crusoe was a Brazilian landed immigrant. He lived in the
capital city, Salvador, between 1654 and 1658. He had good relations with the monastery of St. Augustine. There were several monasteries in the Upper Town of Salvador in Brazil, as those of the Carmelites, Benedictines, Franciscans and Augustinians (Bowen,
1747: 534). In 1688, Robinson Crusoe claimed that the Augustinians of the St. Augustine monastery in Salvador had received the profits of his plantation for above fourteen years, and still had 872 moidores not distributed. Moidore probably
meant “money of gold” in Portuguese. A cruisado, crusado or crusada was a Portuguese coin bearing a cross, worth about ten shillings, and a turkey four shillings. The Glossary of the Greenwich House edition says, “worth
about 2s. 3d. sterling [11 p].”
Original documents or proofs containing Robinson Crusoe’s name may still exist somewhere in Brazil.
It is well documented that the convent building of the Religiosos Descalços de Santo Agostinho already existed in 1693, called Hospicio de N(ossa) Senhora da Palma (Rebello, 1929: 158, also Caldas, 1931: 12-13). However, the roots of the congregation
may have been formed during the previous decades. Religious organizations usually existed prior to the completion of their churches, and it is possible that they had been allowed to use the Mosteiro (monastery) da Bahia that belonged to Santa Clara. One can
find a photograph showing the Convent da Palma (Falcão, 1940: 132). The web page “IPHAN – Bens Tombados” mentions this church and convent “Igreja da Palma” belonging to the barefooted Augustines. The pages “Brigadas
de pintura mural 1970-2004” and “Catedral Basilica” also show good data. The Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Benedictine Order” lists two congregations of Bahia (1658, 1681).
Pirates rescued Crusoe in 1686, when English piracy played an active role along the Pacific coast of Central America. Their disaster at Santa Pecaque on 19 February 1686 was the worst
defeat ever suffered by buccaneers on those seas. In 1686, the objective of captains (John) Davis and Knight after leaving Cocos Island was to continue south to the west coast of South America. They were cruising, sometimes above but generally below the line
of the Equator. Knight left Davis towards Christmas of 1686 at Juan Fernández, and returned to the West Indies. Later he gave evidence against his former French pirate companions when they were brought up for trial in Jamaica. Another captain, Robert
Arnold, deserted Davis in order to return and give himself up in Jamaica (Kemp-Lloyd, 1960: 124-125). The year 1686 and the size of Arnold’s crew, 38 or 37, exactly matches Crusoe’s account about the number of this captain’s crew. Perhaps
this captain Robert Arnold wrote the so-called “Arnold Lecture” after he had delivered Crusoe, although his scientific paper is silent about the strange story.
More than 500 expeditions have been formed to find the Cocos Island pirate treasure (valued as high as 50,000,000 pounds sterling by some researchers). The 444th expedition took place in 1949. Others say that the treasure called the “Loot of Lima”
was worth $60,000,000. It included a life-sized golden Madonna, statues of the apostles, 273 jewelled swords, 150 jewelled chalices, and bars of gold and silver by the hundreds.
Crusoe arrived in London on the 20th of June 1687. His story may have been over-shadowed by the sensational news of the first successful salvage operation on record. A Spanish wreck near the Bahamas filled with silver and jewels was recovered by Captain William
Phips, who arrived to London on June 7, 1687. (The value of his shipment amounted to about 300,000 pounds sterling.) The city was filled with his glory for a considerable time (Yonge, 1963: 200).
In the three parts of the book the author Robinson Crusoe (or, less likely, the editor Defoe) often refers to the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Crusoe wrote that he had settled in Bedford, after mid-June 1687. We may suspect that his decision
was based on his religious orientation. Many people must have mentioned him the name of the famous English preacher John Bunyan (1628-1688). Bunyan was born at Elstow, two kilometres to the south of Bedford. He moved to Bedford in 1655, and wrote the first
part of his “Pilgrim’s Progress” between 1667 and 1672. He published this first part on February 18, 1678. He died on 31 August 1688 in London. Robinson Crusoe may have met him and known him as a friend for more than a year. He was
obviously an admirer and follower of the great preacher. This internal link in his books does not seem accidental, but rather as a potential proof that explains the main reason of his settling in Bedford.
