Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)  
WHEN I waked it was broad day, the weather clear,
and the storm abated, so that the sea did not rage and swell
as before. But that which surprised me most was, that the
ship was lifted off in the night from the sand where she lay
by the swelling of the tide, and was driven up almost as far
as the rock which I at first mentioned, where I had been
so bruised by the wave dashing me against it. This being
within about a mile from the shore where I was, and the
ship seeming to stand upright still, I wished myself on
board, that at least I might save some necessary things for
my use.
When I came down from my apartment in the tree, I
looked about me again, and the first thing I found was the
boat, which lay, as the wind and the sea had tossed her up,
upon the land, about two miles on my right hand. I
walked as far as I could upon the shore to have got to her;
but found a neck or inlet of water between me and the
boat which was about half a mile broad; so I came back
for the present, being more intent upon getting at the
ship, where I hoped to find something for my present
A little after noon I found the sea very calm, and the
tide ebbed so far out that I could come within a quarter of
a mile of the ship. And here I found a fresh renewing of
my grief; for I saw evidently that if we had kept on board
we had been all safe - that is to say, we had all got safe on
shore, and I had not been so miserable as to be left entirety
destitute of all comfort and company as I now was. This
forced tears to my eyes again; but as there was little relief
in that, I resolved, if possible, to get to the ship; so I pulled
off my clothes - for the weather was hot to extremity -
and took the water. But when I came to the ship my
difficulty was still greater to know how to get on board;
for, as she lay aground, and high out of the water, there
was nothing within my reach to lay hold of. I swam round
her twice, and the second time I spied a small piece of
rope, which I wondered I did not see at first, hung down
by the fore-chains so low, as that with great difficulty I got
hold of it, and by the help of that rope I got up into the
forecastle of the ship. Here I found that the ship was
bulged, and had a great deal of water in her hold, but that
she lay so on the side of a bank of hard sand, or, rather
earth, that her stern lay lifted up upon the bank, and her
head low, almost to the water. By this means all her
quarter was free, and all that was in that part was dry; for
you may be sure my first work was to search, and to see
what was spoiled and what was free. And, first, I found
that all the ship’s provisions were dry and untouched by
the water, and being very well disposed to eat, I went to
the bread room and filled my pockets with biscuit, and ate
it as I went about other things, for I had no time to lose. I
also found some rum in the great cabin, of which I took a
large dram, and which I had, indeed, need enough of to
spirit me for what was before me. Now I wanted nothing
but a boat to furnish myself with many things which I
foresaw would be very necessary to me.
It was in vain to sit still and wish for what was not to
be had; and this extremity roused my application. We had
several spare yards, and two or three large spars of wood,
and a spare topmast or two in the ship; I resolved to fall to
work with these, and I flung as many of them overboard
as I could manage for their weight, tying every one with a
rope, that they might not drive away. When this was done
I went down the ship’s side, and pulling them to me, I
tied four of them together at both ends as well as I could,
in the form of a raft, and laying two or three short pieces
of plank upon them crossways, I found I could walk upon
it very well, but that it was not able to bear any great
weight, the pieces being too light. So I went to work, and
with a carpenter’s saw I cut a spare topmast into three
lengths, and added them to my raft, with a great deal of
labour and pains. But the hope of furnishing myself with
necessaries encouraged me to go beyond what I should
have been able to have done upon another occasion.
My raft was now strong enough to bear any reasonable
weight. My next care was what to load it with, and how
to preserve what I laid upon it from the surf of the sea; but
I was not long considering this. I first laid all the planks or
boards upon it that I could get, and having considered
well what I most wanted, I got three of the seamen’s
chests, which I had broken open, and emptied, and
lowered them down upon my raft; the first of these I filled
with provisions - viz. bread, rice, three Dutch cheeses, five
pieces of dried goat’s flesh (which we lived much upon),
and a little remainder of European corn, which had been
laid by for some fowls which we brought to sea with us,
but the fowls were killed. There had been some barley and
wheat together; but, to my great disappointment, I found
afterwards that the rats had eaten or spoiled it all. As for
liquors, I found several, cases of bottles belonging to our
skipper, in which were some cordial waters; and, in all,
about five or six gallons of rack. These I stowed by
themselves, there being no need to put them into the
chest, nor any room for them. While I was doing this, I
found the tide begin to flow, though very calm; and I had
the mortification to see my coat, shirt, and waistcoat,
which I had left on the shore, upon the sand, swim away.
