William Dampier

William Dampier (abt. 1651 - bef. 1715)

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William Dampier
Born about in Hymerford House, East Coker, Somerset, Englandmap
Son of and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died before in London, Middlesex, Englandmap [uncertain]
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Profile last modified | Created 24 Apr 2016
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Categories: English Privateers | Explorers of Australia | Pirates | East Coker, Somerset | Notables.

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William Dampier was an Australian explorer.
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William Dampier was a black sheep, a pirate of the high seas.
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William Dampier is notable.
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William Dampier was born in , England.

William Dampier was born in 1651, at East Coker, Somerset, England, the second son of a tenant farmer, George Dampier, who died in 1658. In 1665, his mother Anne died in the Great Plague.
At school William had a grounding in Latin and Arithmetic.
In 1669, he was apprenticed to a shipmaster in Weymouth and sailed to France and later to Newfoundland. In 1670, sailed to Java via the Cape of Good Hope on East Indiaman "John and Martha". He enlisted in the ‘Royal Navy’ in 1672 and served on board the "Royal Prince" in the battle of Texel against the Dutch in 1673.
In 1674, he sailed to Jamaica to work on Squire Helyar’s sugar plantation, where William Whaley was the manager. In 1675, he left the plantation and departed Port Royal by trading ketch for the Bay of Campeachy (Captain Hudsel). He saw the illegal ‘log-wooding’ (dye extraction) camps in progress, and sailed back to Jamaica with Hudsel. They were almost captured by the Spanish. In 1676, William went back to Campeachy to enter the logwood trade: Doing well until a hurricane struck the coast, he joined the buccaneers.
He returned to Port Royal in 1678, then went back to England. Purchased an estate, (possibly with his brother), married Judith (who is in the household of the Duchess of Grafton). Sailed back to Jamaica in 1679, after sending home the deeds of his estate, then joined the buccaneers, who in 1680 seized Portobello.
Together with the surgeon Lionel Wafer, they crossed the Isthmus of Darien (Isthmus of Panama) with the assistance of the Kuna Indians. Basil Ringrose joined them. They arrived at Panama Bay, captured a ship and sailed with some seamen from the Mosquito Coast (then called Moskito, Mosquito or Muskito Indians) to the Juan Ferdandez Islands, and arrived in late December 1680.
In 1681, at Juan Ferdandez a Moskito Indian named Will was abandoned as Spanish ships surprised them there. They headed back towards Panama and crossed the Isthmus to the Caribbean coast. There in a ship commanded by Captain Wright they joined a buccaneer fleet.
In July 1682 William arrived in Virginia, a centre for tobacco production. In 1683, Captain John Cook arrived in the "Revenge". After some unspecified problems ashore Dampier joined him.
The quartermaster was Edward Davis, the navigator Ambrose Cowley. They sailed across the Atlantic to Sierra Leone, where in an act of blatant piracy they seized a Danish slave ship and renamed the 36-gun ship "Bachelors Delight" (or "Batchelor’s Delight"). [See 1709 entry.]
In 1684, they rounded Cape Horn and sailed up the Pacific coast of South America in company with Capt. Eaton in the "Nicholas", attacking towns and ships. In March, the privateers landed on Juan Fernandez Island and recovered ‘Will’ the Moskito Indian accidentally left there three years earlier. They headed for the Galapagos. From there they proceeded to New Spain (Mexico). Cook died in June and Davis took command. Soon they were joined by the 16-gun "Cygnet" under Charles Swan and became part of a fleet of 10 ships (some French) with over 500 men in total.
In August 1685, the buccaneers split up. Davis elected to go to Peru, Dampier transferred to the "Cygnet" under Swan for Mexico, where they waited for the Manila Galleon at Acapulco. In 1686, after just missing the galleon, Swan, with Dampier’s backing, decided to sail across the Pacific from Mexico to the East Indies in search of a galleon. They left in March. In May, an acute shortage of provisions led to a plot to eat those responsible (Dampier and the captain). This was relieved by their fortuitous landing at Guam and obtaining food, including an abundance of breadfruit.
In 1687, Swan was replaced as captain by John Reed (Read) at Mindanao. They cruised the China Sea, the mouth of the Mekong, Thailand, and Canton (Guangzhou). They decided to head for the southern tip of India, which they did via the Philippines and the Celebes in the East Indies. They reached Timor and deviated south on the voyage to India to New Holland (mainland Australia).
On 6 January 1688, they landed near Swan Point, east of Cape Leveque. On 12 February they sailed out into the Indian Ocean, towards the Cocos, stopping at Christmas Island and Sumatra: On to the Nicobar Islands and in May Dampier was put ashore. Escaping he sailed in the "Nicobar Canoe" towards the English factory at Achin (Banda Aceh) but he was hit by a violent storm. In July, he left Achin for Tonquin (Tonkin) in north Vietnam, then, Cachao (Hanoi).
In February 1689, he left Cachao to return to Achin and in September left as mate on an English trading vessel bound for Malacca. There he learnt that William and Mary had been crowned King and Queen of England. He left for Fort St George. In April 1690, he met Captain Moody who had with him Prince Jeoly and his mother, who were originally from the island of Meangas near Sulawesi. In July they headed for Sumatra, where Dampier was briefly in charge of a fort at Bencoolen (Bengkuli) for the East India Company. He purchased Prince Jeoly and his mother, but she soon died.
In January 1691, he left for England with Jeoly in the "Defence" under Captain Heath, calling at Cape Town, where he described the Hottenots. He left in May, reaching the Downs in September, where he was reunited with Judith. Jeoly was sold in 1692 and exhibited at the Blue Boar Inn, London. Jeoly died later in Oxford.