The records of Crusoe claim that 1688-89 had a very severe winter all over Europe and he was quite right. Timbs, in his “Curiosities of London” recorded a great frost, lasting from 20 December 1688 to the 6th of February 1689. “Pools
were frozen eighteen inches thick, and the Thames’ ice was covered with streets of shops, bull-baiting, shows and tricks, hackney coaches plied on the ice-roads, and a coach with six horses was driven from Whitehall almost to London Bridge” (Andrews,
1887: 40, also “London weather.”
“The Further [originally Farther] Adventures of Robinson Crusoe;
being the second and last part of his life …” appears to be the concluding part of Crusoe’s writing career. It means that this Part Two was also ready for publication in 1719. Defoe would have been unable to write two books within a
few months’ time.
After his first return Crusoe settled in England, ending up married, with three children: two sons and a daughter. He had
his first child born, and then his wife was great with child of another, perhaps with twins. They purchased a little farm in Bedford, and the family settled there, till Crusoe lost his wife. He resolved to stop housekeeping; left the children with the old
widow, let his farm, and returned to London. He affirmed, “I enjoyed much more solitude in the middle of the greatest collection of mankind in the world, than I ever enjoyed in twenty-eight years’ confinement on that desolate island.” These
are very sincere and credible words.
It was the beginning of the year 1693, when his nephew, whom he had brought up to love the sea and had made
him commander of a ship, came to Crusoe. “And now, uncle,” says he, “if you will go to sea with me, I’ll land upon your old habitation on the island. I dare say you would be pleased to see your new colony there, where you once reigned
with more felicity than other monarchs in the world.” Crusoe told him that he would not promise to go any further than his own island. “Why, sir,” says the nephew, “you don’t want to be left there again, I hope?”
Crusoe’s inclination to go abroad prevailed. His old friend the widow helped him in settling his family affairs for his absence, and providing for the
education of his children. His nephew was ready to sail about the beginning of January 1694, and Crusoe with his man Friday went on board in the Downs on the 8th, then touched and left Ireland on the 5th of February.
On the 20th of February they noticed a burning ship at sea. All of a sudden it blew up, and in a few the rest of the ship sunk. It was a 300-ton French merchant ship, homeward-bound from Quebec, Canada. They rescued the survivors, being no less than sixty-four
men, women, and children, and they delivered them to Newfoundland. On March 19, 1694 they were at the northern latitude of 27 degrees and 5 minutes on the Atlantic Ocean then they landed in Brazil. Crusoe got to his old habitation, the island, on the 10th
of April 1695. (All these details come from Part Two of his book.)
Upon his second departure from the island, Crusoe left the population in good
circumstances and let his old parrot Poll be free in the woods. (At this point one may insert a good argument for the historicity of Crusoe’s story. He made a passing remark in the middle of his Volume One – the well known popular part –
that if Poll was still alive in the island, she may have scared another man to death by her English words in the wilderness. This remark seems very inconsistent with the ending of his adventures, for he claimed that Poll had sailed to England with him. However,
this controversy did not mean a lie. Rather, it is evidence for the truthfulness of his narrative. It reveals that at the time of writing his Part One – after his return trip to Cocos Island in 1694 – he already knew that Poll was living free in
the woods again.)
As for their return voyage, first they set sail for the mainland. A strong current carried them to the east-northeast, and they
got into a bay on the third day, when it seemed to be a thousand canoes towards them. Soon Friday was shot with no less than three arrows, and killed.
