The World According to Dampier
William Dampier was a buccaneer of questionable ability and a navigator of considerable skill who circumnavigated the world three times. Although he was known by his shipmates as a poor leader in battle, for his use of foul language, and for his unabashed conceit, he was also a gifted and exceptionally curious explorer who wrote detailed accounts of the places that he visited and the flora and fauna that grew there. Dampier began his life as the son of a cobbler in Somerset, England, in 1651, and in his youth was apprenticed to a shipmaster. Records indicate that Dampier sailed to the East Indies and took part in naval engagements during the Anglo-Dutch War in 1673. After falling ill, he was put ashore in Jamaica, where in 1674 he found work as an under-manager on a sugar plantation. It appears that Dampier soon returned to the sea, engaging in trading along the coast of Jamaica and nearby islands, eventually drifting to Central America.
Becoming a Buccaneer
Dampier spent some time in Central America, working with log cutters — who, when they weren't cutting logs, would join passing pirates to assist in raids on villages or merchant ships. Eventually Dampier joined a pirate group that traveled up and down the coast of Central America, raiding settlements along the way. By 1679, he was back in Jamaica, where he spent the next several years as a pirate, sailing with various buccaneer crews. When he wrote about his travels during this time, he referred to himself as a privateer, and though the captains he served under usually did have some type of privateering commission, they certainly didn't limit their attacks to vessels they had permission to raid. Dampier sailed under such captains as Richard Dawkins and Bartholomew Sharp, and participated in attacks on Portobello, Panama, and Arica, Peru, as well as numerous smaller towns in the Caribbean and along the Central American coast.
The First Step
Dampier joined John Cook on a journey around South America to ports on the Pacific side of the continent. They captured a few ships, but had limited success in taking rich prizes. He eventually left the group to join with Captain Charles Swan, who was sailing to the Orient. On this voyage, Dampier had the distinction of becoming the first Englishman to set foot on the Australian continent.
By the time he arrived back in England, Dampier had made his first “round the world” trip, and used his journals written during the adventure to write and, in 1697, publish his first book,
Dampier spent the remainder of his sailing years serving as navigator on various voyages, including sailing under privateer Captain Woodes Rogers. He wrote two more books detailing his travels and the lands he visited —
Two hundred years before William Dampier's time, Ferdinand Magellan had named the Pacific Ocean from the Latin