William Dampier

William Dampier

Dumbarton Oaks owns a copy of William Dampier’s influential A New Voyage Round the World. Dampier (1651–1715) was the first man to circumnavigate the world three times. His text is filled with detailed maps of his travels and lively accounts of the new lands he visited and the people and plants he encountered. A jack-of-all-trades, Dampier tried his hand at privateering, managing a plantation in Jamaica, and logging in Mexico. On one of his many voyages his ship rescued Alexander Selkirk, whose life is widely considered to have inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. He was ordered by William III to explore the eastern coast of Australia and his voyage produced some of the first detailed illustrations of Australian plant and animal life. He also provides the first English account of breadfruit found in Guam, which would prove influential to botanical endeavors in the next century. His arrival on the island of Guam was fortuitous, he writes, because the crew had threatened to eat both Dampier and the Captain if the ship ran out of provisions:

It was well for Captain Swan that we got sight of it [the Island of Guam] before our Provision was spent, of which we had but enough for 3 days more; for, as I was afterwards informed, the Men had contrived, first to kill Captain Swan and eat him when the Victuals was gone, and after him all of us who were accessory in promoting the undertaking this Voyage. This made Captain Swan say to me after our arrival at Guam, Ah! Dampier, you would have made them but a poor Meal; for I was as lean as the Captain was lusty and fleshy.

 
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