Juan Fernández (hwän fārnänˈdās) [key], group of small islands, S Pacific, c.400 mi (640 km) W of Valparaiso, Chile. They belong to Chile and are constitutionally a special territory; they are administered as a part of Valparaiso prov. The two principal islands are Isla Robinson Crusoe (formerly Más a Tierra) and Isla Alejandro Selkirk (formerly Más Afuera); they acquired their present names in 1966. Volcanic in origin, they have a pleasant climate and are rugged and largely wooded. Robinson Crusoe is the only inhabited island. The chief occupation is lobster fishing. Discovered by the Spanish navigator Juan Fernández in 1563, the islands achieved fame with the publication of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), generally acknowledged to have been inspired by the confinement on Más a Tierra (1704–9) of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor. Occupied by the Spanish in 1750, the islands passed to Chile upon its independence. In the 19th cent., Isla Robinson Crusoe was a penal colony. The islands are now a national park.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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