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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

1577 to 1580

Toward the end of the century, a new element entered the Pacific by way of the Strait of Magellan. This was made up of British and Dutch navigators, bent, not upon the exploration of the Pacific, but upon harrying the South American coast and capturing Spanish galleons laden with treasure. The first Englishman was Francis Drake, who, having been nearly captured with John Hawkins near Vera Cruz in 1568 by the Spanish fleet, had an extra incentive for wishing to "singe the King of Spain's beard." Drake sailed from Plymouth on December 13, 1577, with five ships, of which the 100-ton Pelican was his flagship. He took seventeen days in the Strait of Magellan, before he entered the Pacific on September 6, 1578. After being driven to the south by storms, he worked his way along the Pacific coast alone and the treasure he collected from ships and towns justified the subsequent change of the name of his ship from the Pelican, to the Golden Hind. Spanish war ships sent out to capture him failed to overtake him, and they sailed south to inter-page 7cept him on his return to the Strait of Magellan. Drake, however, fooled them by sailing across the Pacific to the East Indies. He sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and anchored in Plymouth on September 26, 1580. He had circumnavigated the globe in the one ship in two years, nine and one-half months, and for this achievement and for the booty he brought home, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. In his trans-Pacific voyage north of the equator, he, like the previous Spanish navigators, had not encountered the Hawaiian Islands.