As for my breeches, which were only linen, and openkneed,
I swam on board in them and my stockings.
However, this set me on rummaging for clothes, of which
I found enough, but took no more than I wanted for
present use, for I had others things which my eye was
more upon - as, first, tools to work with on shore. And it
was after long searching that I found out the carpenter’s
chest, which was, indeed, a very useful prize to me, and
much more valuable than a shipload of gold would have
been at that time. I got it down to my raft, whole as it
was, without losing time to look into it, for I knew in
general what it contained.
My next care was for some ammunition and arms.
There were two very good fowling-pieces in the great
cabin, and two pistols. These I secured first, with some
powder-horns and a small bag of shot, and two old rusty
swords. I knew there were three barrels of powder in the
ship, but knew not where our gunner had stowed them;
but with much search I found them, two of them dry and
good, the third had taken water. Those two I got to my
raft with the arms. And now I thought myself pretty well
freighted, and began to think how I should get to shore
with them, having neither sail, oar, nor rudder; and the
least capful of wind would have overset all my navigation.
I had three encouragements - 1st, a smooth, calm sea;
2ndly, the tide rising, and setting in to the shore; 3rdly,
what little wind there was blew me towards the land. And
thus, having found two or three broken oars belonging to
the boat - and, besides the tools which were in the chest, I
found two saws, an axe, and a hammer; with this cargo I
put to sea. For a mile or thereabouts my raft went very
well, only that I found it drive a little distant from the
place where I had landed before; by which I perceived
that there was some indraft of the water, and consequently
I hoped to find some creek or river there, which I might
make use of as a port to get to land with my cargo.
As I imagined, so it was. There appeared before me a
little opening of the land, and I found a strong current of
the tide set into it; so I guided my raft as well as I could,
to keep in the middle of the stream.
But here I had like to have suffered a second
shipwreck, which, if I had, I think verily would have
broken my heart; for, knowing nothing of the coast, my
raft ran aground at one end of it upon a shoal, and not
being aground at the other end, it wanted but a little that
all my cargo had slipped off towards the end that was
afloat, and to fallen into the water. I did my utmost, by
setting my back against the chests, to keep them in their
places, but could not thrust off the raft with all my
strength; neither durst I stir from the posture I was in; but
holding up the chests with all my might, I stood in that
manner near half-an-hour, in which time the rising of the
water brought me a little more upon a level; and a little
after, the water still-rising, my raft floated again, and I
thrust her off with the oar I had into the channel, and then
driving up higher, I at length found myself in the mouth
of a little river, with land on both sides, and a strong
current of tide running up. I looked on both sides for a
proper place to get to shore, for I was not willing to be
driven too high up the river: hoping in time to see some
ships at sea, and therefore resolved to place myself as near
the coast as I could.
At length I spied a little cove on the right shore of the
creek, to which with great pain and difficulty I guided my
raft, and at last got so near that, reaching ground with my
oar, I could thrust her directly in. But here I had like to
have dipped all my cargo into the sea again; for that shore
lying pretty steep - that is to say sloping - there was no
place to land, but where one end of my float, if it ran on
shore, would lie so high, and the other sink lower, as
before, that it would endanger my cargo again. All that I
could do was to wait till the tide was at the highest,
keeping the raft with my oar like an anchor, to hold the
side of it fast to the shore, near a flat piece of ground,
which I expected the water would flow over; and so it
did. As soon as I found water enough - for my raft drew
about a foot of water - I thrust her upon that flat piece of
ground, and there fastened or moored her, by sticking my
two broken oars into the ground, one on one side near
one end, and one on the other side near the other end;
and thus I lay till the water ebbed away, and left my raft
and all my cargo safe on shore.
My next work was to view the country, and seek a
proper place for my habitation, and where to stow my
goods to secure them from whatever might happen.
Where I was, I yet knew not; whether on the continent or
on an island; whether inhabited or not inhabited; whether
in danger of wild beasts or not. There was a hill not above
a mile from me, which rose up very steep and high, and
which seemed to overtop some other hills, which lay as in
a ridge from it northward. I took out one of the fowlingpieces,
and one of the pistols, and a horn of powder; and
thus armed, I travelled for discovery up to the top of that
hill, where, after I had with great labour and difficulty got
to the top, I saw any fate, to my great affliction - viz. that
I was in an island environed every way with the sea: no
land to be seen except some rocks, which lay a great way
off; and two small islands, less than this, which lay about
three leagues to the west.
