Robinson Crusoe: Alone on a deserted island (2/6)

When I woke up, it was a clear day and the storm had calmed down, so the sea was not as raging as before. But what surprised me the most was that the ship had been lifted out of the sand where it had been thrown by the turning of the tide. It had been almost as far away as the rock I had been hit against by the wave.

When I came down from my tree and went out, the first thing I found was the boat. It lay, as the wind and the sea had thrown it, on the land. I walked as far as I could on the shore to get to the boat. I was determined to get to the ship.

In the afternoon, I found the sea very calm and the tide ebbed so far that I could come within a quarter of a mile of the ship. To my great sorrow, I saw that if we had stayed on board, we would all have been safe. That is, we would all have been safely on shore. And I would not have been in such a miserable state as now, totally without any comfort and without any company. I got tears in my eyes again as I thought about it, but there was nothing more to be done. So I decided to go to the ship. I took off my clothes – because it was very hot – and went into the water. But when I got to the ship, it was very difficult to get on board.

I swam around the ship twice, and the second time I saw a small piece of rope hanging low on the front chains, which I just managed to grab. Using the rope, I climbed into the forepart of the ship.

You understand, of course, that I immediately started looking for anything I could use. First, I discovered that all the provisions on the ship were dry and unaffected by the water. I was very hungry, so I went to the bread room and filled my pockets with biscuits and ate some biscuits right away. Then I searched for other things, because I had no time to lose.

I also found some rum in the great cabin, of which I took a big swig. I needed something to pep me up for the times to come. Now I wanted nothing more than a boat.

But it was wasted time to sit still and wish for what could not be obtained. So I made a plan. We had several extra yards, and two or three large round timbers, and one or two extra topmasts in the ship. I decided to work with them. I threw as much as possible overboard, and tied them all together with a rope so they wouldn’t float away.

When this was done, I went along the side of the ship and pulled them towards me, tied four of them together at both ends and placed planks across them. So I had built a raft. I found that I could walk very well on it, but it could not carry a great weight. So I went to work again and with a saw I cut the spare topmast into three pieces and added them to my raft with great difficulty. It was a very difficult task, but the hope that I would be able to save myself with it encouraged me.

My raft was now strong enough to bear any reasonable weight. My next concern was how to load it and how to protect whatever I put on it from the sea’s waves.

I first put all the planks on it and then three of the sailor’s chests, which I had opened and emptied. The first I filled with provisions such as bread, rice, three Dutch cheeses, five pieces of dried goat meat, and a small leftover of European corn.

There had also been some barley and wheat, but to my great disappointment, I found that the rats had eaten everything. As for strong drink, I found several cases of bottles from our skipper.

As I did this, I noticed that the tide was again beginning to flow. I had left my coat and shirt on the sand to go swimming, wearing only my pants. So I went looking for some clothes but took no more than I needed. Tools were more important.

After much searching, I discovered the carpenter’s chest. This was very useful and much more valuable than a shipload of gold would have been at that time. I brought it to my raft without wasting any further time.

My next concern was ammunition and weapons. There were two very good fowling-pieces in the great cabin and two pistols. I also found some powder-horns and a bag of shot, and two rusty old swords. I also found two barrels of gunpowder. With my arms full, I came to the ship. I was now reasonably well loaded, but had to think about how to get ashore without sail, oar or rudder. The slightest breeze would already take me off course.

But three things gave me courage: first, a smooth calm sea; second, the tide rose and fell towards the coast; third, the little wind there was, blew me towards the land. After finding two or three broken oars that belonged to the boat, I also found two saws, an axe, and a hammer. My raft went very well for about a mile, but I found it drifting a little far from the place where I had landed earlier. I also noticed an inflow of water, so I hoped to find a creek or river there that I could use as a harbor to get my cargo ashore.

And so it was. A small opening in the land appeared before me, and I found a strong tide flow in it. I led my raft as best I could to the middle of the current.

But unfortunately, I suffered almost a second shipwreck. This would have truly broken my heart. Finally, I arrived at the mouth of a small river with land on both sides. Quickly, before the tide came in, I searched for a good place to come ashore. I finally saw a small cove on the right bank and led my raft there with great pain and effort. But going ashore on the steep bank would put my cargo in danger again. The only thing I could do was wait until the tide was at its highest and then try to get to the shore. As planned, I managed to stick the raft in the ground with two broken oars and bring my cargo safely to shore.

My next task was to explore the land and find a suitable place for my dwelling. There I could also safely store my goods. I didn’t know where I was, it could be the mainland or an island, inhabited or uninhabited, with or without the danger of wild beasts. There was a hill not more than a mile from me that rose steeply and high above a number of other hills. I took one of the bird catchers and one of the pistols and a powder horn; I went exploring to the top of that hill. There I saw my fate, a great calamity: I was on an island surrounded on all sides by the sea. There was no land in sight except for some rocks and some other smaller islands.

I also discovered that nothing grew on the island. And it seemed to be uninhabited, except for wild animals, though I didn’t see any. I saw an abundance of birds, but I didn’t know their species. When I killed them, I didn’t know which ones were suitable for food and which were not. Then I shot a large bird that I saw sitting on a tree on the side of a large forest.

