Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Buccaneers and Privateers

Buccaneers and Privateers

1643 to 1721

After Tasman's voyage, no discoveries were made in the south Pacific until the voyage of another Dutchman, Jacob Roggeveen, about eighty years later. In the interval, however, there was a great deal of activity in the West Indies in the form of attacks on Spanish ships and ports by English and French buccaneers. The buccaneers worked round to the Pacific coast but, fortunately, never passed west of those uninhabited islands off the American coast which they used as bases for attacking the Peruvian and Mexican coasts and shipping. In 1686 an English buccaneer named William Dampier crossed the north Pacific from Mexico to Guam with Captain Swan of the pirate craft Cygnet. Dampier made voyages in the East Indies and to the northwest coast of Australia.

After returning to England, Dampier wrote a work entitled "A new voyage round the world." It was so well received that the British Admiralty gave Dampier a commission as captain in the Royal Navy and command of the Roebuck to conduct further surveys of Australia, or New Holland as it was then known. Thus the exploration of northwest Australia and part of the New Guinea coast was conducted in 1689 to 1700.

In 1703, when war broke out against France and Spain, some English merchants fitted out two ships, the Saint George and Cinque Ports Galley, as privateers to cruise against the Spaniards in the south seas. The command of the two ships was given to Dampier, and they sailed from Kinsale on September 11, 1703. Dampier was unfortunate in his officers, who quarrelled with him and with one another. In February 1704 the ships were at Juan Fernandez, and from there they worked along the Peruvian coast. On May 19 the two ships agreed to part company. The Cinque Ports Galley, commanded by Captain Stradling after the death of Captain Charles Pickering, called at Juan Fernandez, where the master of the ship, Alexander Selkirk, who had quarrelled with his captain, was put ashore at his own request in October 1704. The ship sprung a leak, which was so bad that she was run ashore near the island of Gorgona and the crew gave themselves up to the Spaniards.

John Clipperton, the chief mate with Dampier, and twenty-one men deserted on a prize on September 2, 1704. They eventually reached Macao, where they divided their prize money and dispersed. Another group left Dampier, with his consent, on a captured prize for the East Indies and reached Amboina on May 18, 1705. Their ship was confiscated by the Dutch and the crew sent back to Europe on Dutch ships. Dampier had to abandon the Saintpage 19George in February 1705, for she had become unseaworthy. He also reached the East Indies, on a prize brigantine which was seized by the Dutch. Thus the voyage did not produce any financial advantage to the English merchants and no addition was made to our knowledge of the south seas.

Nothing daunted, the merchants of Bristol fitted out two ships for a cruise to the south seas against the Spaniards. The Duke, 320 tons with thirty guns and 183 men, was commanded by Woodes Rogers; and the Duchess, 260 tons with 26 guns and 151 men, was commanded by Stephen Courtney. Dampier, who had fallen to humble circumstances, went as a pilot. The ships sailed from Cork on September 1, 1708. They called at John Davis' "Southland" on December 23, called by Woodes Rogers the Falkland Islands. On January 31, 1709, they called at Juan Fernandez, where they freed Alexander Selkirk from his self-imposed isolation. His story is said to have given Defoe the theme for his imaginative Robinson Crusoe.

Woodes Rogers had better fortune than Dampier, for after a successful expedition along the Pacific coast which included the capture of a Manila ship, he sailed from California for the East Indies on January 10, 1710. He reached Guam on March 10, called at the Moluccas and at Batavia without interference from the Dutch, and finally reached Texel on July 23, 1711. Again, no addition was made to man's knowledge of the Pacific.