Byte 16: Discovery – In Sight of Cape York, Australia? – 1606AD
So here we are in the year 1600….
Has Australia been discovered by Europeans already? Are we all done with this search for the Land Down Under?
The Portuguese are the most likely discovers’ at this stage you must say. But exactly when did it happen and who was it?
And if they did why have they not announced such a momentous achievement to the world? Why is not some dashing Portuguese discoverer hailed as a hero in the texts of the time? One argument regarding Portuguese silence is that this discovery was treated as a state secret. Too valuable to share with their competitors. Sharing routes of expeditions to the East was severely punished at the time.
But if no one has reached the shores of Australia, how do we explain the following description by Cornelius Wytfliet of this Great Southern Land in ”Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum”, published in 1598:
“The “Australis Terra” is the most southern of all lands, and is separated from New Guinea by a narrow strait. Its shores are hitherto but little known, since after one voyage and another, that route has been deserted, and seldom is the country visited unless when sailors are driven there by storms. The “Australis Terra’ begins at two or three degrees from the equator, and is maintained by some to be of so great an extent, that if it were thoroughly explored, it would be regarded as a fifth part of the world.”
It is within reason that Australia had been accidentally visited during the sixteenth century and this is supported by the Dieppe maps to an certain extent. One French map of dated 1542, presents an outline that might support at least one Portuguese ship sailing from Cape York to Tasmania.
So in the year 1600 we have boastful claims of seamen and privateers, a few intriguing charts and the statement of Cornelius Wytfliet as milestones of achievement.
However, let’s move into a new century. Here, surely, we are bound to find a seaman we can be more confidently say sailed within sight of, or strode ashore on, this Great Southern Land.
Enter Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, a Spanish seaman with an unshakable belief in the existence of the Great Southern Land. In 1598 he petitioned King Phillip III of Spain to commission an expedition to find this mythical continent. Successful in gaining the King’s assent, he sails three ships from Peru in 1605 to claim this continent for Spain and the Church. Second in command was Luis de Torres.
All was not well, however, on Quiros’s ship. During the voyage it appears Quiros’s crew mutinies, and he is forced to sail back to Peru, leaving Torres in command of the remaining two ships.
Torres was known as an able seaman. He apparently searched for his lost commander and then sailed towards the southern coast of New Guinea through the strait that now bear his name. Intriguingly, he did seem to know of the strait – that it would lead him back to the open seas and to eventually the Philippines. This knowledge again leads to the prospect that someone, most likely the Portuguese, has previously circumnavigated New Guinea and charted their voyage.
But did Torres hug the New Guinea coast line, or venture along the Australian Coast line further to the south? Strong arguments exist; based on the prevailing winds (north east trade winds) that he is likely to have sailed through the Endeavour Straight, past Thursday Island. This would have put him in sight of Cape York, the northern tip of Australia.
Torres did not claim to discovery Australia. If he saw it he did not recognise his find. Indeed, much of his account of his trip gathered dusk in the Spanish archives and his voyage achieved little celebration. That is until by various hands, it is likely his notes found there way in the 1760′s to Joseph Banks and then to Captain Cook .
On the other hand, Torres’s disappearing Captain Quiros, announced in 1610 that he had discovered the large southern continent. In doing so he proclaimed it “Austrialia del Espiritu Santo” (in honour of Phillip III, a member of the “House of Austria”).
So is Torres our discoverer? Or, at least first European to sight Australia? Well, the argument although not conclusive, is sound.
However, you get that sneaking feeling, that just by knowing the strait between New Guinea and Australia existed, that those Portuguese had probably been there before. And if the trade wind logic applies to Torres, well it must apply to the Portuguese as well.
I am suspecting we may never know…but let’s keep searching anyway ….
Byte 17: Background – Enter the Dutch – Power without Glory – 1602AD
We have reached the early 1600′s on our journey in search of theLand Down Under…
No longer is Asia a lonely place for Europeans. The seas are gradually being tamed, but what of the locals and the competition?