I found also that the island I was in was barren, and, as I
saw good reason to believe, uninhabited except by wild
beasts, of whom, however, I saw none. Yet I saw
abundance of fowls, but knew not their kinds; neither
when I killed them could I tell what was fit for food, and
what not. At my coming back, I shot at a great bird which
I saw sitting upon a tree on the side of a great wood. I
believe it was the first gun that had been fired there since
the creation of the world. I had no sooner fired, than from
all parts of the wood there arose an innumerable number
of fowls, of many sorts, making a confused screaming and
crying, and every one according to his usual note, but not
one of them of any kind that I knew. As for the creature I
killed, I took it to be a kind of hawk, its colour and beak
resembling it, but it had no talons or claws more than
common. Its flesh was carrion, and fit for nothing.
Contented with this discovery, I came back to my raft,
and fell to work to bring my cargo on shore, which took
me up the rest of that day. What to do with myself at
night I knew not, nor indeed where to rest, for I was
afraid to lie down on the ground, not knowing but some
wild beast might devour me, though, as I afterwards
found, there was really no need for those fears.
However, as well as I could, I barricaded myself round
with the chest and boards that I had brought on shore, and
made a kind of hut for that night’s lodging. As for food, I
yet saw not which way to supply myself, except that I had
seen two or three creatures like hares run out of the wood
where I shot the fowl.
I now began to consider that I might yet get a great
many things out of the ship which would be useful to me,
and particularly some of the rigging and sails, and such
other things as might come to land; and I resolved to
make another voyage on board the vessel, if possible. And
as I knew that the first storm that blew must necessarily
break her all in pieces, I resolved to set all other things
apart till I had got everything out of the ship that I could
get. Then I called a council - that is to say in my thoughts
- whether I should take back the raft; but this appeared
impracticable: so I resolved to go as before, when the tide
was down; and I did so, only that I stripped before I went
from my hut, having nothing on but my chequered shirt, a
pair of linen drawers, and a pair of pumps on my feet.
I got on board the ship as before, and prepared a
second raft; and, having had experience of the first, I
neither made this so unwieldy, nor loaded it so hard, but
yet I brought away several things very useful to me; as
first, in the carpenters stores I found two or three bags full
of nails and spikes, a great screw- jack, a dozen or two of
hatchets, and, above all, that most useful thing called a
grindstone. All these I secured, together with several
things belonging to the gunner, particularly two or three
iron crows, and two barrels of musket bullets, seven
muskets, another fowling-piece, with some small quantity
of powder more; a large bagful of small shot, and a great
roll of sheet-lead; but this last was so heavy, I could not
hoist it up to get it over the ship’s side.
Besides these things, I took all the men’s clothes that I
could find, and a spare fore-topsail, a hammock, and some
bedding; and with this I loaded my second raft, and
brought them all safe on shore, to my very great comfort.
I was under some apprehension, during my absence
from the land, that at least my provisions might be
devoured on shore: but when I came back I found no sign
of any visitor; only there sat a creature like a wild cat upon
one of the chests, which, when I came towards it, ran
away a little distance, and then stood still. She sat very
composed and unconcerned, and looked full in my face, as
if she had a mind to be acquainted with me. I presented
my gun at her, but, as she did not understand it, she was
perfectly unconcerned at it, nor did she offer to stir away;
upon which I tossed her a bit of biscuit, though by the
way, I was not very free of it, for my store was not great:
however, I spared her a bit, I say, and she went to it,
smelled at it, and ate it, and looked (as if pleased) for more;
but I thanked her, and could spare no more: so she
marched off.
Having got my second cargo on shore - though I was
fain to open the barrels of powder, and bring them by
parcels, for they were too heavy, being large casks - I went
to work to make me a little tent with the sail and some
poles which I cut for that purpose: and into this tent I
brought everything that I knew would spoil either with
rain or sun; and I piled all the empty chests and casks up in
a circle round the tent, to fortify it from any sudden
attempt, either from man or beast.
When I had done this, I blocked up the door of the
tent with some boards within, and an empty chest set up
on end without; and spreading one of the beds upon the
ground, laying my two pistols just at my head, and my gun
at length by me, I went to bed for the first time, and slept
very quietly all night, for I was very weary and heavy; for
the night before I had slept little, and had laboured very
hard all day to fetch all those things from the ship, and to
get them on shore.
