The Islands of
Juan Fernandez
  Extract from
A New Voyage Round the World
(first published in 1697)
by William Dampier
Click on to enlarge
  The Castaway prepares  
  William, a Mosquito Indian is found!  
  Description of the Island  
  The Sea around the Island  

March the 22nd 1684, we came in sight of the Island, and the next Day got in and anchored in a Bay at the South-end of the Island, 25 Fathoms Water and not two Cables length from the Shore.

We presently got out our Canoe, and went ashore to see for a Moskito Indian whom we had left here when we were chased here by three Spanish Ships in the Year 1681, a little before we went to Arica, with Captain Watlin being our Commander then, after Captain Sharp had been turned out.

This Indian had lived here alone more than three Years, and although he was several Times sought after by the Spaniards, who knew he was left on the Island, they could never find him. He had been in the Woods hunting for Goats, when Captain Watlin drew off his Men, and the Ship was under sail before he came back to shore. He had with him his Gun and a Knife, with a small Horn of Powder, and a few Shot. When these had been spent, he contrived a Way, by notching his Knife, to saw the Barrel off his Gun into small Pieces, with which he made Harpoons, Lances, Hooks and a long Knife. He did this by heating the pieces first in the Fire, which he struck with his Gun-flint, and a piece of the Barrel of his Gun which he hardened, having learnt to do that among the English. The hot pieces of Iron he would hammer out and bend as he pleased with Stones, and saw them with his jagged Knife, or grind them to an edge by long labour and harden them to a good Temper, as there was occasion. All this may seem strange to those that are not acquainted with the Sagacity of the Indians, but it is no more than these Moskito Men are accustomed to in their own Country, where they make their own Fishing and Striking-Instruments without Forge or Anvil, though they spend a great deal of Time about it.



.....With such Instruments as he made in that manner, he got such Provision as the Island afforded, either Goats or Fish. He told us that at first he was forced to eat Seal, which is very ordinary Meat, before he had made Hooks. But afterwards he never killed any Seals except to make Lines, cutting their Skins into Thongs. He had a httle House, or Hut, half a Mile from the Sea, which was lined with Goat's Skin. His Couch, or Barbecue of Sticks, lay along about two feet from the Ground, and was spread with the same as was all his Bedding. He had no Clothes left, having worn out those he brought from Watlin's Ship, but only a Skin about his Waist. He had seen our Ship the Day before we came to an Anchor, and believed we were English. He therefore killed three Goats in the Morning, before we came to an Anchor, and dressed them with Cabbage, to treat us when we came ashore. He then came to the Seaside to congratulate our safe Arrival.



When we landed, a Moskito Indian named Robin first leaped ashore and, running to his Brother Moskito Man, threw himself flat on his face at his feet, who helping him up and embracing him, fell flat with his face on the Ground at Robin's feet, and was also taken up by him. We stood with pleasure to behold the surprise and tenderness and solemnity of this Interview, which was exceedingly affectionate on both Sides. When their Ceremonies of Civility were over, we who had stood gazing at them also drew near, each of us embracing the Man we had found here. He was overjoyed to see so many of his old Friends come here, as he thought, purposely to fetch him. He was named Will, and the other was Robin. These were names given them by the English, for they had no Names among themselves. And they take it as a great favour to be named by any of us, and will complain for want of it, if we do not appoint them some name when they are with us, saying of themselves they are poor Men who have no Name.


This Island is in lat. 34 45' and about 120 Leagues from the Main. It is about 12 Leagues round, full of high Hills and small pleasant Valleys, which if manured, would probably produce anything proper for the Climate. The sides of the Mountains are part Savannahs, part Woodland.

top Goats were first put on the Island by John Fernando, who first discovered it on his Voyage from Lima to Baldivia, and he also discovered another Island about the same bigness, 20 Leagues to the Westward of this. The Island took its Name from its first Discoverer who, when he returned to Lima, desired a Patent for it, designing to settle here. It was on his second Voyage here that he set ashore three or four Goats, which have since, by their increase, well stocked the whole Island. But he could never get a Patent for it, which is why it still lies destitute of Inhabitants, though doubtless capable of maintaining 4 or 500 Families by what may be produced off the Land only. I speak much within compass, for the Savannahs would at present feed 1000 Head of Cattle, besides Goats, and the Land being cultivated would probably bear Corn or Wheat, and good Peas, Yams, or Potatoes, for the Land in the Valleys and sides of the Mountains is of a good black fruitful Mould.
  The Sea about it is likewise very productive of its Inhabitants. Seals swarm as thick about this Island as if they had no other place in the World to live in. For there is not a Bay or Rock that one can get ashore on, which is not full of them. Sea-Lions are here in great Companies; and Fish, particularly Snappers and Rock-fish, are so plentiful that two Men in an Hour's Time will take with Hook and Line as many as will serve 100 Men.

We remained at John Fernando's sixteen Days. Our sick Men were ashore all the time, with one of Captain Eaton's Doctors (for he had four in his Ship) tending and feeding them with Goat and several Herbs, of which there is plenty growing in the Brooks. Their Diseases were chiefly scorbutic.