The year 1602 is especially significant for it bought a new power into the Indian Ocean. And it came came forth with all the fury of an angry storm sweeping across the Indian Ocean..
This was the year the Dutch East India Company was created. This company was effectively granted what could be called “extra governmental authority”. It was a government within a government, created for national, political and economic purposes. Perhaps the first ever private army, fully owned and operated by the Dutch public.
The Dutch East India Company charter presented the company with a monopoly over trade in the Indian Ocean, with the rights to make war and peace, administer justice, coin money and levy troops. With huge profits to be made controlling the trade between East and West (spices, opium, Chinese porcelain etc.) armed protection became a feature of the Dutch East India Company (and the British East India Company). Indeed,the company soon controlled an armed force that dwarfed the one back at home.
It was estimated that at its height the Dutch East India Company possessed some 50,000 civilian employees, an army of 40 warships, up to 20,000 sailors and perhaps 10,000 solders.
The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, as it was known locally, was granted a 21 year monopoly on trade in the Indian Ocean. The rational for such a monopoly, it must be said, was sound. Single voyages were high risk, and such risks were best shared. Also, prices need to be managed. To much product at one time could see prices tumble. So supply and demand needed to be balanced.
So in 1602 stock was issued for the first time. This raised some 6.5m guilders from the public (a huge sum) with the company also able to issue bonds to finance its short term funding requirements (creating a template for the modern stock exchange) .
Within a few years Dutch Trading Posts began to be established across Asia. The first was in Indonesia.
By 1610 it was thought necessary to appoint a Governor General for Asia, and soon after the Dutch East India Company began to flex its muscle to achieve its economic ambitions. In Jakarta they expelled Banten forces at gun point to establish Batavia and a centre for the companies activities in Asia. They also deported the native inhabitants of the Banda Islands (source of nutmeg) with an ambition of using slave labour.
By the mid 1600′s the Company was well on the way to dominating Indian Ocean trade, with trading posts established from Iran, to India, South Africa and Siam (Thailand), to name but a few…
With the scent of profit in the air, the waters north of the Great Southern Land were transforming into an economic and political battleground. Not a time for the faint hearted, nor for the locals, caught on the wrong side of the ledger…
Byte 18: Background – The Rise of the Raj – British East India Company – Early 1600′s
With regard to a presence in the Indian Ocean, the British were slow out of the blocks, but actually the first to raise capital and share the risk of trading with the far distant East Indies
The British East India Company was granted an Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in December 1600. This was after one successful trip around the Cape of Good Hope by a British merchant group, and another where all the ships were lost at sea.
In the last years of the sixteenth century, a group of London merchants met and formed a corporation raising capital to purchase ships and finance future voyages to the East Indies. In December 1600 Queen Elizabeth I awarded the newly formed company a monopoly on all British trade for a period of fifteen years.
However, the entry into the spice trade was not easy. The British were third in line behind the Dutch and the Portuguese who were each well established in the region, having established trading posts and local relationships (if that can be said). As the British moved in hostilities arose wit both the Dutch and the Portuguese. This was costly and impacted on profits, and this was probably the reason why the British, in the end, confined themselves to exploiting the trade opportunities with India where the other European powers were less entrenched.
All said, this was to be a strategic move that resulted in the British East India Company becoming one of the worlds most successful companies of all time. They effectively became a defacto government ruling over millions of people across the Indian sub-continent.
With this move by the British towards India, the British will recede from our journey of discovery, but they will come to the fore later, not so much with economic exploitation as their goal, but exploration and glory for king and country.
But glory in these times still meant for counties of the East Indies, at best absorption into a European sphere of influence, at worst, conquest and ruthless exploitation.
Byte 19: Discovery – The Great Southern Land Bites Back – Discovery 1606AD
So we come to 1603 and a Dutchman named Willem Janszoon. In the last years before the formation of the Dutch East India Company he set sail for the East Indies as the captain of the Duyfken.