The same evening they set sail for Brazil. They stayed there for a long period, and after crossed over the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope. They landed on Madagascar where three hundred natives pursued nine of their men. Only five of the nine men had
fusees (i.e., muskets) with them; the rest had pistols and swords. The attack was caused by one of their seamen, who carried off a young native girl among the trees. When they found this fellow hanging, and his throat cut, their men plundered
the houses of the town, and set them on fire, killing thirty-two persons as well. After their departure, the crew was fed up with Crusoe’s frequent preaching to them, for he opposed their massacre there. They informed his nephew that if he would not
quit the ship, they would all leave. Therefore, Crusoe was marooned, and settled at the Bay of Bengal for a long time.
Finally, he bought a ship
that later turned out to be stolen. Therefore, they resolved to go away to the river of Cambodia, and Cochin China or the bay of Tonquin, until they came to the latitude of 22 degrees 30 minutes, and anchored at the island of Formosa (Taiwan). Then they arrived
to the coast of China. They visited Nanking near the river of Kilam [Kiam, the Yantze Kiang on other maps], and sailed southward to a small port called Quinchang. [I found this small port on old maps, near the latitude of 29 degrees and 30 minutes north.]
An old Portuguese pilot suggested them to go to Ningpo by the mouth of a river. This Ningpo was a canal that passed through the heart of China, crossed all the rivers and some hills, and went up to Peking, being near 270 leagues long. [Defoe had no such accurate
info at hand in 1719.] So they did, then it was the beginning of February, in the Old Style calendar, when they set out from Beijing or Peking. His caravan crossed the Great Wall of China during the travels of Robinsons Crusoe and the Dutch ambassador
According to Crusoe, one of his companions was a French Jesuit priest named Pere Simon. [Defoe could not have found any
information about such Pere Simon who was a historical person: Simon A. Cunha S.J., named Li Yu-Chan by the Chinese. We insert two proofs regarding Pere Simon's existence. He was a writer as well. The title of his works is "Les Oeuvres du Pere Simon",
6 vol., published in 1696.
They travelled through the following places: Beijing, Changu*, Naum (or Naun, a fortified city), Argun(a) on the Russian
border (April 13, 1703), Nertzinskoi, Plotbus, a lake called Schaks Oser, Jarawena, the river Udda, Jeniseysk, and Tobolsk. Robinson stayed there from September 1703 to the beginning of June 1704. They arrived to Europe around the source of the river Wirtska,
south of the river Petrou, to a village called Kermazinskoy near Soloi Kamskoi [now Solikamsk]. They passed a little river, called Kirtza, near Ozomoys (or Gzomoys), came to Veuslima on the river Wirtzogda, running into the Dwina, then they stayed in Lawrenskoy
from the third to the seventh of July, 1704. Finally, Crusoe arrived to Archangel[sk] on August 18, to Hamburg on September 18, then to Hague. He arrived to London on the 10th of January 1705, having been gone from England ten years and nine months.
The asterisk above at Changu refers to a village spelled as Canhu on later maps, on a small river, just a few hours march to the south of Tsitsikar (Naum).
But Ides has not mentioned this village and, therefore, Defoe had no idea about the existence of such place.
After his second return
to England, Crusoe got news about the death of the villain named Will Atkins. Apparently he was killed on the island’s Carib district, perhaps on the account of his beautiful native wife. In order to understand the circumstances of his burial, we must
cite some details from Part Two of Crusoe’s book as follow:
On the day of Crusoe’s first departure from the island in 1686, two other
rebels had also left the ship that brought the number of the Englishmen to five. As for the first three barbarians (as the Spaniards called them) that were left behind, the Spaniards thought themselves much better amongst the savages. (When Crusoe sent the
Spaniard with Friday’s father for the others on the mainland, Crusoe had no hope for his own rescue by an English ship coming on shore.) He learned that the Spaniards were absent for three weeks. When they first came on shore, they persuaded the three
English brutes to take their two countrymen back again, so that, as they said, they might be all one family. These two poor fellows had pitched their tents on the north shore of the island, but a little more to the west, for sometimes the savages used to land
on the east part of the island. There they built two huts.
One day the three villains went to the other two, in order to insult and bully them,
telling that the island was theirs; that the governor (meaning Crusoe) had given them the possession of it. As landlords, they demanded rent from their own countrymen. Being unsuccessful, cursing and raging, one of the villains threw a firebrand at their huts.
