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William Dampier
September 1651 – March, 1715


Born 5 September, 1651 in East Coker, Somerset
Early Years

Dampier sailed on two merchant voyages to Newfoundland and Java, before joining the Royal Navy in 1673, taking part in the two battles of Schooneveld in June of that year.

His service was cut short by a catastrophic illness, and he returned to England for several months of recuperation.

For the next several years he tried his hand at various careers, including plantation managing (in Jamaica) and logging (in Mexico), before he joined another sailing expedition.


In 1679 Dampier crewed with buccaneer Captain Bartholomew Sharp on the Spanish Main of Central America, twice visiting the Bay of Campeche on the north coast of Mexico.

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.

Dampier made his way to Virginia, where in 1683 he engaged with the privateer John Cooke.

Cooke entered the Pacific via Cape Horn and spent a year raiding Spanish possessions in Peru, the Galápagos Islands, and Mexico.

This expedition collected buccaneers and ships as it went along, at one time having a fleet of ten vessels.
Cooke died in Mexico, and a new leader, Edward Davis, was 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 Spice Islands, and New Holland (Australia).


On 5 January 1688 Cygnet was beached on the northwest coast of Australia, near King Sound.

While the ship was being careened Dampier made notes on the fauna and flora and the indigenous peoples he found there.

Later that year he and two shipmates were marooned on one of the Nicobar 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, whom he had purchased as slaves and subsequently exhibited in London, thereby also coming to be better known while his book was being printed.

Robinson Crusoe

On one voyage he was able to rescue Alexander Selkirk, who was Daniel Defoe's inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.

Others influenced by Dampier include Captain Cook, Lord Nelson and Charles Darwin.

Died 8 March 1715


'A World of Trivia', 'Dear Grandpa Pencil' and 'A Cheapskate's Guide to Exploring Tasmania By Car'
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Published by Robin A Cartledge ~ ABN 19 924 273 138 ~ Low Head, Tasmania ~ Contact/Comment