In the spring of 2006, as a combined group of American and Chilean journalism students, we traveled together to Robinson Crusoe Island, four hundred miles off the coast of Santiago, Chile, to document life on this small and isolated island.
In the ten days we spent recording and photographing the people of the island, each and every one of us was struck by their unique way of life and the resolve with which they carve out their existence in such a remote place, rich with history but severely lacking in resources that we often take for granted.
And so it was with great sorrow and shock – in the days following the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the Chilean mainland in February 2010 – that we began to hear news trickle in about Robinson Crusoe Island.
According to reports, the island’s emergency warning system failed, and a giant tsunami took the residents by surprise, covering nearly two miles of the island and reaching 300 meters up from the natural coastline. When the ocean retreated, it took with it nearly all of San Juan Bautista, the coastal settlement that the island’s 650 residents call home.
What few community resources that served the people of Robinson Crusoe Island before the tsunami hit are now completely wiped away: the school, community center, fishing boats, supply stores… and many, many homes.
As you can tell from the stories and lives highlighted on this site, the fragile yet resilient community of Robinson Crusoe Island is a special place in this world, and its people need our help in rebuilding their lives. Anything you can give to help these families would be a tremendous help. Oikonos, a non-profit that has set up a donation fund to directly support the people of Robinson Crusoe Island. All of the money they receive will go specifically to the people of the island, to rebuild their homes, their school and their livelihoods.
Please take a moment to do what you can, and explore this site to learn about the unique and wonderful lives you are helping to rebuild.
We thank you for your open hearts.
-The Chasing Crusoe Team