The two honest Englishmen trod the fire out with their feet. They had firearms with them too, and boldly ordered the rogues to lay down their arms.
The three rogues left furiously, but they resolved to stay up till midnight, in order to take the poor men when they were asleep. In the meantime, the other two men had also a design upon them, and gone abroad, before the bloody-minded rogues came to their
huts. They knew about the previous meeting between the three brutes and the Spaniards, and suspected that some of the Spaniards had joined their enemies. However, the three villains were weary, so they fell asleep at Crusoe’s bower. When they came to
the huts of the two honest Englishmen, Atkins called out to his comrade, “Ha, Jack, here’s the nest, but damn them, the birds are flown.”
Long time ago an old inscription was found on Cocos Island. It is carved into a palm tree, in English. “The Bird is Gone,” goes the text. This carved sentence was probably written by one of the English companions of Will Atkins, not without
some irony and relief, this time referring to the famous saying of Atkins himself, “The Bird is gone!” He became a Bird that “was gone.” The inscription can be seen in the Museo Nacional (National Museum) of San Jose,
Costa Rica. Its photograph was taken from the beautiful book of Mr. Weston (1992), and reproduced by his courtesy, see our Figure 8. It is unlikely that late visitors of Cocos Island would waste lots of time and energy on a hot island by carving
a meaningless English text into the trunk of a tree. Also, it would not make any sense on an island that belonged to a country where the official language was Spanish, not English. In our opinion, this is one of the best proofs for the existence of Crusoe’s
island. And if the island was real, then the hero must have been a real person that was narrating us a true story. From the archaeological point of view, this piece of wood could be tested for its age through a radiocarbon test. (When the cave of Crusoe would
be found, the buried skeleton of the old goat could be used similarly.)
In general, our evidence is threefold as follow: identification of the places,
the events, and the persons involved.
The “Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe” contrasts sharply with the first and second
parts. It is full of philosophy and moralizing. One can conclude that its author was likely Defoe, after having several discourses with Crusoe. Its lengthy poems (one of them covers five pages), the long proverbs in Latin, quotations from Milton, Virgil and
others do not fit Robinson Crusoe’s simple and practical style at all. It has an intriguing addition, mentioning the Jews of the Far East. The subject was not the speciality of Defoe, but Robinson may have heard some news or tradition about it, “Assyrians,
and the banished transplanted Israelites, who are said to be carried into the regions of Parthia and the borders of Karakathie (i.e., Kara-Cathay), from whence they are also said to have communicated arts, and especially handicraft, in which the Israelites
excelled” (Serious Reflections, 1903: 128). He mentioned this Great Karakathay in the second part as well, near Tsitsihar in Manchuria. A world map of the 8th century, in the library of Albi, shows the name “Judia” to the
east of Armenia and the Caspian Sea. The map of Henricus Martellus Germanus (1489) calls it “Judei clausi” (Landström, 1964: inside cover). The world map of Johannes Ruysch, from Ptolemy’s 1508 “Geography”
shows “Iudei inclusi” to the East-Northeast of the old Mongolian capital Karakoram. A globe constructed in 1515 by Johann Schöner marks this northeastern corner of Asia as “Iudei clausi.” When the Romans sacked
Jerusalem in A.D. 70, many Jews emigrated and, according to Hebrew and Chinese inscriptions at Kaifeng, the first Jews came to China during the Han Dynasty (Landström, 1964: 48). On a modern map of Russia, near Khabarovsk we can find a “Yevreysk.
A.O.” (It stands for “Jewish Autonomous Region.”) This could be linked with the “Lost Tribes of Israel.”
