Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: William Dampier

William Dampier is best known for being the first person to circumnavigate the world twice, but he developed a reputation as a pirate, or at minimum for traveling with pirates, and he has been a source of inspiration to numerous other characters throughout history.

Dampier was born in 1652, in Somersetshire, England. At 16 he set sail on the open waters for the first time as a naval soldier in the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Dampier became a skilled seaman who documented his travels well, and

most accounts of him describe a scientist rather than a pirate. He was never very successful as a pirate, returning to London several times penniless, and most of his time was spent in scientific exploration with the creation of wind charts, written descriptions and reports on natural history, plant life, animal life, and native peoples. He was the first Englishman to spend significant time in Australia, which was then known as New Holland.

The time leading up to his extensive scientific explorations, was spent as a naval soldier where he later served in the Battle of Schooneveld in the summer of 1673. The next year he turned to plantation work, but that was short lived as the sea called again to Dampier. This time though, Dampier crewed with buccaneers and began his first trip around the world.

Teamed with pirates from Central America, Dampier explored and pirated throughout the Caribbean and the South American coast. They headed to the Philippines, where the captain and several crew members were overthrown in a mutiny. Dampier traveled with his crew to Australia, where they remained for several weeks, exploring and documenting their findings. In 1691, Dampier returned to England and turned his writings into a book entitled _A New Voyage Round the World_. The book was an immediate success in England, where there was a great curiosity about Australia and the people who lived there. As a result of the book and upon his request, the English Navy gave Dampier a ship and a crew and asked him to return to Australia to gather more information. As captain of the ship, the HMS Roebuck, it was the first time Dampier had been the first in command. The ship had to be abandoned on the return voyage to England, but much of the information Dampier had gathered on his voyage was able to be saved.

On his return to England, Dampier was dismissed from the Royal Navy on grounds of cruelty to his crew. Apparently, he lost his temper and beat his second in command with a cane. He then put the man in irons and deserted him at a jail in Brazil. The prisoner had complained of his treatment to the Admiralty in England and, despite his claims of innocence, Dampier was found guilty and docked his pay for the trip to Australia.

After writing a second book, _A Voyage to New Holland_, published in 1703 and again in 1709, Dampier set off for his second circumnavigation of the world. He resumed the pirate lifestyle, and sailed with Alexander Selkirk in a fleet of two ships. When one ship reached Juan Fernandez Island, Selkirk expressed doubts about the seaworthiness of the ship to the captain, and opted to remain on the island rather than board with everyone else. He was left stranded for over four years, until William Dampier, on his third trip around the globe, stopped at Juan Fernandez Island and rescued him. Selkirk's experience on the island became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe to write the classic novel _Robinson Crusoe_.

After his third and final voyage around the world, William Dampier returned to England where he died in 1715. The writings and charts he made while traveling were later great influences on such notables as Charles Darwin, Horatio Nelson, and William Bligh, and Dampier is today referenced over 1000 times in the Oxford Dictionary.

Copyright 2006 CleverMedia
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