thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Magellan Strait to Juan Fernandez Islands

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at:

Slocum breaks free of the Magellan Strait on 13Apr1896 after two months battling against storms and savages. He heads north-west and then more northerly in the direction of the Juan Fernandez Islands, the largest of which was home to castaway Alexander Selkirk for four years (1704-1708). It was Selkirk who inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe and the island is also known as Robinson Crusoe Island.

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As the days pass, the winds and seas moderate, different birds fly around the Spray, and different fish are in the sea. The latter includes sharks which Slocum, after the reticence exhibited in the lonely Strait of Magellan, feels no compunction about killing. He writes:

On the tenth day from Cape Pillar a shark came along, the first of its kind on this part of the voyage to get into trouble. I harpooned him and took out his ugly jaws. I had not till then felt inclined to take the life of any animal, but when John Shark hove in sight my sympathy flew to the winds. It is a fact that in Magellan I let pass many ducks that would have made a good stew, for I had no mind in the lonesome strait to take the life of any living thing.

Slocum’s navigation is accurate and, combined with the Spray‘s legendary ability to hold a compass course and sail in a straight line, it is not surprising that Robinson Crusoe Island is sighted “right ahead” on 26Apr1896. Nevertheless, Slocum feels quite emotional about this achievement and bows his head to the deck as: “I could find no other way of expressing myself.” Perhaps he is looking forward to human contact again or maybe it’s simply the thrill of reaching another milestone in the voyage.

The Spray arrives off the island as night is approaching. Slocum spends the night in calm winds listening to the waves breaking on the shore and to the cries of the animals in the hills. At daylight a rowing boat comes out to meet him and the crew, after feasting on coffee and tallow-fried doughnuts, tow him into the harbour by the settlement.

This section of Joshua Slocum’s journey concludes Chapter X of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:

My text of Slocum’s voyage is an unabridged reproduction of the original edition. It contains an error either of printing or of arithmetic. He writes of the approach to Juan Fernandez: “From Cape Pillar I steered for Juan Fernandez, and on the 26th of April, fifteen days out, made that historic island right ahead.”

Oops! 26 minus 13 is 13 days out from Port Angosto and Cape Pillar, not 15. Wikipedant? moi?!

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

You might also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at:


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