This ship was a lightly armed Barque 65 feet in length with a 110 tonne displacement and shallow draft. Her career was to be short (1595 to 1608), but noteworthy in terms of our historical journey.
By the time of Janszoon’s departure in 1603 she had already sailed twice from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies, been engaged in a naval battle with the Portuguese and undertaken a voyage of exploration where she got separated from the fleet, finding her way home alone in early 1603.
However, the plucky little Duyfken founder her way into the history books when Janszoon was sent to search for other outlets of trade in the East Indies. He was to sail the Duyfken beyond the ends of the known lands, to the east and south. The Duyfken’s shallow draught (some eight feet) made her perfect for coastal exploration.
So in 1605, the Duyfken sailed under the command of Willhelm Janszoon from the trading port of Bantam in modern day Indonesia towards the west coast of New Guinea. Janszoon took with him a hand picked crew for this voyage to unknown lands.
Reaching New Guinea, they encountered a densely wooded land. The dependable Duyfken followed the coast and at one point they dropped anchor in an inlet and sent a boat crew to shore to explore and forage. It was then they were attacked by natives who fired arrows relentlessly at Janszoon’s crew. In response the crew raised their muskets, fired and fell back towards their boat loosing with eight dead. Despite the set back, the Duyfken and crew pressed on along the coast. However, they ran into difficulty when they met an opposing current running from the east around the New Guinea coast, forcing them to turn south east.
Very soon they encountered a totally different landscape. For mile after mile after mile they charted a barren land, without colour and, seemingly, people.
But it is finally here, in 1606, we have our first authenticated European sighting of the Great Southern Land. Janszoon and his crew had inadvertently sailed south and were following the west coast of the Australia’s York Peninsular.
Over the following days they charted some 300 miles of coastline until running low on supplies they decided to turn about at Cape Keerweer (Cape Turnaround). They sailed back up coast reaching the mouth of the Batavia River. Again they were met with trouble. Desperate for food and supplies they sent a longboat ashore, but again they were met by local natives. This time they did not wait for an attack and fired, leading to the natives retaliating and spearing one of the oarsmen.
It was here that Janszoon, now with less than half of his original crew, decided enough was enough. They were low on supplies and the surrounding lands offered little in sustenance, but a lot of trouble. It was time to turn for home. However, they were still a long way from a friendly shore.
Despite the situation, the crew rallied under Janszoon, and headed to the closest port, that of Aru.
Finally, Europeans had made it to the shores of the Great Southern Land…and Janszoon was not finished yet…he was to return…
So how did this man from humble stock in the far distant Netherlands end up in our story of discovery?
You could say from the combination of a directive of Dutch colonial administrator Hendrik Brouwer and a little “hot air”. Well, not quite!
In 1611 Hendrik Brouwer devised a new route to Batavia (Java) for the Dutch East India Company – one that cut the sail time from South Africa by half – from 12 months to a mere 6 months. This route took advantage of the “roaring forties” deep in the southern hemisphere – these strong westerly winds existed between 40 and 50 degrees south in close proximity to South Africa. This route made the then common route to Batavia via the African coast line and Ceylon redundant and to an extent made a collision with the Great Southern land inevitable (calculating longitude was an imprecise science at this time).
Young Dirk Hartog came from a seafaring family and cut his stripes as the Captain of a small trading Vessel the Dolphyn from around 1615. He soon joined the (Dutch) United East India Company (established in 1602 to trade in Spices in East Asia) and eventually was appointed to command the ship the Eendracht on a voyage from the Netherlands via South Africa to Batavia.
The first leg of his journey of discovery commenced on the 23rd January 1616 from the Netherlands. On the way to South Africa he was blown off course and separated from the other ships in his fleet. This is a similar fate, we believe, that could have beset him on the second leg (or a miscalculation of longitude), as he followed the now proscribed southerly Brouwer route to Batavia.
