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Colonial Period (1750–1819)

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The constant harassment of Spanish shipping and coastal communities led Spain in 1750 to build Fort Santa Bárbara in the village of San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe Island. A colony of 100–200 people was established, which accelerated cutting of forests for lumber and firewood. In 1793 Spain and England achieved peace, which opened the islands to British (and American) ships and helped fuel the island economy. In 1811 Chile declared independence from Spain, but the royalists retook the country in 1814. Forty-two patriots from the independence movement were exiled to Robinson Crusoe Island, where they stayed until 1817 when Bernardo O’Higgins retook Chile. After word of the abundant fur seals on Alejandro Selkirk Island got back to New England sealers, an influx of ships from the U.S. (and also England) ensued, with at least 3,000,000 seals being harvested between 1792–1807. Another economic boom was the collection of sandalwood. Wood from these trees was sold to Chinese markets, where it was valued for incense, burial objects, and furniture. The one endemic species on Robinson Crusoe Island, Santalum fernandezianum, was heavily cut for sale to passing ships.

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Correspondence to Tod F. Stuessy .

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Stuessy, T.F. (2020). Colonial Period (1750–1819). In: Environmental History of Oceanic Islands. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-47870-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-47871-1

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