I had the biggest magazine of all kinds now that ever
was laid up, I believe, for one man: but I was not satisfied
still, for while the ship sat upright in that posture, I
thought I ought to get everything out of her that I could;
so every day at low water I went on board, and brought
away something or other; but particularly the third time I
went I brought away as much of the rigging as I could, as
also all the small ropes and rope-twine I could get, with a
piece of spare canvas, which was to mend the sails upon
occasion, and the barrel of wet gunpowder. In a word, I
brought away all the sails, first and last; only that I was fain
to cut them in pieces, and bring as much at a time as I
could, for they were no more useful to be sails, but as
mere canvas only.
But that which comforted me more still, was, that last
of all, after I had made five or six such voyages as these,
and thought I had nothing more to expect from the ship
that was worth my meddling with - I say, after all this, I
found a great hogshead of bread, three large runlets of
rum, or spirits, a box of sugar, and a barrel of fine flour;
this was surprising to me, because I had given over
expecting any more provisions, except what was spoiled
by the water. I soon emptied the hogshead of the bread,
and wrapped it up, parcel by parcel, in pieces of the sails,
which I cut out; and, in a word, I got all this safe on shore
The next day I made another voyage, and now, having
plundered the ship of what was portable and fit to hand
out, I began with the cables. Cutting the great cable into
pieces, such as I could move, I got two cables and a
hawser on shore, with all the ironwork I could get; and
having cut down the spritsail-yard, and the mizzen- yard,
and everything I could, to make a large raft, I loaded it
with all these heavy goods, and came away. But my good
luck began now to leave me; for this raft was so unwieldy,
and so overladen, that, after I had entered the little cove
where I had landed the rest of my goods, not being able to
guide it so handily as I did the other, it overset, and threw
me and all my cargo into the water. As for myself, it was
no great harm, for I was near the shore; but as to my
cargo, it was a great part of it lost, especially the iron,
which I expected would have been of great use to me;
however, when the tide was out, I got most of the pieces
of the cable ashore, and some of the iron, though with
infinite labour; for I was fain to dip for it into the water, a
work which fatigued me very much. After this, I went
every day on board, and brought away what I could get.
I had been now thirteen days on shore, and had been
eleven times on board the ship, in which time I had
brought away all that one pair of hands could well be
supposed capable to bring; though I believe verily, had the
calm weather held, I should have brought away the whole
ship, piece by piece. But preparing the twelfth time to go
on board, I found the wind began to rise: however, at low
water I went on board, and though I thought I had
rummaged the cabin so effectually that nothing more
could be found, yet I discovered a locker with drawers in
it, in one of which I found two or three razors, and one
pair of large scissors, with some ten or a dozen of good
knives and forks: in another I found about thirty-six
pounds value in money - some European coin, some
Brazil, some pieces of eight, some gold, and some silver.
I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: ‘O drug!’
said I, aloud, ‘what art thou good for? Thou art not worth
to me - no, not the taking off the ground; one of those
knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for
thee - e’en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom
as a creature whose life is not worth saying.’ However,
upon second thoughts I took it away; and wrapping all this
in a piece of canvas, I began to think of making another
raft; but while I was preparing this, I found the sky
overcast, and the wind began to rise, and in a quarter of an
hour it blew a fresh gale from the shore. It presently
occurred to me that it was in vain to pretend to make a
raft with the wind offshore; and that it was my business to
be gone before the tide of flood began, otherwise I might
not be able to reach the shore at all. Accordingly, I let
myself down into the water, and swam across the channel,
which lay between the ship and the sands, and even that
with difficulty enough, partly with the weight of the
things I had about me, and partly the roughness of the
water; for the wind rose very hastily, and before it was
quite high water it blew a storm.
But I had got home to my little tent, where I lay, with
all my wealth about me, very secure. It blew very hard all
night, and in the morning, when I looked out, behold, no
more ship was to be seen! I was a little surprised, but
recovered myself with the satisfactory reflection that I had
lost no time, nor abated any diligence, to get everything
out of her that could be useful to me; and that, indeed,
there was little left in her that I was able to bring away, if I
had had more time.
I now gave over any more thoughts of the ship, or of
anything out of her, except what might drive on shore
from her wreck; as, indeed, divers pieces of her afterwards
did; but those things were of small use to me.