Pushed forward by the roaring forties past where he should have headed North, the Captain of the Eendracht came upon athe tip of a small island on 25 October 1616 just off the coast of today’s Western Australia. The island was approximately 80 km long and 14 km wide and uninhabited. It was a barren island pummelled by the vast Indian Ocean.
Hartog landed at the northern end of the island, now known as Cape Inscription. For three days he explore, but found little. One action that left a mark on history was his leaving a commemorative plate that recorded his visit. It was carefully attached to a wooden post (the plate was retrieved some 40 years later by another Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh).
Suitably unimpressed by what he had seen Hartog headed North, charting the coast line to the North West Cape. From there he proceeded to Macassar with his cargo of money (where he lost 15 men in an altercation with the locals) and then visited other trading centres in the East Indies returning home in 1618.
This second visit by a European explorer had its significance. Following quickly from the William Janszoon the Great Southern Land was finally being revealed….
SIDE NOTE: The Eendracht
This is a little note for the often unsung hero of these adventures. The ship. In this case the Eendracht. She was built in 1655 destined for the Navy of the United Provinces (precursor of the Netherlands). In 1665 she served in the Second Anglo-Dutch war where she boasted 73 guns and a crew of 200, engaging the British in the Battle of Lowestoft. But the Eendracht only just outlasted Dirk Hartog. She managed only two trips from the Port of Texel in the Netherlands to the East Indies. On the 13 May 1622 on a local voyage west off Ambon Island she was wrecked with a cargo of coins – to this day she has not been discovered. In the ships honour, up until the end of the 19th century, the coast of Australia parallel to Dirk Hartogs Island was affectionately called Eendrachtsland. As well for a brief time the Great Southern land was labelled on maps as tLandt van de Eendracht (the Land of the Eendracht).
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Byte 21: Discovery – Here Come the English – The Tryall Wreck – 1622AD
They have been notably absent from the Discovery story, particularly when many think it was the Englishman Captain Cook who actually discovered Australia. In fact an estimated 54 European ships precede Cook’s so called “discovery” in 1770.
Well, the time has finally come. Enter the English, if ever so briefly. Although the Englishmen in question may wish it was not so. Meaning, John Brook, Commander of a 500 tonne British East India vessel and his crew of some 130 men.
The year is 1622 and he is at the helm of the Tryall, a ship that soon is to become the Great Southern Land’s oldest known shipwreck. So to our story….
Loaded with silver from Plymouth, Brooks is on his way to the East Indies from Plymouth. It is the ship’s maiden voyage and the early days of the English trying out the new Brouwer route to the East Indies. His ship we know is only the second British ship to try out this route.
It is clear Brooks and his crew are inexperienced as they stop in Cape Town, not just for supplies, but to ask the locals basically, “How do we get to the East Indies?” Not happy with a verbal answer, they recruit a solution. Brooks locates and appoints an experienced First Mate, Thomas Bright and sets off east with the “roaring forties” at their backs.
Then the fun begins. After mistaking Barrow Island for the mainland they find themselves too far east. There are varying accounts of the cause – incompetence, or the the typical challenge of trying to work out their exact longitude.
Fate struck in the dead of night of the 25th of May. The Tryall crashes into submerged rocks some 30 km from Montebello Islands. In the dead of night there begins a mad scramble for a skiff and longboat. Brook’s immediately takes command of the skiff (filled with silver?) and Bright takes to the longboat. Over 90 of the 133 souls are left to perish as the two boats set sail into the night. But they do not head for the nearby Great Southern Land, but rather they head north. Amazingly some weeks later in early July both boats arrived in Batavia some 1200 km away. A feat of endurance and perseverance by both Brooks and Bright.
Today the submerged rocks are now known as the Tryal Rocks, and for some 300 years after their exact location had been a point of controversy amongst mariners.
The English have finally entered our story of discovery, but have not quite managed to set foot on their future domain. But we do know one thing…finally the English are coming…
Byte 23: The Dutch & English Get Serious – Willing & Able – 1640′s
The 1640′s or thereabouts marks the period when the Dutch become serious about exploring the Great Southern land. While the accidental tourist will remain a feature of the exploration of Australia, we now move to a period where the land is more deliberately visited and mapped (but not explored).