In August 1693, William Dampier joined the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping’, a privateering venture. A mutiny broke out led by William Avery. In 1694, Dampier and all who did not join the mutiny were forced to remain at La Coruña in Spain. In February 1695, the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping' finally folded. In May, Dampier testified at a lawsuit in London for wages owing to him and others. In October 1696, he testified for the defence at the trial of the captured pirates.
In January 1697, he was still in court. In April he signed power of attorney to his wife Judith. A New Voyage Round the World is published, and he is appointed to a post in the customs at £35 per annum. In 1698, he submited a proposal to the British Admiralty for a voyage to the East Indies and New Holland: Dined with diarist John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.
His portrait entitled ‘Pirate and Hydrographer’ was commissioned by Hans Sloane and executed in this year. In 1699, he sailed from England in the "Roebuck", down to Bahia, Brazil, mistreated and abandoned Lt Fisher RN, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, anchored in ‘Sharks Bay’ and landed on Dirk Hartog Island, East Lewis Island, Dampier Archipelago, Lagrange Bay, Ninety Mile Beach, and then Timor. At what is now Selat Dampier near New Guinea his men land on an island he called Cockle Island recovering clams ranging from 10 pounds (c.4 kg) to 258 pounds (c. 110 kg) weight. Wafer’s and Crowley’s accounts on their exploits are published.
Dampier published Voyages and Descriptions, a second volume to New Voyage, including as Part III a section entitled Discourse of the Trade-Winds, Breezes, Storms, Seasons of the Year, Tides and Currents of the Torrid Zone throughout the World, which dealt with oceanographic, meteorological, and other phenomena of import to mariners generally.
In 1700, he sailed around New Guinea to New Ireland, named New Britain, then, with his ship in need of repairs, headed back home via Batavia and Cape Town. In 1701, his ship "Roebuck" foundered at Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. They remained on Ascension Island from 24 February to 3 April when they were picked up by British ships. He arrived in England in August. In 1702, William Dampier was Court-martialled for his treatment of Lt. Fisher, and for the loss of the "Roebuck".
In 1703, A Voyage to New Holland &c. was published. He was introduced to Queen Anne by the Lord High Admiral. He was arrested in a civil action brought by Lt. Fisher; bailed and left England in command of the "St George" for a privateering voyage. He teamed up with the "Cinque Ports" and left Ireland in September for Brazil.
In 1704, he rounded the Horn and sailed up to the Juan Fernandez Islands and the coast opposite. Then up to Panama Bay, where he took several small ships. "Cinque Ports" went back down to Juan Fernandez Islands where Alexander Selkirk was marooned. Dampier in "St George" remained in Panama Bay. The mate John Clipperton and twenty others mutiny and leave in a captured prize. His crew and fleet depleted and heavily outgunned, Dampier fails to seize a Manila Galleon after a short skirmish.
Another mutiny occurred in 1705, this time on the Mexican coast. William Funnell, the mate, and John Welbe deserted and set off with others in a captured ship. Heading back towards Panama and the Gulf of Guayaquil, Dampier attacks the island of Puna, seizes a Spanish brig and abandons the now rotten "St George" in readiness to sail across the Pacific. (There are no records of this voyage).
They arrived in Batavia in 1706, but unable to produce his Letter of Marque, authorising him to be a privateer, Dampier was imprisoned. He was released in 1707 and arrived back in England, where he published his "Capt. Dampier’s vindication of his voyage to the South-Seas in the ship St. George: With some small observations…on Mr. Funnel’s chimerical relation of the voyage round the world".
In 1708, he agitated for a new privateering voyage and was appointed ‘pilot’ (navigator) under Woodes Rogers. Together the vessels "Duke" and "Dutchess" travelled via Brazil and the Falkland Islands, to Cape Horn. Edward Cooke was onboard. In 1709, they proceeded to Juan Fernandez Island picking up Alexander Selkirk who was made mate on the "Duke". They headed up the coast taking small trading vessels, sack Guayaquil, capture a French and some Spanish ships, sail up to Acapulco, capture a rich galleon, but then miss one even larger. They renamed the captured galleon "Batchelor" after one of their backers.
Continuation of a New Voyage to New Holland &c. in the Year 1699 was published in London while he was away. In January 1710, the fleet headed home via Guam, arriving at Batavia in June and Cape Town in December, where they waited for a convoy of East Indiamen to escort them home. They left in April 1711 and travelled around the north of Scotland to Amsterdam, arriving in July. They returned to London in October. The following year, 1712, Woodes Rogers published his account.
In 1714, ’Diseased and weak in body but sound and perfect mind’, living in Coleman Street, Old Jewry, in the Parish of St Stephen; William Dampier mades his will. (Judith apparently predeceased him some years earlier), allocating one tenth of his estate to his brother George, the rest to his cousin and executrix Grace Mercer, who appears to have been his housekeeper. While £1351 14s 10d appears to have been disbursed to him from the time he embarked with Woodes Rogers to his death, there is quite some confusion how much he and his heirs actually received.
In March 1715, William Dampier died and was buried in an unmarked grave.[1]

Dampier's will was proven 23 March 1715. It has been suggested that he died earlier that month, but he exact date and place of his death is unknown. [2]


  1. The Western Australian Museum's
    "A brief timeline of Dampier's life". Revised and updated 4 April 2017.
  2. Wikipedia biography Wikipedia


  • Baptism: Ancestry.com. Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\cok.e/2/1/1.
  • Birth and Death: Ancestry.com. Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.

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