Setting Out

Backed by Bristol merchants, he fitted out two merchant ships, the Duke and the Duchess, with unusual care.

The backers provided nearly double the usual number of officers, including six medical men including Dr Thomas Dover, a significant investor in the expedition, who was appointed President of the shipboard Council which was to agree on all important decisions. 

While a formal Council would not eliminate friction, it secured greater control of a crew that would otherwise have proved fractious. 

With William Dampier as master of the Duke and pilot of the expedition, the ships set sail from King Road, near Bristol, at the start of August 1708. 

After a stop at Cork to fill up the crews, they sailed to the Canary Islands, suppressing a mutiny en route, and captured a small Spanish barque laden with wine and brandy off Teneriffe. 

After replenishment stops at the Cape Verde Islands and St Vincent, they rounded the Horn where a violent storm blew them far to the south. 

In the Pacific, they headed for Juan Fernandez, arriving there on 31 January 1709. 

When some of the crew were sent ashore on the morning of 2 February, they were approached by a man 'clothed in goatskins', Alexander Selkirk, a former crewman of Dampier's, who had been marooned there for more than four years. 

Juan Fernandez to Guayaquil

© Ian Hughes 2017