The sun shone bright overhead when Captain Woodes Rogers of the ship “Duke” stepped ashore of the jagged and timbered island in 1709. Tall peaks jutted skyward as if the Great Pyramids of Giza lay beneath a cloak of green. A soft breeze offered limited relief from the incessant heat of the tropics.
Woodes and his men were privateers employed by the British crown. Effectively, this employed the men as well-connected pirates who sailed against its enemies, namely Spanish ships of the area. This particular island lay roughly 400 miles off the west coast of Chile and was by no means a hot spot of traffic. Capt. Rogers and his men were simply passing by on that February day when they decided to drop anchor offshore. A lookout soon spotted smoke rising from its dense foliage. Smoke? Surely in this case where there was smoke, there must be man. Curious, a handful of men landed on the island to investigate. With Spanish enemies seemingly teaming the oceans, tension hung over the men on their approach.
They were greeted not by a rival Spaniard, but by something much more bizarre. A white man stepped forth from the jungle, clad in nothing but goatskins for clothing. By the looks of the shaggy beard, unkempt hair (even by pirate standards), and weather worn look of the man, the sailors could tell this man was unusual. He approached apprehensively across the beach, like a wild animal approaching gawking tourists. Each party eyed the other beneath furrowed brows in that brief moment before introductions began. Although Capt. Rogers’ men could hardly understand the unclear garbling of the wild man, he seemed to be genuinely happy to see these Englishmen and began to tell them his story. It was a story that impressed even adventurous pirates.