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Explorer and hydrographic surveyor William Dampier (1652—1715) learned his craft on early voyages to voyages to Newfoundland, Bantam, Jamaica and Yucatan, and subsequently made three circumnavigations of the globe. 

The first (1679-91) began with a raid across the Isthmus of Panama onto the Spanish Pacific coast that returned to the Caribbean and, eventually, Virginia, where the privateer John Cooke enlisted him in 1683. With Cooke, Dampier rounded Cape Horn, spent a year raiding Spanish interests in Peru, the Galápagos Islands, and Mexico. 

After  Cooke died, Dampier transferred to Charles Swan's Cygnet. At the end of March 1686, they set out to raid the East Indies, travelling via Guam and Mindanao to Manila, Poulo Condor, China, the Moluccas, and on New Holland, where the Cygnet anchored near King Sound on 5 January 1688, where they spent two months careening the ship.

After being marooned with two shipmates in the Nicobar Islands, Dampier eventually returned to England via  Aceh and the Cape of Good Hope. 

His experiences formed the basis for his New Voyage Round the World (1697), which in turn prompted a commission from William III to explore the east coast of New Holland (1699-1701), travelling via Cape Horn in HMS Roebuck. A delayed departure meant Dampier followed the Dutch route to the Indies rather than attempting the Horn, so Dampier failed to reach his official objective. 

Instead, he cruised along the Western Australian mainland from Shark Bay to the Dampier Archipelago and the vicinity of modern day Broome, moved on to Timor and the waters north of New Guinea, tracing the south-eastern coasts of islands in the Bismarck Archipelago. 

The Roebuck's condition ruled out an attempt to examine the east coast of New Holland, and she foundered off Ascension Island in the Atlantic in February 1701. Dampier's crew was marooned there for five weeks before an East Indiaman picked them up and returned them to England in August 1701. His account of the expedition appeared as A Voyage to New Holland in 1703, but his conviction at a court-martial in June 1702 meant he forfeited his pay due and was deemed unfit to command a naval vessel.

As a result, he was back in the ranks of the privateers when he made his second (1703-07) and third (1706-11) circumnavigations. The latter, as sailing master on the Duke, commanded by Woodes Rogers, saw Andrew Selkirk the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe rescued from Juan Fernandez after being marooned there on the previous excursion.

While his final voyage was a financial success thanks to the capture of a Spanish galleon, off the coast of Mexico in December 1709, Dampier does not seem to have received all of his share of the proceeds. The date and circumstances of his death, along with his final resting place, are unknown, but his estate was some £2,000 in debt when he died.

© Ian Hughes 2017