This commenced with a lad, Able Janszoon Tasman, born in the meadows of Luytjegast in Holland in 1603. Little is known of his early life prior to 1634 other than he came form humble stock and took to sea. From there he became for many years deeply involved in the spice trade in the East Indies.
By 1635 he has quickly risen from a simple seaman to “Commandeur Abel,” leading a fleet of small vessels that pave the seas and jealously guard the VOC’s monopoly from foreign intrusion, more generally to harass the ships of hostile European rivals. As Tasman as he approaches his fortieth year he is known for being an experienced and “able” skipper, familiar with the great trade routes from Europe to India, the waters of the Eastern Archipelago, and navigation of the China and Japan seas. in his time he had ventured beyond the limits reached by any previous navigator into the unknown and mysterious North Pacific Ocean.
It is therefore of no surprise that in 1642 the Dutch East India Company select Able Janszoon Tasman to search of this Unknown Southland. This voyage was primarily a commercial venture, not driven by a thirst for scientific knowledge or adventure. Tasman was to journal the full particulars of the productions of the countries he visits, describe the sort of goods available for trade, and what they would take in exchange. For this reason the ships were laden with a great variety of articles of merchandise to potentially trade.
It is also important to note there was a clear delineation between the Known Southland (visited by Dirk Hartog, the Leeuwin (Lioness) in 1622, and Gulde Zeepart (Golden Seahorse) which found himself at the head of the Great Australian Bight) and the Unknown Southland. The Unknown Southland was still very much shrouded in mystery and legend involving the writings of Marco Polo who described a land of Beach, where “gold was so plentiful that no one who did not see it could believe it”. The location of this mysterious land was thought to be somewhere south of the Soloman Islands.
So in 1642 Tasman sets sail on this voyage of commerce and trade and heads to Mauritius. From there he turns south to the Unknown Southland. On the 18th of November they pass the longitude of Nuyts Land (Great Australian Bight), the furthest known extension of the Discovered South Land. However, not all goes well. They have to contend with strong westerly gales which push them west. On the 24th November they sight their first land, which they called Antony van Diemen’s Land, after the Governor-General. They have reached modern day Tasmania.
On the 3rd of December Tasman two boats (the Heemskerckand Zeehaen) make for a bay now known as Prince of Wales Bay. Tasman quickly launches the Heemskerck’s longboat, but the surf was too high preventing him from landing. Instead the ship’s carpenter swims through the surf, and plants the Prince’s flag on shore. Tasman, on behalf of the VOC takes formal possession of the newly discovered country. From there he sails west to visit the South Island of New Zealand then on to the Tongan archipelago and the Fiji Islands.
The trips from a commercial point of view was a disappointment. Tasman had not, discovered any rich gold or silver mines, or indeed any rich trade for the Company. However he had circumnavigated New Holland, or “Compagnies Nieuw Nederlandt”.
In 1644 Tasman was commissioned for a second voyage by resolution of the Governor-general The ships Limmenand Zeemeeuw (Sea Gull), with the little tender Braek (Setter) carrying only 14 men, were commissioned for the voyage. A total of 111 hands were provisioned for an eight month journey of discovering focusing on a northerly approach via Papua New Guinea. The journals of this voyage are lost, but Tasman did carefully chart the west and north coasts of Australia, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The Great Southern Land was taking shape. But to the commercially focused Dutch it was a disappointment. It was no land of gold and silver. It would now be for other to be willing and able to take the next steps of discovery…
Byte 24: Background – Privateers, Buccaneers & Pirates – 1670′s
Dampier has variously been described as an English buccaneer, ships captain, author and scientific observer. Some have described him as one of the greatest nautical explorers behind the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.
It is the descriptor of buccaneer that is worth clarifying, as there are three terms that are often used interchangeably, that of Pirate, buccaneer andprivateer.