My thoughts were now wholly employed about
securing myself against either savages, if any should appear,
or wild beasts, if any were in the island; and I had many
thoughts of the method how to do this, and what kind of
dwelling to make - whether I should make me a cave in
the earth, or a tent upon the earth; and, in short, I
resolved upon both; the manner and description of which,
it may not be improper to give an account of.
I soon found the place I was in was not fit for my
settlement, because it was upon a low, moorish ground,
near the sea, and I believed it would not be wholesome,
and more particularly because there was no fresh water
near it; so I resolved to find a more healthy and more
convenient spot of ground.
I consulted several things in my situation, which I
found would he proper for me: 1st, health and fresh water,
I just now mentioned; 2ndly, shelter from the heat of the
sun; 3rdly, security from ravenous creatures, whether man
or beast; 4thly, a view to the sea, that if God sent any ship
in sight, I might not lose any advantage for my
deliverance, of which I was not willing to banish all my
expectation yet.
In search of a place proper for this, I found a little plain
on the side of a rising hill, whose front towards this little
plain was steep as a house-side, so that nothing could
come down upon me from the top. On the one side of
the rock there was a hollow place, worn a little way in,
like the entrance or door of a cave but there was not really
any cave or way into the rock at all.
On the flat of the green, just before this hollow place, I
resolved to pitch my tent. This plain was not above a
hundred yards broad, and about twice as long, and lay like
a green before my door; and, at the end of it, descended
irregularly every way down into the low ground by the
seaside. It was on the N.N.W. side of the hill; so that it
was sheltered from the heat every day, till it came to a W.
and by S. sun, or thereabouts, which, in those countries, is
near the setting.
Before I set up my tent I drew a half-circle before the
hollow place, which took in about ten yards in its semidiameter
from the rock, and twenty yards in its diameter
from its beginning and ending.
In this half-circle I pitched two rows of strong stakes,
driving them into the ground till they stood very firm like
piles, the biggest end being out of the ground above five
feet and a half, and sharpened on the top. The two rows
did not stand above six inches from one another.
Then I took the pieces of cable which I had cut in the
ship, and laid them in rows, one upon another, within the
circle, between these two rows of stakes, up to the top,
placing other stakes in the inside, leaning against them,
about two feet and a half high, like a spur to a post; and
this fence was so strong, that neither man nor beast could
get into it or over it. This cost me a great deal of time and
labour, especially to cut the piles in the woods, bring them
to the place, and drive them into the earth.
The entrance into this place I made to be, not by a
door, but by a short ladder to go over the top; which
ladder, when I was in, I lifted over after me; and so I was
completely fenced in and fortified, as I thought, from all
the world, and consequently slept secure in the night,
which otherwise I could not have done; though, as it
appeared afterwards, there was no need of all this caution
from the enemies that I apprehended danger from.
Into this fence or fortress, with infinite labour, I carried
all my riches, all my provisions, ammunition, and stores, of
which you have the account above; and I made a large
tent, which to preserve me from the rains that in one part
of the year are very violent there, I made double - one
smaller tent within, and one larger tent above it; and
covered the uppermost with a large tarpaulin, which I had
saved among the sails.
And now I lay no more for a while in the bed which I
had brought on shore, but in a hammock, which was
indeed a very good one, and belonged to the mate of the
Into this tent I brought all my provisions, and
everything that would spoil by the wet; and having thus
enclosed all my goods, I made up the entrance, which till
now I had left open, and so passed and repassed, as I said,
by a short ladder.
When I had done this, I began to work my way into
the rock, and bringing all the earth and stones that I dug
down out through my tent, I laid them up within my
fence, in the nature of a terrace, so that it raised the
ground within about a foot and a half; and thus I made me
a cave, just behind my tent, which served me like a cellar
to my house.
It cost me much labour and many days before all these
things were brought to perfection; and therefore I must go
back to some other things which took up some of my
thoughts. At the same time it happened, after I had laid
my scheme for the setting up my tent, and making the
cave, that a storm of rain falling from a thick, dark cloud, a
sudden flash of lightning happened, and after that a great
clap of thunder, as is naturally the effect of it. I was not so
much surprised with the lightning as I was with the
thought which darted into my mind as swift as the
lightning itself - Oh, my powder! My very heart sank
within me when I thought that, at one blast, all my
powder might be destroyed; on which, not my defence
only, but the providing my food, as I thought, entirely
depended. I was nothing near so anxious about my own
danger, though, had the powder took fire, I should never
have known who had hurt me.