From a geographer’s
point of view, Robinson must have been a real traveller in Asia. What is the argument? You may ask. Well, his itinerary shows us that he has been one of the greatest English discoverers and adventurers. First of all, in “The Further [or Farther]
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” an old Portuguese pilot advised him to go to Ningpo, where, by the river that runs into the sea there, he could go up within five leagues of a great canal. “This canal is a navigable river, which goes thorow
the heart of that vast empire of China, crosses all the rivers, passes some considerable hills by the help of sluices and gates, and goes up to the city of Pekin, being in length near two hundred and seventy leagues.” (The length of that imperial canal
is extremely accurate, yet no European map in 1719 would have shown it.) He added that the Chinese “know nothing of the motion of the heavenly bodies; and so grossly, absurdly ignorant, that when the sun is eclipsed, they think ‘tis a great dragon
has assaulted and run away with it; and they fall-a-clattering with all the drums and kettles in the country, to fright the monster away just as we do to hive a swarm of bees.” It is more probable that Crusoe heard these things in China than to suppose
that Defoe had read all the works of Confucius. (The earliest Chinese eclipse traditions refer to making noise by drums and the dragon as the culprit.)
baseless suggestion that Defoe pirated the travel descriptions of Ides, poses a question: Why didn’t he use anything from Dionysius Kao’s book of China that was bound with Ides’ history? The explanation is that Defoe had not read them at
all. Besides, Robinson’s details, like the Ningpo canal, the name “Great Karakathay,” and the solar eclipses caused by dragons, are all missing in both Kao and Ides.
Crusoe travelled from Nanking, south back to Quinchang; the latter name that he admits differs from that given it by others (Secord, 1924: 63) indicates that it was not borrowed. Secord adds that Crusoe sailed up to Nanking from Macao, but later … to
the place that he inaccurately called Quinchang. Whether or not Defoe had a real harbour in mind we do not know; it is not improbable, however, that he was referring to Le Comte’s “Nimpo,” or Ningpo, by which he arrived to Peking. Often we
cannot agree with Secord’s opinion. We cannot place Robinson’s route at neither Macao nor the River Amur, both are misquoted in Secord (1924: 64 and 68). However, Quinchang was a real town on some antique maps.
Robinson crossed the famous Great Wall of China then he arrived at Argunsk on the river Argun on April 13. (He travelled about 60 days from Peking to Argun: It was the beginning of February,
when they set out from Peking or Beijing.) Here again, Robinson’s borrowing from Ides is unlikely, for the latter author regularly wrote this town’s name as Argum, and he made his trip in 36 days, between February 19 and March 27 (Ides, 1706: 81-86).
For the illustrations of Robinson Crusoe’s travels in China and through Nerzinskoi or Nerzinskoy (Russia) refer to our Figures 6-7.
As it was mentioned above, I superimposed Robinson Crusoe’s route on a modern Russian map of the “Atlas Mira” (Figure 9). Secord (1924: 71) equates the town of Naun with the River Sadun that would be a mistake. Robinson
mentions the town of Naum or Naun (to the northeast of Beijing) that was called Naunkoton in 1788, as shown on a map of Probst of 1788. It is still shown as Naun Koten in 1857, at Tsitsihar or Xixigar, on the map of “Asien” of H. Lange
and R. Schmidt.
Robinson visited twice a small town named Changu (now Chingsing) and took a ferry that was two and a half days’ journey before
reaching Naun. Chingsing is 75 kilometres from Tsitsihar (Xixigar), but this town and the crossing is not mentioned by Ides, so it must have been an original field note of Robinson Crusoe. Naum is a spelling used by Robinson, but Ides usually used Naun or
Nauna for the river, and Narunkoton or Naunkoton for the town near Tsitsihar. Crusoe travelled from Argunsk to Nerchinsk, and then continued to Udinsk, Yeniseisk, and Tobolsk.
The main difficulty of our modern experts is that Defoe had no means of finding these small places on European maps. Such sources simply did not exist yet, except the good map of Ides (1706) that we discuss later. Even the Russian maps of Siberia (by Remezov
and Godunov in 1667 and 1701, or the one of Poyarkov) were less detailed than Robinson Crusoe’s field notes, and they were written in Cyrillic letters of bad quality. The best western atlas for Crusoe or Defoe was that of Blaeu (1662). His “excellent”
maps of Asia place Tashkent to 52° N (correctly 41° N), at 65° east of Archangelsk (correctly 27°). His Ob flows through Tashkent, and the source of his Ganges is near this city (?), at 48° N. He shows a Kara cora at c.