Let’s first turn to a privateer…
Basically a privateer is someone who is authorised by the government to attack enemy vessels at sea. During the 1600’s and beyond a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was often provided as a government license that authorized a private vessel to attack and capture enemy ships. A privateer could quite legally plunder a ship of another designated country, and even bring the vessel before courts for condemnation and sale.
Sailing the high seas for prizes under the authority of a Letter of Marque was considered an honorable pastime, as opposed to wanton acts of indiscriminate piracy. But be warned, things did not always turn out famously for privateers. For anyone interested in the fate of one famous privateer (not pirate) see the book about Captain William Kidd, The Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks. This book tells the tale of how William Kidd started out as a legitimate English privateer, but was later hanged for alleged acts of piracy (basically to protect his aristocratic sponsors who authorized him to hunt down pirates and capture their plunder).
A privateer was often used as a tool used to bolster a smaller navy, or to distract opposing forces by requiring them to protect their trade routes from attack. You may also hear of the term Corsair, which is French version of the privateer.
Now comes the term buccaneer.
Today the term is often used interchangeably with that of a pirate, but the term had a different meaning originally. The term buccaneer was applied to privateers who specifically attacked Spanish shipping in the Caribbean Sea during the mid to late 17th century. The term actually comes from the Arawak term buccan, a wooden frame for smoking meat.
So a buccaneer is a specific type of privateer. For example the English viewed buccaneering as a cheap way to wage war on the Spanish. There was an additional benefit of a return on investment as the English crown took a cut of the plunder as payment in exchange for providing a Letter of Marque.
Piracy is the unauthorised plunder of both shipping and coastal towns. The history of piracy stretches back thousands of years, and the one universal rule was, where there was an ocean and trade, there was piracy. From the Mediterranean Sea to the seas off China.
The so-called “classic era” of piracy was in and around the Caribbean from the late 1500′s to the 1720′s. One interesting side note is that pirate ships were one of the first democratic institutions of this era. This was in great contrast to the current modus operandi of Western society at the time. In general the captain and quartermaster were elected by the crew. They in turn appointed the ships officers. There was logic in this approach, as it provided checks and balances and ensured that only a successful captain who delivered “results”, (or plunder) remained leading the ship.
For a pirate getting caught during these times often meant meeting a gruesome end. Often it was punishment meted out by “dancing the hempen jig”, or hanging. In England many pirate executions’ took place at Execution Dock on the River Thames. At that time they were very much public executions, drawing great crowds, with some then locked into iron cages where their bodies would rot over several years, visible to all those who sailed by. It was a clear reminder of the fate of those caught and prosecuted for piracy.
So, in our next byte we meet a man who will greatly add to the knowledge of this Great Southern Land. A man who would, amongst other achievements, be the first man to circumnavigate the world three times….
Byte 25: Discovery – The English Set Sail – William Dampier in Action – 1690′s
So starts Captain William Dampier in his book A New Voyage Around The World, which describes his first circumnavigation of the World.
Dampier was a character of the age, variously described as a buccaneer, explorer, sea captain, author and scientific observer. From our point of view he is a man who is to contribute greatly to the unveiling of the Great Southern Land.
Dampier was born in 1652, the son of a farmer near Yeovil, south west of London. Some 20 years or so later we find him on the other side of the world cutting and loading log-wood on the Bay of Campeachy in the present day Gulf of Mexico. Not satisfied with life there, in 1679 he sets sail on a grand adventure that will lead to his first circumnavigation of the World. Importantly he would popularise this voyage in his very successful book A New Voyage Around The World which regales stories of his travels and numerous buccaneering adventures.
It was in fact the very success of his journals that propel him into our journey of discovery. The British Admiralty become aware of his experience in the Pacific and seek his advice on the exploration of this part of the World. In 1699 they provide him with the command of the Roebuck and a commission to explore the east coast of New Holland (the name the Dutch had given to our Great Southern Land, Australia).
