View Full Version : William Dampier

12-02-2011, 08:32 AM
I've just been reading a biography of him.
In England he is remembered as a slightly obscure figure, a buccaneer and an explorer. The first Englishman to reach Australia, 80 years before Cook. I'm sure that he figures a bit more prominently in Australian history books.

But actually Dampier appears to have been quite a remarkable person. Not only a buccaneer but also a pioneering naturalist, hydrographer, navigator, explorer, adventurer and the author of treatises in all those fields plus a consummate travel writer.

He was the first person to circumnavigate the world 3 times.

He was the first person to map the currents and winds of the world's oceans in a scientific way. Particularly the Pacific which was barely known in the C17.

He was a pioneering naturalist whose field work and notes about the Galapogos Islands inspired Darwin's research there. Alexander von Humboldt cites his work in Sth. America as a major source and he repeatedly mentioned how much he owed to Dampier. Sir Joseph Banks also used many of his observations about Australia, his were the first, as a basis for his own later research.
His travels took him to SE Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Nth & Sth America, Australia.

He commanded the first official British voyage to the Pacific for scientific research and exploration aboard the "Roebuck". During this voyage he made his second visit to Australia.

His technical manuals on navigation and hydrography were required reading with the Royal Navy for many years after his death.
His other writings about his travels were a major success in the literary world of England and Europe. A friend of such figures a Pepys and Evelyn.
Dampier is credited with having introduced more than a 1,000 new words into the English language like, avocado, barbecue, cashew, chopsticks.

Besides all that he was famous to the England of his time as a privateer, infamous to the Spanish as a pirate, for his many attacks on their ships and colonies in Sth. and Central America.

A remarkable figure.

Brian Palmer
12-02-2011, 08:42 AM
Was it...

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer (http://www.amazon.com/Pirate-Exquisite-Mind-Naturalist-Buccaneer/dp/042520037X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322834032&sr=8-1) by Diana Preston (http://forum.woodenboat.com/Diana-Preston/e/B001ITVSLM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1322834032&sr=8-1) and Michael Preston?

I read this a few years ago. I remember he also crossed the ithmus of Panama.


12-02-2011, 08:56 AM
Hi Brian,
yes it was. A very interesting book, it suffers a bit at times from the writer's style but the figure of Dampier is quite interesting nonetheless.

12-02-2011, 03:04 PM
loved that book, read it about three years ago when I was binging on pirate history.

12-02-2011, 03:55 PM
He knew Defoe and the origins of Robinson Crusoe story are reputed to be his telling of a real marooning. Somewhere I have a book with many of the maps that he made.

12-02-2011, 05:19 PM
Apparently Swift happily took whole chunks of one of Dampier's books and dropped it into his own writings. The pirate being "pirated".

As for "Robinson Crusoe", Dampier was on the voyage that abandoned Alexander Selkirk, the model for Crusoe, to his marooning and on the later voyage that rescued him.

Next in my stack of unread books, now that I have some free time, is one about Fitzroy who was the captain of the "Beagle" when Darwin sailed. Apparently a manic depressive and a staunch Christian creationist.
An interesting combination with Darwin.

12-05-2011, 03:54 PM
That still blows my mind in an era when most men didn' tleave the county that Dampier is on the other side of the world the second time and says, hey we should pull over to this island and see what Alex has been up to.