William Dampier (born August
Coker, Somerset, England — died March
1715, London) was an
English buccaneer, sea captain,
author and scientific observer.
He was the
first Englishman to explore or map parts of New Holland (Australia) and New Guinea.
He was the first person to circumnavigate
the world three times.
Diana and Michael Preston, in A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
describe him as the greatest nautical explorer-adventurer, British
or otherwise, between the Elizabethans (notably Sir Francis Drake
and Sir Walter Raleigh
) and James Cook
. Yet, though described by natural
scientist Alex George, as "Australia's first natural historian", he
is relatively little known in Australia, and even less known in his
[[Image:Dampier Mosquito.gif|thumb|left|250px|Map from "A New
Voyage Round the World", published in 1697 by William Dampier, the
English sea captain, naturalist, and occasional buccaneer.The
is marked with a star.
Dampier and his associate, the surgeon and buccaneer Lionel Wafer
describe the Miskito
peoples in the period 1690-1700. These
tribal groups, often mixed with runaway slaves, formed a distinct
culture in the coastal region, sometimes forming alliances with
pirates against Spanish authorities in the 16th-18th
In 1678 he
crewed with buccaneers on the Spanish Main of Central America, twice visiting the Bay of Campeche. This led to his first circumnavigation: in
1679 he accompanied a raid across the Isthmus of
Darién in Panama and captured
Spanish ships on the Pacific coast of
that isthmus; the pirates then raided Spanish settlements in
Peru before returning to the Caribbean.
made his way to Virginia, where in 1683 he engaged with the privateer
John Cooke (or Cook). Cook entered the
Pacific via Cape
Horn and spent a year raiding Spanish possessions in
Peru, the Galápagos
Islands, and Mexico.
expedition collected buccaneers and ships as it went along, at one
time having a fleet of ten vessels. In Mexico Cook died, and a new
leader, Captain Edward Davis
elected captain by the crew. Dampier transferred to Captain Charles Swan's ship, the privateer
Cygnet, and on 31 March 1686 they set out across the
Pacific to raid the East Indies, calling at
Guam and Mindanao. Leaving Swan and 36 others behind, the rest
of the privateers sailed to Manila, Poulo Condor, China, the
Islands, and New
1688 Cygnet was beached on the northwest coast of
Australia, near King
While the ship was being careened
Dampier made notes on the fauna and flora
and the Indigenous peoples he found there. Later that year, by
agreement, he and two shipmates were marooned on one of the
Islands. They obtained a small canoe which they
modified after first capsizing and then after surviving a great
storm called at "Acheen" (Aceh) in Sumatra. After further adventures Dampier returned to
England in 1691 via the Cape of Good Hope, penniless but in possession of his
journals. He also had as a source of income the famous
painted (tattoed) Prince Jeoly and his mother who he had purchased
as slaves and subsequently exhibited in London, thereby
also coming to be better known while his book was being
The Roebuck expedition
Map of the area charted in HMS
The publication of these diarys as New Voyage Round the
in 1697 was a popular sensation creating interest at the
and in 1699 Dampier was
given the command of the Roebuck
with a commission from
the Admiralty and by inference King William III
and Queen Mary II
, who reigned jointly. His
mission was to explore the east coast of New Holland, the name
given by the Dutch to what is now Australia, and Dampier's
intention was to travel there via Cape Horn.
The expedition set out on 14 January 1699, far too late in the
season to round the Horn and it approached New Holland via Cape of
Good Hope. Following the Dutch routes to the Indies, on
26 July 1699, Dampier reached Dirk Hartog Island at the mouth of what he called Shark Bay in Western Australia.
He landed and began producing the first
known detailed record of Australian flora and fauna. The images are
believed to be by his clerk James Brand. Dampier then followed
the coast northeast, reaching the Dampier Archipelago and then LaGrange Bay, just south of what is now
Bay all the while recording and collecting specimens,
including many shells. From there he bore away north for Timor.
he sailed east and on 3 December 1699 rounded New Guinea, which he
passed to the north. Sailing east, he traced the southeastern
coasts of New
Hanover, New Ireland and New
Britain, charting the Dampier Strait between
these islands (now the Bismarck Archipelago) and New Guinea.
En route he paused to
collect specimens with one stop resulting in a collection of many
His ship was rotten and with an apparently inept carpenter, so
Dampier was forced to abandon his plan to examine the east coast of
New Holland while less than a hundred miles from it. In danger of sinking
he attempted to make the return voyage to England but
Roebuck foundered near Ascension Island on 21 February 1701.
While anchored offshore
the ship had started to take water, and though sent below to effect
repair, the carpenter only made it worse. As a result the ship was
run ashore. His crew was marooned there for five weeks before being
picked up on 3 April by an East
and returned home in August 1701.
Although many papers were lost with the Roebuck
was able to save many new charts of coastlines, and his record of
and currents in the seas
around Australia and New Guinea. He also saved a few of his
On his return Dampier was court-martialled
for cruelty. On the outward voyage
Dampier had crewman George Fisher removed from the ship and jailed
Fisher returned to England and complained about his treatment to
the Admiralty. Dampier wrote an angry vindication of his conduct,
but he was found guilty, docked his pay for the voyage, and
dismissed from the Royal Navy
He wrote an account of the 1699–1701 expedition, A Voyage to
and returned to privateering
The War of the Spanish
broke out in 1701 and English privateers were being
readied to assist against French and Spanish interests. Dampier was
appointed commander of the 26-gun government ship St
, with a crew of 120 men. They were joined by the 16-gun
(63 me) and sailed on 30 April 1703.
En-route they unsuccessfully engaged a French ship but captured
three small Spaniard ships and one vessel of 550 tons.
The Cinque Ports
separated from the St George
the Pacific coast of the Americas and, after putting Alexander Selkirk
ashore alone on an
island for complaining about its seaworthiness, sank a month
Dampier was engaged in 1708 by the privateer Woodes Rogers
as sailing master
on the Duke
voyage was more successful: Selkirk was rescued on 2 February 1709,
and the expedition amassed nearly £200,000 (over £20,000,000 in
2009) of profit. However, Dampier died in London in 1715
before he received his share.
Dampier influenced several figures better known than he:
In 2001, a team from the Western Australian Museum located the
place where the Roebuck
was lost, identifying the site by the location of a bell inscribed
with a "broad arrow" consistent with those fitted to Fifth Rates, a
clam shell from the Indo-Pacific and from other indications. The
originals were replicated at the Mary Rose Laboratories in
Portsmouth and the originals returned to the island where they are
now on exhibit. The long lost contract for building the ship was
later found and an analysis and model of the ship Roebuck
have since been produced.
In 1985 he was honoured on a postage
depicting his portrait issued by Australia Post 
- 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
- Diana and Michael Preston, A Pirate of Exquisite
- Anton Gill, Devil's Mariner
- Riccardo Capoferro, Frontiere del racconto.
Letteratura di viaggio e romanzo in Inghilterra,
1690-1750, Meltemi, 2007.
- Woodes Rogers, Cruising Voyage
Round the World, 1712.
- Clennell Wilkinson, William Dampier, John Lane at the
Bodley Head, 1929.
- McCarthy, M., 2004, HM Ship Roebuck (1690-1701): Global
Maritime Heritage? The International Journal of Nautical
Archaeology, 33. (2): 330-337.
- Gerald Norris (editor), Buccaneer Explorer William
Dampier's Voyages, ISBN: 1843831414