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William Dampier

Geburtsort: East Coker
Tod März 1715 (63-64)
St. Stephen, Coleman Street, London

Sohn von George Dampler und Anne Dampler
Ehemann von Elinore Dampier und Judith Dampier
Vater von Daniel Dampier; George Dampier und William Dampier
Bruder von Theophilus Dampler; George Dampler und Ann Dampler

Verwalted von: Private User
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About William Dampier

William Dampier (5 September 1651 - 8 March 1715) was the first man of English descent to explore sections of New Holland (Australia) and also the first person to circumnavigate the world three times. Dampier has been described as the first natural historian of Australia and the greatest explorer-adventurer between Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain Cook.

After impressing the Admiralty with his book 'New Voyage Round the World', Dampier was given command of a 26-gunner and made valuable discoveries in Western New Holland, but was court-martialled for cruelty.

On a later voyage, he was able to rescue Alexander Selkirk, who was Daniel Defoe's inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. Others influenced by Dampier include Captain Cook, Lord Nelson and Charles Darwin.

Early life

Born in East Coker, Somerset and educated at King's School, Bruton, Dampier sailed on two merchant voyages to Newfoundland and Java, before joining the Royal Navy in 1673, taking part in the two battles of Schooneveld in June of that year. His service was cut short by a catastrophic illness, and he returned to England for several months of recuperation. For the next several years he tried his hand at various careers, including plantation managing (in Jamaica) and logging (in Mexico), before he joined another sailing expedition.

First circumnavigation

In 1679 Dampier crewed with buccaneer Captain Bartholomew Sharp on the Spanish Main of Central America, twice visiting the Bay of Campeche or "Campeachy" as it was then known (see map opposite) on the north coast of Mexico. This led to his first circumnavigation during which he accompanied a raid across the Isthmus of Darién in Panama and captured Spanish ships on the Pacific coast of that isthmus. The pirates then raided Spanish settlements in Peru before returning to the Caribbean.

Dampier made his way to Virginia, where in 1683 he engaged with the privateer John Cooke. Cooke entered the Pacific via Cape Horn and spent a year raiding Spanish possessions in Peru, the Galápagos Islands, and Mexico. This expedition collected buccaneers and ships as it went along, at one time having a fleet of ten vessels. Cooke died in Mexico, and a new leader, Edward Davis, was elected captain by the crew.

Dampier transferred to Captain Charles Swan's ship, the privateer Cygnet, and on 31 March 1686 they set out across the Pacific to raid the East Indies, calling at Guam and Mindanao. Leaving Swan and 36 others behind, the rest of the privateers sailed to Manila, Poulo Condor, China, the Spice Islands, and New.k Holland (Australia).

On 5 January 1688 Cygnet was beached on the northwest coast of Australia, near King Sound. While the ship was being careened Dampier made notes on the fauna and flora and the indigenous peoples he found there. Later that year, by agreement, he and two shipmates were marooned on one of the Nicobar Islands. They obtained a small canoe which they modified after first capsizing and then after surviving a great storm called at "Acheen" (Aceh) in Sumatra.

After further adventures Dampier returned to England in 1691 via the Cape of Good Hope, penniless but in possession of his journals. He also had as a source of income the famous painted (tattoed) Prince Jeoly and his mother, whom he had purchased as slaves and subsequently exhibited in London, thereby also coming to be better known while his book was being printed.

The Roebuck expedition

See also: HMS Roebuck (1690)

The publication of these diaries as New Voyage Round the World in 1697 was a popular sensation creating interest at the British Admiralty and in 1699 Dampier was given the command of the Roebuck with a commission from the Admiralty (and by inference King William III who had reigned jointly with Queen Mary II before her death in 1694). His mission was to explore the east coast of New Holland, the name given by the Dutch to what is now Australia, and Dampier's intention was to travel there via Cape Horn.

The expedition set out on 14 January 1699, far too late in the season to round the Horn and it approached New Holland via Cape of Good Hope. Following the Dutch routes to the Indies, on 26 July 1699, Dampier reached Dirk Hartog Island at the mouth of what he called Shark Bay in Western Australia. He landed and began producing the first known detailed record of Australian flora and fauna. The images are believed to be by his clerk James Brand. Dampier then followed the coast northeast, reaching the Dampier Archipelago and then Lagrange Bay, just south of what is now called Roebuck Bay all the while recording and collecting specimens, including many shells. From there he bore away north for Timor. Then he sailed east and on 3 December 1699 rounded New Guinea, which he passed to the north. Sailing east, he traced the southeastern coasts of New Hanover, New Ireland and New Britain, charting the Dampier Strait between these islands (now the Bismarck Archipelago) and New Guinea. En route he paused to collect specimens with one stop resulting in a collection of many giant clams.