Such impression did this make upon me, that after the
storm was over I laid aside all my works, my building and
fortifying, and applied myself to make bags and boxes, to
separate the powder, and to keep it a little and a little in a
parcel, in the hope that, whatever might come, it might
not all take fire at once; and to keep it so apart that it
should not be possible to make one part fire another. I
finished this work in about a fortnight; and I think my
powder, which in all was about two hundred and forty
pounds weight, was divided in not less than a hundred
parcels. As to the barrel that had been wet, I did not
apprehend any danger from that; so I placed it in my new
cave, which, in my fancy, I called my kitchen; and the rest
I hid up and down in holes among the rocks, so that no
wet might come to it, marking very carefully where I laid
In the interval of time while this was doing, I went out
once at least every day with my gun, as well to divert
myself as to see if I could kill anything fit for food; and, as
near as I could, to acquaint myself with what the island
produced. The first time I went out, I presently discovered
that there were goats in the island, which was a great
satisfaction to me; but then it was attended with this
misfortune to me - viz. that they were so shy, so subtle,
and so swift of foot, that it was the most difficult thing in
the world to come at them; but I was not discouraged at
this, not doubting but I might now and then shoot one, as
it soon happened; for after I had found their haunts a little,
I laid wait in this manner for them: I observed if they saw
me in the valleys, though they were upon the rocks, they
would run away, as in a terrible fright; but if they were
feeding in the valleys, and I was upon the rocks, they took
no notice of me; from whence I concluded that, by the
position of their optics, their sight was so directed
downward that they did not readily see objects that were
above them; so afterwards I took this method - I always
climbed the rocks first, to get above them, and then had
frequently a fair mark.
The first shot I made among these creatures, I killed a
she-goat, which had a little kid by her, which she gave
suck to, which grieved me heartily; for when the old one
fell, the kid stood stock still by her, till I came and took
her up; and not only so, but when I carried the old one
with me, upon my shoulders, the kid followed me quite to
my enclosure; upon which I laid down the dam, and took
the kid in my arms, and carried it over my pale, in hopes
to have bred it up tame; but it would not eat; so I was
forced to kill it and eat it myself. These two supplied me
with flesh a great while, for I ate sparingly, and saved my
provisions, my bread especially, as much as possibly I
Having now fixed my habitation, I found it absolutely
necessary to provide a place to make a fire in, and fuel to
burn: and what I did for that, and also how I enlarged my
cave, and what conveniences I made, I shall give a full
account of in its place; but I must now give some little
account of myself, and of my thoughts about living,
which, it may well be supposed, were not a few.
I had a dismal prospect of my condition; for as I was
not cast away upon that island without being driven, as is
said, by a violent storm, quite out of the course of our
intended voyage, and a great way, viz. some hundreds of
leagues, out of the ordinary course of the trade of
mankind, I had great reason to consider it as a
determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place, and
in this desolate manner, I should end my life. The tears
would run plentifully down my face when I made these
reflections; and sometimes I would expostulate with
myself why Providence should thus completely ruin His
creatures, and render them so absolutely miserable; so
without help, abandoned, so entirely depressed, that it
could hardly be rational to be thankful for such a life.
ammunition, without any tools to make anything, or to
work with, without clothes, bedding, a tent, or any
manner of covering?’ and that now I had all these to
sufficient quantity, and was in a fair way to provide myself
in such a manner as to live without my gun, when my
ammunition was spent: so that I had a tolerable view of
subsisting, without any want, as long as I lived; for I
considered from the beginning how I would provide for
the accidents that might happen, and for the time that was
to come, even not only after my ammunition should be
spent, but even after my health and strength should decay.
I confess I had not entertained any notion of my
ammunition being destroyed at one blast - I mean my
powder being blown up by lightning; and this made the
thoughts of it so surprising to me, when it lightened and
thundered, as I observed just now.
And now being about to enter into a melancholy
relation of a scene of silent life, such, perhaps, as was never
heard of in the world before, I shall take it from its
beginning, and continue it in its order. It was by my
account the 30th of September, when, in the manner as
above said, I first set foot upon this horrid island; when the
sun, being to us in its autumnal equinox, was almost over
my head; for I reckoned myself, by observation, to be in
the latitude of nine degrees twenty-two minutes north of
the line.