70° north (mixing it up with the modern Kokuora at the East Siberian Sea), near Tartary, Mongul, and Ung=Gog. His Asia map shows the origin of the Hoang Ho (!) north of Lake Annibi, the modern Anabar
in northern Siberia. The Yarchan and Cotan of Blaeu (1662) correspond to the modern Yarkand and Hotan in Turkestan.
It may be true that Ides’ account described a similar route between Argunsk and Tobolsk. However, many names in Robinson’s account seem more original and more Russian: his “Jerawena” (spelled this way twice), instead of “Jarauna”
in Ides, is closer to the present Russian name of the Yeravnoye Lakes. It refers to “Os. [“Ozero” that is ‘Lake’ in Russian] Jerawinskoje” in Andrees Allgemeine Handatlas (1907: 156). The latter form corresponds
to the spelling of Robinson’s word better than that of Ides. Crusoe passed through Plotbus and Jerawena. The first one seems to be a misprint, a typo – like many of the other names – as Plothus, in some modern editions of The Further
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Our copy of Ides shows Platbischa that is misspelled in Secord (1924). Yet, Secord may have copied the name Jerawena correctly from the book’s original edition. Ides went from west to east by Jarauna and Lake Schackze-Oze,
according to Secord, Schackze-Ozer in our copy), and through Platbischa to Nerzinskoy (Nerchinsk).
Defoe seems to have been too busy to correct
his proof-sheets, observed Lannert. Therefore, it is strange to suppose that Defoe – still sitting on a volcano, as critics say – would have taken his time to reverse Ides’ itinerary, when he could have copied directly the return route from
Peking to Moscow, which he did not. Defoe as a potential author would have copied the key place-names from the route of Ides. Then, he could have inserted some more details, names of smaller towns and creeks, from the first part of Ides’ book. However,
this was not the case.
The truth is that Crusoe has a long list of geographic names that were independent from the names of Ides.
Only a few of them (for example, Tobolsk and River Udda) have identical spellings in the two accounts. Crusoe’s orthography is different – frequently better – than that of Ides, whose spellings are in parentheses: Naun or Naum (Narunkoton
or Naunkoton), River Jamour or Gammour (Amur), Arguna (Argunskoy), River Arguna (Argun, but also Argum in Ides, 1706: pp. 85, 86, 88, 95 and 103), Nertzinskay or Nertchinsk (Nerzinskoy), Jerawena (Jarauna), Janezay (Jenizeskoy), etc. We suppose that Professor
Secord (1924) used the original edition of The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe that was unavailable to us.
The modern name Šakšinskoye
Ozero in the western neighbourhood of Chita is closer to Crusoe’s “Schaks-Ozer” than the “Schackze-Oze,” which was the spelling in Ides. It is unlikely that Robinson Crusoe would have stolen the name of the town of Siheilka to
the south, for it is not mentioned by Ides at all. Secord wrote that it is only shown as a River Shilka on Ides’ map, as well as on other maps (Secord, 1924: 71-72). Despite his argument, River Schilka does show up in our text of Ides. (Shilka or Šilka
still exists as a modern town.)
Crusoe must have been the original author of the description of Lake Baikal’s eastern neighbourhood. He wrote
about a great lake called Schaks Oser, from which it took two or three days to reach the River Udda, a very great river, but when they came to it they found it narrow and fordable. From this crossing, Jerawena was still two days’ march. Also, the town
of Siheilka or Shilka was behind them, at about a distance of at least four or five days’ travel. (In reality, it is a distance of 270 kilometres.) These correct details could not have originated from Ides, who did not know about such town. The map of
Ides (1706) contradicts Robinson’s description, for there is no River Udda (“Uda”) to be crossed from Schakse Ozer (distorted to “Zaxoiozar” on Ides’ map) toward Jarauna. It is needless to say, Ides is wrong and
Robinson Crusoe is right, as the Russian “Atlas Mira” (1959: 38) shows. The Schakse Ozer is Lake “Oz. Šakšinskoy” there.
