A popular literary island off the coast of Chile needs your help


This article was sponsored by Lenovo.


FFor any student of literature, the mention of a shipwreck or shipwreck on a distant island is comparable to the legendary story of Robinson Crusoe. Written by English novelist Daniel Defoe, the book, although a work of fiction, feels like a real story and a very real island.

Today, the island that inspired Defoe’s most famous work is a global travel destination, but for more than literary reasons.

In the 18th century, the story of Alexander Selkirk caused a sensation in London. He was a Scottish sailor who was shipwrecked in 1704, leaving him abandoned on a remote island for four years and four months. In 1709 he was finally rescued by a British ship and brought to London, where he became something of a celebrity.

This story ultimately inspired English writer Daniel Defoe to write his most famous novel, Robinson Crusoe. But neither Selkirk nor Defoe can be credited for discovering the island. It is a Spanish explorer Juan Fernández who would have discovered the archipelago in 1574, en route to Peru and Valparaiso.

An anchor point of reality in Defoe’s work of fiction, Robinson Crusoe Island is however far from what the novelist describes. The sun-drenched Caribbean paradise with pristine, palm-fringed beaches that Defoe’s castaway protagonist Crusoe calls “The Isle of Despair” isn’t the real island.

Although a paradise in its own right, the island that inspired Defoe’s fantasy is a natural wonder in dire need of conservation and protection.

From literary fame to environmental wonder

Photo Credit: Island Conservation

The most famous desert island in English literature, Mas a Tierra, now known as Robinson Crusoe Island, is unique and home to some of the world’s most endangered species. Located 700 km off the coast of Chile, this island, often shrouded in mist, is the largest of the Juan Fernandez Islands, which is a small archipelago in Chile.

Bounded by towering mountains formed by ancient lava flows, the island’s steep ridges and valleys are home to unique flora and fauna. For example, more than 100 of the 146 native plant species are endemic to this island, and Isla Robinson Crusoe is the only place you can spot the endangered Juan Fernandez Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) black-billed hummingbird.

While its literary popularity led the Chilean government to rename it from Mas a Tierra (meaning closer to earth) to Robinson Crusoe in 1966, it was the island’s unique biodiversity that made it a global travel destination. . Its ecosystem is even more incredible than the Galápagos Islands.

Thanks to this, the Chilean government granted in 1935 its status as a national park and in 1977, to protect its natural biodiversity, UNESCO declared the islands of the archipelago a World Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO, as part of its “Man and the Biosphere” program, has labeled Robinson Crusoe Island an international conservation hotspot. These efforts have created an impact on the ground by helping the population of endangered species, such as the fur seal, to recover significantly.

What to do in Robinson Crusoe

Photo Credit: Island Conservation

For history and literature buffs, retracing Selkirk’s footsteps by visiting its cave house can be an exciting adventure. It is located on Puerto Ingles Beach, 10 miles from the village of San Juan Bautista in Cumberland Bay. There are several guided hikes and treks to choose from.

There are many bird watching tours as well as surfing and scuba diving tours. Scuba diving is exceptionally popular here due to its diverse and rich marine ecosystem which includes moray eels, wrasses, sea lions, fur seals, butterflyfish and different types of crustaceans. You can also visit the wreck of the German cruiser Dresden for a unique experience.

For those who want more, the island also hosts a unique work experience initiated by Lenovo in partnership with local NGO, Island Conservation.

Working closely with the local community that primarily depends on the marine ecosystem, the NGO and Lenovo through the Work For Humankind initiative, offers volunteers the opportunity to embrace a new way of working remotely. Using Lenovo’s smart technology, selected volunteers can work remotely for a month while volunteering 20 hours a week for conservation activities.

Photo Credit: Island Conservation

These include preserving both native communities and endangered species, such as the fire-crowned Juan Fernández, fur seals, Masafuera Rayadito and the pink-footed shearwater.

“Work for Humankind will send selected volunteers with a range of skills, backgrounds and specialties to Robinson Crusoe to help prevent the extinction of endangered species and support the local community in their efforts to achieve sustainability, while being able to continue working their current work remotely. This will be done through several life-changing restoration projects in partnership with Island Conservation and the local Robinson Crusoe Island community, including the development of much-needed connectivity solutions for the island’s infrastructure,” Lenovo’s public statement said.

This is a new vision for creating a work-life balance that is not only productive, but also helps create massive impact on the pitch. Stay tuned for more information on how these volunteers are changing the world while balancing a full-time career.

About Lucille Thompson

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