So at the age of 47 Dampier, Englishman and buccaneer, is at the helm of the Roeback, and at the centre of our journey of discovery.
However, not all goes well, supporting a view that perhaps notoriety, not talent put him in command of this expedition. He sets off late in the season in 1699 traveling via the Cape of Good Hope and the roaring forties. It is soon clear, however, that the 21-gun ship was not up the task of such an arduous trip, nor did he have good relations with his crew, actually having to clap one of his lieutenants into irons on the way. Scurvy follows, as well as chronic water shortages not making for a happy time when he reaches the coast of Western Australia.
But despite all of this Dampier pushes on, following the Western Australian coast north to Roebuck Bay near modern day Broome, then heading for Timor.
From January to April 1700 he follows the North Coast of New Guinea and during this time discovers New Britain. But instead of heading to explore the east coast of Australia he heads homeward, the cause, the poor state of the Roeback. In fact Dampier and his crew barely makes the volcanic Ascension Island in the mid Atlantic. Soon after their arrival their ship flounders and sinks. Dampier and sixty men have to wait two months until they are rescued.
Although in reality doing little more than previous visitors (like the accidental visitor Dirk Hartog) Dampier does popularise the exploration of the Pacific, again publishing a book of his journeys, A Voyage to New Holland in 1703 and 1709 (Part 2). Dampier’s visit also produces the first detailed observations of Australian flora and fauna. But other than this, the voyage is not much of a success, and falls well short of the goal of exploring the east coast of Australia.
Dampier himself was disappointed in what he saw. Viewing this new land as a mixture of dangerous shoals and reefs surrounding a barren land inhabited by ‘the miserablest people in the world’.
On Dampier’s return to England things did not get much better. He was court martialed for his treatment of Lieutenant Fisher (who he had clapped in irons), found guilty, fined all his pay and declared to be “not a fit person to be employed as commander of any of His Majesty’s ships.”
However, this did not stop Dampier. With the outbreak of the Spanish War of Succession his buccaneering experience again puts him to the fore with the Admiralty. Sought out as because of his knowledge of the Pacific and experience as a privateer he is given command of a ship the St. George in 1703. From there he fades from our story of discovery, but he will still circumnavigate the world another two times.
Dampier’s role in the exploration of the Great Southern Land is indirect, but significant. His ability with the pen, along with his scientific observations, inspires his fellow countrymen to join in the exploration of the Pacific. Once again, here come the English…and they are serious this time…
Books by William Dampier
- A New Voyage Round the World, (1697)
- Voyages and Descriptions, (1699)
- A Supplement of the Voyage Round the World
- The Campeachy Voyages
- A Discourse of Winds
- A Voyage to New Holland, (Part 1 1703, Part 2 1709)
Wikipedia provides the following interesting list on the impact of William Dampier:
- His observations and analysis of natural history helped Charles Darwin’s and Alexander von Humboldt’s development of their theories,
- He made innovations in navigation technology that were studied by James Cook and Horatio Nelson.
- Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, was inspired by accounts of real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk, a crew-member on Dampier’s voyages.
- His reports on breadfruit led to William Bligh’s ill-fated voyage in HMS Bounty.
- He is cited over a thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary notably on words such as ‘barbecue’, ‘avocado’, ‘chopsticks’ and ‘sub-species’. That is not to say he coined the words, but his use of them in his writings is the first known example in English.
- His travel journals depicting Panama influenced the undertaking of the ill-fated Darien Scheme, leading to the Act of Union of 1707.
- His notes on the fauna and flora of northwestern Australia were studied by naturalist and scientist Joseph Banks, who made further studies during the first voyage with Captain James Cook. This helped lead to the naming of and colonization of Botany Bay and the founding of modern Australia.
- He is mentioned in the Gabriel García Márquez short story The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship.
- Jonathan Swift explicitly mentions Dampier in his Gulliver’s Travels as a mariner comparable to Lemuel Gulliver.
- He is believed to have influenced the writing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.