Due to the large number of problems in Secord’s excellent study, one may hope that once scholars would re-examine the originals of our two sources. The same criticism applies to the book of Ides. He needed 34 days for his travels from Udinskoy to Nerzinskoy,
but on his way back he was able to make this 620 kilometres long difficult trip in three days, between the 5th and the 8th of August (Ides, 1706: 39-42 and 88). Another miracle was that he needed only 21 days for the 1700 kilometres from Nerzinskoy to Jenizetskoy
(Jeniseisk). Normally, both Ides and Robinson travelled between 7 and 35 kilometres daily. (All distances came from our Russian map in the Atlas Mira by scaling, as the crow flies. In reality, they travelled more.) Finally, a question arises: How
could a somewhat ignorant person have created an accurate account based on Ides’ quite unreliable field notes? It is easier to criticize Ides, the ambassador of a Tsar, whose map in 1706 depicts Korea as an island, just like the map of Blaeu (1662).
The reader may also observe that Vitus Bering’s map of eastern Russia, dated to 1729, contains much less information for our area than the description provided by Robinson Crusoe and Ides. A more recent map by Probst (1788) compares well with Crusoe’s
description of the region: showing Ningpo, Peking, Naunkoton, Argun, Nerschinski, Blodbische, Udinskoi and Tobolsk.
Caravans in that decade probably
had the same routine, and followed similar routes between Moscow and Peking (Beijing). Therefore, the field notes of two persons may have been quite similar, without any borrowing. Two modern-day tourists following a regular guided sightseeing tour in any
city could end up with almost identical personal notes of it.
Crusoe continued towards Solikamsk then crossed an immense territory barren of features
on the maps of those days. He reached Europe at the River Kama and the source of the Wirtska, near Kermazinskoy and the River Kirtza, passed through Ozomoys or Gzomoys, Veuslima upon the Wirtzogda, Lawrenskoy, and arrived at Archangel. Though he had to avoid
Solikamsk, he explained that the name Soly Kamskoi referred to Soloy on the River Kama in Russian; therefore, he had not copied this detail from Ides. His Soloy Kamskoi has an analogous form in Ides (1706: 91): the name of Pustozersk is written as “Postoi
Oser.” It is admitted that the sources for this last leg of the journey of Robinson are unknown (Secord, 1924: 74).
The first town may have
been Chermez (Tzhermosk) to the southwest of Solikamsk (or Cherdyn to the NNW, or maybe “Cheremisse”on Blaeu’s Europa), and his River Petrou may be the modern Pechora. Veuslima is perhaps the River Veslyana (Wesslena) or
the town Weselenskaja (Wessljansk on the Vym River) at 63 degrees North and 51 degrees East. Also, it Wirtzogda in Crusoe’s memoirs means Vytchegda River, then his Wirtska could have been the Visera River or the Visherka, that is 360 kilometres distant
from Veslana (Wessljansk). Lawrenskoy may be Jarensk, so we can share Secord’s opinion here. In short, Robinson’s group seems to have followed the rivers Tavda, Kama, Vychegda, and Pinega.
As for the historicity of our hero, the gentle readers have two choices. They can follow the majority of the critics of the previous centuries, and accept that comfortable interpretation. However, even according to those old opinions, Defoe was always writing
in haste, he wrote too fast to study correctness, and his style was often negligent (Rogers, 1972: 103). He was “a great stealer of other men’s stories” (Lloyd, 1966: 158). “He had a finger in every man’s pie,” according
to another modern critic. It also became the fashion to abuse Defoe as a spy; Professor Minto and Leslie Stephen credited Defoe with the most amazing talent on record for telling lies (Secord, 1924: 9). These opinions may induce any person – ignorant
of the map of Ides – to write a little poem about him. A short poem can often express a better conclusion than a scientific synopsis. Being in the field of literary criticism, perhaps you forgive me for its simple and lame style:
Defoe had a finger in every man’s pie,
He was a stealer that no one can deny,
Spoke real Carib language with his
true man Fri’
Secret Cyrillic maps he quickly applied,
Knew China, read Russian, pray answer me why?
