Of all the passengers and crew on board the ship, only the Robinson family is saved when the vessel breaks apart on a reef and the crew and other passengers jump into lifeboats without waiting for the little family to join them. As the ship tosses about, the father prays that God will spare them. There is plenty of food on board, and after they eat, the boys go to sleep, leaving the father and the mother to guard them.
In the morning their first concern is to get to the island they can see beyond the reef. With much effort, they construct a vessel out of tubs. After they fill the tubs with food and ammunition and all other articles of value they can safely carry, they row toward the island. Two dogs from the ship swim beside them, and the boys are glad they will have pets when they reach their new home.
Their first task on reaching the island is to erect a tent of sailcloth they brought from the ship. They gather moss and dry it so that they will have some protection from the ground when they sleep. They are able to find a lobster and to shoot some game, thus to add fresh food to their supplies. Since they have no utensils for eating, they use shells for spoons, all dipping out of the iron kettle that they brought from the ship. They released some geese and pigeons while they were still on the ship and brought two hens and two cocks with them. The father knows that they must prepare for a long time on the island, and his thoughts are as much on provisions for the future as for their immediate wants.
The father and Fritz, the oldest son, spend the next day exploring the island. They find gourds from which they can make dishes and spoons, and many edible fruits and roots. Coconuts, growing in abundance, provide a treat for the mother and the younger boys. Fritz captures a small monkey, which he takes back for a pet. The younger boys are enchanted with the mischievous little animal.
The Robinsons spend the next few days securing themselves against hunger and danger from wild animals. The father and Fritz make several trips to the ship in their efforts to bring ashore everything that they can possibly use. The domesticated animals on the ship are towed back to the island. There is also a great store of firearms and ammunition, hammocks for sleeping, carpenter’s tools, lumber, cooking utensils, silverware, and dishes.
While the father and Fritz are salvaging these supplies, the mother and the younger boys are working on the shore, sowing seeds, examining the contents of the kegs that floated to shore, and in every way possible making the tent a more livable home. The mother and boys also explore the island to find a spot for a more permanent home. When the father and Fritz can join them, the whole family helps to construct a tree house that will give them protection from wild animals that they fear might dwell on the island.
Through the following weeks, each day brings a new adventure of some kind. There are encounters with wild birds and terrifying animals. Ernest, the second son, studied nature with great interest before their ill-fated voyage, and he identifies many of the animals and birds. They find...