His ship was rotten and its carpenter apparently inept, so Dampier was forced to abandon his plan to examine the east coast of New Holland while less than a hundred miles from it. In danger of sinking he attempted to make the return voyage to England but Roebuck foundered at Ascension Island on 21 February 1701. While anchored offshore the ship had started to take water, and though sent below to effect repair, the carpenter only made it worse. As a result the ship was run ashore. His crew was marooned there for five weeks before being picked up on 3 April by an East Indiaman and returned home in August 1701.

Although many papers were lost with the Roebuck, Dampier was able to save many new charts of coastlines, and his record of trade winds and currents in the seas around Australia and New Guinea. He also saved a few of his specimens. Roebuck was located in Clarence Bay Ascension Island 2001 by a team from the Western Australian Museum. Because of his widespread effect and partly because so little exists that can now be linked to one of the world's greatest mariners and authors, it has been argued that the remains of his ship and the objects still remaining on the site at Ascension Island – while remaining the property of Britain and managed by Ascension Island – are perhaps best viewed as the shared maritime heritage of those parts of the world first visited or described by Dampier.

Second circumnavigation

He wrote an account of the 1699–1701 expedition, A Voyage to New Holland and returned to privateering.

The War of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 and English privateers were being readied to assist against French and Spanish interests. Dampier was appointed commander of the 26-gun government ship St George, with a crew of 120 men. They were joined by the 16-gun galleon Cinque Ports (63 men) and sailed on 30 April 1703.

En-route they unsuccessfully engaged a French ship but captured three small Spaniard ships and one vessel of 550 tons.

The Cinque Ports separated from the St George on the Pacific coast of the Americas and, after putting Alexander Selkirk ashore alone on an island for complaining about its seaworthiness, sank a month later.

Third circumnavigation

Dampier was engaged in 1708 by the privateer Woodes Rogers as sailing master on the Duke. This voyage was more successful: Selkirk was rescued on 2 February 1709, and the expedition amassed nearly £200,000 (over £20,000,000 in 2009) of profit. However, Dampier died in London on 8 March 1715, at the age of 63, before he could receive his share. The location of his grave is unknown.

Court martial

On his return from his second circumnavigation Dampier was court-martialled for cruelty. On the outward voyage Dampier had his lieutenant, George Fisher, removed from the ship and jailed in Brazil. Fisher returned to England and complained about his treatment to the Admiralty. Dampier wrote an angry vindication of his conduct, but he was found guilty, docked his pay for the voyage, and dismissed from the Royal Navy.

According to records held at the National Archives the Royal Navy Court Martial held on 8 June 1702, involved the following three charges:

1.William Dampier, Captain, HMS Roebuck. Crime: Death of John Norwood, boatswain. Verdict: Acquitted. 

2.William Dampier, Captain, HMS Roebuck. Crime: Hard and cruel usage of the lieutenant. Verdict: Guilty. Sentence: Forfeit all pay due and deemed unfit to command any of HM's ships.

3.George Fisher, Lieutenant, HMS Roebuck Crime: Dispute between the captain and the lieutenant. Verdict: Acquitted.


Dampier influenced several figures better known than him:

His observations and analysis of natural history helped Charles Darwin's and Alexander von Humboldt's development of their theories.
He made innovations in navigation technology that were studied by James Cook and Horatio Nelson.
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, was inspired by accounts of real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk, a crew-member on Dampier's voyages.
His reports on breadfruit led to William Bligh's ill-fated voyage in HMS Bounty.
He is cited over a thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary notably on words such as 'barbecue', 'avocado', 'chopsticks' and 'sub-species'. That is not to say he coined the words, but his use of them in his writings is the first known example in English.
His travel journals depicting Panama influenced the undertaking of the ill-fated Darien Scheme, leading to the Act of Union of 1707.
His notes on the fauna and flora of northwestern Australia were studied by naturalist and scientist Joseph Banks, who made further studies during the first voyage with Captain James Cook. This helped lead to the naming of and colonization of Botany Bay and the founding of modern Australia.
Jonathan Swift explicitly mentions Dampier in his Gulliver's Travels as a mariner comparable to Lemuel Gulliver.
He is believed to have influenced the writing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".


The port of Dampier and the Dampier Archipelago, both in Western Australia, are named in honour of William Dampier.

In 1966 and 1985 he was honoured by Australia Post issuing a postage stamp depicting his portrait.


A New Voyage Round the World, (1697)
Voyages and Descriptions, (1699)
A Supplement of the Voyage Round the World
The Campeachy Voyages
A Discourse of Winds
A Voyage to New Holland, (Part 1 1703, Part 2 1709)
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Lebenslinie von William Dampier

East Coker
Februar 1683
Cecil, Maryland
März 1715
Alter 64
St. Stephen, Coleman Street, London