On This Day

William Dampier

Explorer and Pirate William Dampier

Profession: Explorer and Pirate


Biography: William Dampier was an influential explorer, navigator and pirate and the first man to circumnavigate the globe three times.

Joining the British Royal Navy in 1673 before illness cut his service short. By 1679 Dampier was crew for the buccaneer Captain Bartholomew Sharp in Central America then the privateer John Sharp, raiding territories in Peru and Mexico before transferring again to Charles Swan's ship the Cygnet by 1686.

While on the Cygnet he visited the west coast of New Holland (Australia) taking notes on the flora and people, later an influence on the botanist Joseph Banks and James Cook's voyage. On his return to England he published his findings in "A New Voyage Round the World" (1697).

Dampier was then commissioned to explore New Holland further. Landing on its west coast again in 1699 he collected specimens and made detailed notes before sailing north around new Guinea, intending to explore the east coast of Australia until the condition of his ship forced him to turn back, it eventually sank off Ascension island. Dampier was court-martialed for cruelty by the Royal Navy on his return to England.

Dampier's later career including commanding a ship that fought in the Spanish War of Succession. A fellow commander was Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, whom he rescued from his island in 1709.

Born: June 8, 1652
Birthplace: East Coker, Somerset, England
Star Sign: Gemini

Cause of Death: Unknown

Historical Events

  • 1699-08-06 HMS Roebuck, captained by William Dampier, lands at Shark Bay, Western Australia on the first British scientific expedition to Australia
  • 1700-02-27 English explorer William Dampier is the 1st British person to visit the Pacific Island of New Britain, which he names
  • 1709-02-02 British sailor Alexander Selkirk is rescued by William Dampier after being marooned on a desert island for 5 years, his story inspires "Robinson Crusoe