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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Thomas Cavendish and Others

Thomas Cavendish and Others

1586 to 1594

The war which broke out officially between England and Spain in 1586, led to a number of British expeditions which attempted to emulate Drake's success on the Pacific coast. Most of them failed to get through the Strait of Magellan, but one commanded by Thomas Cavendish passed through the Strait on February 24, 1587; and after capturing much plunder, including the Spanish galleon Santa Ana, Cavendish sailed west from California between the latitudes 12° and 13° N. until he reached Guam. He went on to the Philippines, then sailed for home via the Cape of Good Hope. He anchored at Plymouth on September 9, 1588, after a voyage of two years and 50 days. In his trans-Pacific voyage he was too far south to encounter Hawaii.

Cavendish attempted another expedition with five ships in 1591. He gave up the attempt to pass through the Strait of Magellan, where he encountered bad weather; but John Davis, one of his captains, passed through the Strait three times in the Desire, accompanied by the Black, a pinnace, and each time he was forced by violent westerly storms to return to the Strait for shelter. The Black was lost on the third attempt, and Davis had to abandon any further attempt, owing to the condition of his own ship.

The last British expedition of the sixteenth century was made by Sir Richard Hawkins on the Dainty. He passed into the Pacific through the Strait of Magellan on March 29, 1594, but after moderate success along the Pacific, had to surrender to superior Spanish forces off the coast of California on June 22, 1594. This British interlude, while interesting, did not add anything to knowledge concerning Polynesia.