I believe it was the first gun fired there since the creation of the world. I had just fired when an innumerable amount of birds of many kinds rose from all parts of the forest, making a confused noise and howling, each in its own tone. As for the creature I killed, I thought it was a kind of hawk, its color and beak were like it, but it had no talons. Its flesh was carrion and not suitable for anything.

After this discovery, I returned to my raft and went to work bringing my cargo ashore, which took up the rest of the day. I still didn’t know how I was going to spend the night. I also didn’t know where, because I was afraid to lie on the ground. A wild beast could devour me. Later, it turned out that I didn’t need to be afraid.

But as well as I could, I barricaded myself with the chests and planks that I had brought ashore and made a kind of hut for that night. I also didn’t know where I could get food except that I had seen a few hares running in the woods where I had shot the birds earlier.

I began to think that there were still many things on the ship that could be useful to me, especially some of the rigging and sails. So, I decided to make another trip aboard the ship, if possible. And since I knew that the first storm that blew would necessarily break the ship to pieces, I decided that other things could wait until I had retrieved everything from the ship.

In the same way as before, I boarded the ship and prepared a second raft. With my previous experience, I did not overload the raft and brought useful things such as bags of nails, a large mortar, axes, and a whetstone. I also brought gunpowder and bullets.

In addition to these items, I took all the men’s clothes I could find, a spare foresail, a hammock, and some bedding. With these, I loaded my second raft and brought it all safely to shore.

During my absence from the land, I was somewhat afraid that my provisions would be consumed by a beast. But when I returned, I found no trace of a visitor. There was only a sort of wild cat on one of the crates, which, when I approached her, ran away a little and then stood still. She sat very calmly and unconcerned, and looked me straight in the face as if she had the spirit to get to know me. I offered her my gun, but she didn’t understand and didn’t worry about it. She didn’t run away either, so I threw her a cookie, although I didn’t have much. She went to the cookie, sniffed it, ate it, and looked for more. I thanked her for her visit but could not spare any more, so she marched away.

After I had brought my second load ashore, I set to work making a small tent with the sail and some poles. In this tent, I placed everything that I knew would spoil from rain or sun. And I piled all the empty boxes and barrels in a circle around the tent to fortify it against any sudden attack, be it from man or beast.

When I had done this, I blocked the tent’s door with a few planks on the inside and an empty crate that stood upright. I spread one of the beds on the ground, and placed my two pistols next to my head and my rifle beside me. So, for the first time, I went to bed and slept all night very peacefully, for I was very tired.

But I was still not satisfied, for while the ship still lay upright, I thought I should retrieve everything from the ship that I could use. So, every day at low tide, I went aboard and brought something back. But especially the third time I went, I brought as much of the rigging as I could, as well as all the small ropes. In short, I removed all the sails to use as pieces of canvas.

But what comforted me even more was that, although I had made five or six such trips with this ship, I found more than I had thought. I found a large barrel of bread, three large barrels of strong drink, a box of sugar, and a barrel of fine flour. This was a great surprise to me, as I did not expect to find any more provisions. I soon emptied the barrel of bread and wrapped each loaf in pieces of canvas that I cut out. I safely brought all of this to shore.

The next day, I made another trip and after plundering what was portable and useful on the ship, I began with the cables. I managed to get two cables and a hawser and all the ironwork to the shore on a large raft. So, I departed with all the heavy goods.

But my luck began to leave me now, as this raft was so unwieldy and so overloaded that, after I had entered the small inlet, it became unmanageable. It overturned and all my cargo fell into the water. As for myself, it was not a problem, since I was close to the shore. But a large part of my cargo was lost, especially the iron, which I thought would have been of great use to me. However, when the tide turned, I got most of the pieces of cable to shore. After this, I went aboard every day and brought back what I could get.

I had now been ashore for thirteen days and had been aboard the ship eleven times. If the weather had remained calm, I could have taken everything off the ship. But when I prepared to go aboard the twelfth time, I noticed that the wind was increasing. Nevertheless, I went aboard at low tide and discovered another small chest of drawers. In one of them, I found two or three razors and large shears, a dozen good knives and forks. In another drawer, I found about thirty-six pounds worth of money, a European coin, some Brazilian money, and some gold and silver.

I smiled to myself when I saw this money. “Oh happy money!” I exclaimed out loud, “where are you good for now? You are worth nothing to me – no, one of those knives is worth a whole lot. I can’t use you money in any way, so just stay where you are and sink to the bottom, like a creature whose life is not worth saving.”

Upon reflection, I picked up the money again and wrapped it all in a piece of canvas. Then, I began to think about making another raft. When I was preparing for this, I saw that the sky was getting cloudy and the wind was picking up. Within fifteen minutes, a fresh wind was blowing from the coast. Soon, I realized that it was pointless to make a raft with the wind off the coast. It was now my business to be away before the tidal wave began, otherwise, I might not be able to reach the shore at all. Therefore, I lowered myself into the water and swam across the channel that lay between the ship and the sand. This cost me a lot of effort, partly due to the weight of the things I had around me, and partly due to the roughness of the water. Because the wind picked up very quickly and before it was high tide, it became a storm.

But I had arrived home in my small tent, where I lay very safely with all my wealth around me. It had blown very hard all night and in the morning, when I looked outside, there was no ship to be seen! I was a little surprised, but was glad that I had not lost any time and had worked hard to get everything off the ship that could be useful to me.