Juan Fernández Islands

views updated

Juan Fernández Islands

Juan Fernández Islands, three volcanic islands belonging to Chile that lie about four hundred miles west of Valparaiso. Although possibly sighted by Magellan, they were discovered in 1574 by the Spanish navigator Juan Fernández. He named them after saints, but those names were soon supplanted by Más a Tierra (Nearer Land) and Más Afuera (Farther Out) for the two principal islands and Santa Clara, or Goat Island, for the small island just off the tip of Más a Tierra. They became important aids to navigation along the Pacific coast of South America and served as bases for Spain's rivals during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In October 1704 a British privateer marooned Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk on Más a Tierra, where he remained until rescued by Captain Woodes Rogers in February 1709. Selkirk's story provided the factual basis for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719).

Colonization efforts failed until 1750, when the Spanish established San Juan Bautista at Cumberland Bay, Más a Tierra, to defend the island against rival nations. As a penal colony, it held a number of prominent Chilean creoles during the wars for independence. The Chileans abandoned the island in 1837, following a Peruvian raid. Chileans returned later to San Juan Bautista (today called Robinson Crusoe), used it as a penal colony again, and eventually developed a small fishing and agricultural community. In the twentieth century it became primarily a lobster fishing center.

During World War I, Cumberland Bay was the site of a naval encounter in which British forces sank the German light cruiser Dresden in March 1915. Since then the island has attracted some tourist activity. In January 1966 the Chilean government renamed Más a Tierra for Robinson Crusoe and Más Afuera for Alexander Selkirk.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Spanish Americaxml .


Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, Juan Fernández, historia verdadera de la isla de Robinson Crusoe (1883).

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Robinson Crusoe's Island: A History of the Juan Fernández Islands (1969).

Additional Bibliography

Brescia, Maura. Selkirk, Robinson, el mito: A tres siglos del solitario en Isla Robinson Crusoe. Santiago: Editorial Mare Nostrum, 2004.

Cuevas, Jaime G., Marticorena, Alicia, and Cavieres, Lohengrin A. "New Additions to the Introduced Flora of the Juan Fernández Islands: Origin, Distribution, Life History Traits, and Potential of Invasion." http://www.scielo.cl,2004.

Sánchez-Ostiz, Miguel. La isla de Juan Fernández: Viaje a la isla de Robinson Crusoe. Barcelona: Ediciones B., 2005.

Simmons, James C. Castaway in Paradise: The Incredible Adventures of True-life Robinson Crusoes. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Sheridan House, 1993.

Yáñez R., Eleuterio, Canales R. Cristian, and Silva G. Claudio. Evaluación de la langosta explotada en las islas Robinson Crusoe y Santa Clara del archipiélago de Juan Fernández. Chile: Investigaciones marinas, 2000.

                                Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.

About this article

Juan Fernández Islands

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article