After I had been there about ten or twelve days, it
came into my thoughts that I should lose my reckoning of
time for want of books, and pen and ink, and should even
forget the Sabbath days; but to prevent this, I cut with my
knife upon a large post, in capital letters - and making it
into a great cross, I set it up on the shore where I first
landed - ‘I came on shore here on the 30th September
Upon the sides of this square post I cut every day a
notch with my knife, and every seventh notch was as long
again as the rest, and every first day of the month as long
again as that long one; and thus I kept my calendar, or
weekly, monthly, and yearly reckoning of time.
In the next place, we are to observe that among the
many things which I brought out of the ship, in the
several voyages which, as above mentioned, I made to it, I
got several things of less value, but not at all less useful to
me, which I omitted setting down before; as, in particular,
pens, ink, and paper, several parcels in the captain’s,
mate’s, gunner’s and carpenter’s keeping; three or four
compasses, some mathematical instruments, dials,
perspectives, charts, and books of navigation, all which I
huddled together, whether I might want them or no; also,
I found three very good Bibles, which came to me in my
cargo from England, and which I had packed up among
my things; some Portuguese books also; and among them
two or three Popish prayer-books, and several other
books, all which I carefully secured. And I must not forget
that we had in the ship a dog and two cats, of whose
eminent history I may have occasion to say something in
its place; for I carried both the cats with me; and as for the
dog, he jumped out of the ship of himself, and swam on
shore to me the day after I went on shore with my first
cargo, and was a trusty servant to me many years; I wanted
nothing that he could fetch me, nor any company that he
could make up to me; I only wanted to have him talk to
me, but that would not do. As I observed before, I found
pens, ink, and paper, and I husbanded them to the utmost;
and I shall show that while my ink lasted, I kept things
very exact, but after that was gone I could not, for I could
not make any ink by any means that I could devise.
And this put me in mind that I wanted many things
notwithstanding all that I had amassed together; and of
these, ink was one; as also a spade, pickaxe, and shovel, to
dig or remove the earth; needles, pins, and thread; as for
linen, I soon learned to want that without much difficulty.
This want of tools made every work I did go on
heavily; and it was near a whole year before I had entirely
finished my little pale, or surrounded my habitation. The
piles, or stakes, which were as heavy as I could well lift,
were a long time in cutting and preparing in the woods,
and more, by far, in bringing home; so that I spent
sometimes two days in cutting and bringing home one of
those posts, and a third day in driving it into the ground;
for which purpose I got a heavy piece of wood at first, but
at last bethought myself of one of the iron crows; which,
however, though I found it, made driving those posts or
piles very laborious and tedious work. But what need I
have been concerned at the tediousness of anything I had
to do, seeing I had time enough to do it in? nor had I any
other employment, if that had been over, at least that I
could foresee, except the ranging the island to seek for
food, which I did, more or less, every day.
I now began to consider seriously my condition, and
the circumstances I was reduced to; and I drew up the
state of my affairs in writing, not so much to leave them to
any that were to come after me - for I was likely to have
but few heirs - as to deliver my thoughts from daily poring
over them, and afflicting my mind; and as my reason
began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort
myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the
evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case
from worse; and I stated very impartially, like debtor and
creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I
suffered, thus:-
Evil: I am cast upon a horrible, desolate island, void of
all hope of recovery.
Good: But I am alive; and not drowned, as all my ship’s
company were.
Evil: I am singled out and separated, as it were, from all
the world, to be miserable.
Good: But I am singled out, too, from all the ship’s
crew, to be spared from death; and He that miraculously
saved me from death can deliver me from this condition.
Evil: I am divided from mankind - a solitaire; one
banished from human society.
Good: But I am not starved, and perishing on a barren
place, affording no sustenance.
Evil: I have no clothes to cover me.
Good: But I am in a hot climate, where, if I had
clothes, I could hardly wear them.
Evil: I am without any defence, or means to resist any
violence of man or beast.
Good: But I am cast on an island where I see no wild
beasts to hurt me, as I saw on the coast of Africa; and what
if I had been shipwrecked there?
Evil: I have no soul to speak to or relieve me.
Good: But God wonderfully sent the ship in near
enough to the shore, that I have got out as many necessary
things as will either supply my wants or enable me to
supply myself, even as long as I live.
Upon the whole, here was an undoubted testimony
that there was scarce any condition in the world so
miserable but there was something negative or something
positive to be thankful for in it; and let this stand as a
direction from the experience of the most miserable of all
conditions in this world: that we may always find in it
something to comfort ourselves from, and to set, in the
description of good and evil, on the credit side of the
Having now brought my mind a little to relish my
condition, and given over looking out to sea, to see if I
could spy a ship - I say, giving over these things, I begun
to apply myself to arrange my way of living, and to make
things as easy to me as I could.