Further accusation could not hurt the guy:
Perhaps we should add that he was Russian spy!
Daniel Defoe’s tombstone had been struck by lightning,
Chadwick was told. However, the autobiography of “Robinson Crusoe, in spite of all the efforts of envy and malevolence, has taken an honourable station in our literature” (Walter Wilson, 1781-1847). The author, Robinson Crusoe, a great adventurer
and explorer, was the typical Englishman of his time, and the most popular one that ever lived. As its famous illustrator, N.C. Wyeth, put it, “No modern book can boast of such worldwide esteem.” Even now, after three centuries, “the story
still stands secure enduring – a monumental human document.”
Our old hero is still climbing, with excessive labour. His parrot
is still sitting on his shoulder, and his faithful dog is behind him. He is crossing over the Information Superhighway, where we are speeding and running in circles, seeing neither the past nor the future. He sadly looks down at the smog. Yet he smiles back
at the innocent young generation that is thirsty for the truth. You can follow him with confidence.
The author would like to express his thanks to the following persons for their kind assistance, especially to
Jacqueline Wood, Shelley Tate, and Carolyn Hutchinson contributing editors, each of whom read much of the manuscript, whose observations did much to soften some of its asperities; to Miss Anne M. Oakley, Archivist of (City and) Catedral Archives and Library,
Canterbury, U.K., to The Reverend Hugh Oliver Albin, St. Dunstan's Vicarage, Canterbury, U.K., to Jorge Fallas Leal, Presidente de PRIME S.A., for his research to find materials about Cocos Island, and his generous donation of a beautiful book written
by Christopher Weston; to Licda. Rose Mary Fallas Leal, Directora Planification y Desarollo, and Gerardo Medina Madriz, Presidente Ejecutivo, both at the Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico, Costa Rica; to Mick Wood, Library Services
Manager, National Meteorological Library & Archive - Meteorological Office, Bracknell, U.K., to Roberto Trejos Escalante, Secretary General of Instituto Centroamericano de Extensión de la Cultura, San José, Costa Rica; to
Ms. Trish McGeer, ESL teacher, Vancouver, who first utilized this complex subject in teaching the English language for immigrants; to Mr. William Graves, then Senior Assistant Editor of The National Geographic Society, Washington, to The
Hon. Luis Alberto Monge, President of the Republic of Costa Rica (for his letter of May 21, 1982), to The Hon. José María Figueres Olsen, President of the Republic of Costa Rica (then President-Elect), to Luis Manuel Chacón Jiménez,
Ministro de Turismo, Costa Rica, to Costa Rica Expeditions, San José, Costa Rica; to Isnaia Veiga Santana, reference librarian of the Biblioteca Central, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, Brazil; to Lia Temporal Malcher, Presidente
da Associação dos Arquivistas Brasileiros, and Presidente do Fórum dos Arquivistas Lusófonos, Rio de Janeiro, to Fátima Gonçalves, Gerente de Bibliotecas, Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Inglesa,
Rio de Janeiro, to Professor Guilherme de Andréa Frota, Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro, to Miss J.M. Wraight, Maritime Information Centre, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London, U.K.,
to Charles Lewis, Curator, Great Yarmouth Museums, U.K., to William Glover, Director of The Granger Collection, New York; to the family of the popular author András Dékány (1903-1967), because our book could not have
been born without his version of the Last adventure of Robinson Crusoe [i.e., his map reconstruction of Crusoe’s island resembled the map of Cocos Island and triggered the present author’s curiosity and the whole
research]; finally to Mr. John Dieu, photographer (North Vancouver), Miss. Rita Simon, (Vancouver), for their advices and recommendations.
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