I have already described my habitation, which was a
tent under the side of a rock, surrounded with a strong
pale of posts and cables: but I might now rather call it a
wall, for I raised a kind of wall up against it of turfs, about
two feet thick on the outside; and after some time (I think
it was a year and a half) I raised rafters from it, leaning to
the rock, and thatched or covered it with boughs of trees,
and such things as I could get, to keep out the rain; which
I found at some times of the year very violent.
I have already observed how I brought all my goods
into this pale, and into the cave which I had made behind
me. But I must observe, too, that at first this was a
confused heap of goods, which, as they lay in no order, so
they took up all my place; I had no room to turn myself:
so I set myself to enlarge my cave, and work farther into
the earth; for it was a loose sandy rock, which yielded
easily to the labour I bestowed on it: and so when I found
I was pretty safe as to beasts of prey, I worked sideways, to
the right hand, into the rock; and then, turning to the
right again, worked quite out, and made me a door to
come out on the outside of my pale or fortification. This
gave me not only egress and regress, as it was a back way
to my tent and to my storehouse, but gave me room to
store my goods.
And now I began to apply myself to make such
necessary things as I found I most wanted, particularly a
chair and a table; for without these I was not able to enjoy
the few comforts I had in the world; I could not write or
eat, or do several things, with so much pleasure without a
table: so I went to work. And here I must needs observe,
that as reason is the substance and origin of the
mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by
reason, and by making the most rational judgment of
things, every man may be, in time, master of every
mechanic art. I had never handled a tool in my life; and
yet, in time, by labour, application, and contrivance, I
found at last that I wanted nothing but I could have made
it, especially if I had had tools. However, I made
abundance of things, even without tools; and some with
no more tools than an adze and a hatchet, which perhaps
were never made that way before, and that with infinite
labour. For example, if I wanted a board, I had no other
way but to cut down a tree, set it on an edge before me,
and hew it flat on either side with my axe, till I brought it
to be thin as a plank, and then dub it smooth with my
adze. It is true, by this method I could make but one
board out of a whole tree; but this I had no remedy for
but patience, any more than I had for the prodigious deal
of time and labour which it took me up to make a plank
or board: but my time or labour was little worth, and so it
was as well employed one way as another.
However, I made me a table and a chair, as I observed
above, in the first place; and this I did out of the short
pieces of boards that I brought on my raft from the ship.
But when I had wrought out some boards as above, I
made large shelves, of the breadth of a foot and a half, one
over another all along one side of my cave, to lay all my
tools, nails and ironwork on; and, in a word, to separate
everything at large into their places, that I might come
easily at them. I knocked pieces into the wall of the rock
to hang my guns and all things that would hang up; so
that, had my cave been to be seen, it looked like a general
magazine of all necessary things; and had everything so
ready at my hand, that it was a great pleasure to me to see
all my goods in such order, and especially to find my stock
of all necessaries so great.
And now it was that I began to keep a journal of every
day’s employment; for, indeed, at first I was in too much
hurry, and not only hurry as to labour, but in too much
discomposure of mind; and my journal would have been
full of many dull things; for example, I must have said
thus: ‘30TH. - After I had got to shore, and escaped
drowning, instead of being thankful to God for my
deliverance, having first vomited, with the great quantity
of salt water which had got into my stomach, and
recovering myself a little, I ran about the shore wringing
my hands and beating my head and face, exclaiming at my
misery, and crying out, ‘I was undone, undone!’ till, tired
and faint, I was forced to lie down on the ground to
repose, but durst not sleep for fear of being devoured.’
Some days after this, and after I had been on board the
ship, and got all that I could out of her, yet I could not
forbear getting up to the top of a little mountain and
looking out to sea, in hopes of seeing a ship; then fancy at
a vast distance I spied a sail, please myself with the hopes
of it, and then after looking steadily, till I was almost blind,
lose it quite, and sit down and weep like a child, and thus
increase my misery by my folly.
But having gotten over these things in some measure,
and having settled my household staff and habitation,
made me a table and a chair, and all as handsome about
me as I could, I began to keep my journal; of which I shall
here give you the copy (though in it will be told all these
particulars over again) as long as it lasted; for having no
more ink, I was forced to leave it off.

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