Francis Drake: An Around the World Pirate Voyage

Sir Francis Drake by Marcus Gheeraerts. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1577, Francis Drake set off from Plymouth, England, on his around-the-world voyage.

Here are some things you may not have known about Drake and his voyages.

Francis Drake was born around 1540 in Devon, England. His father was a farmer. As a youth, Drake was apprenticed to a neighbor, who captained a trading ship between Britain and France. The neighbor, who had no heirs of his own, bequeathed the ship to Drake upon his death.

Drake set sail for the Americas for the first time at the age of 23. He sailed with his second cousin John Hawkins, a slave-trader who pioneered the triangle trade of bringing slaves to the Americas in exchange for sugar, tobacco and cotton, which he would then sell in Europe for textiles and manufactured goods, which he would sell in Africa.

On a later voyage, Drake and Hawkins were defeated by the Spanish, but managed to escape.

Drake turned to privateering, which is a nice word for state-sponsored piracy. He attacked the Isthmus of Panama, which was where the Spanish would transit gold and silver from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. He and his men captured around 20 tons of gold and silver. The amount of treasure was too much for them to haul, so they buried it, possibly serving as the inspiration for later buried pirate treasure stories.

Four years later, Drake was sent to pillage the Spanish fleet off the Pacific coast of South America. Drake set sail from Plymouth with five ships and 164 men. He lost lost enough men crossing the Atlantic that he was forced to scuttle two ships before reaching Argentina. At the same spot where Ferdinand Magellan executed mutineers 50 years earlier, Drake killed his own mutineer, Thomas Doughty.

It was also here that a third ship was discovered to be rotting and was burned. Violent storms while rounding Cape Horn led to the loss of his second to last ship, leaving his with only his flagship, the Pelican. It was around this time that he renamed the ship the Golden Hind.

During the trip north along the coast, Drake and his men captured several prizes, including one full of Chilean wine and others loaded with gold and silver. Drake would sail as far north as the coast of California, before turning west to cross the Pacific. He and his crew reached what is now Indonesia a few months later and sailed back to England.

Upon his return, Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, and the first person to command an entire circumnavigation of the world. Magellan had been killed during his attempt.

The voyage’s treasure was roughly equivalent to the rest of the Crown’s income for the year. Drake and his crew kept half the treasure, while the other half went to Queen Elizabeth.

Drake continued sailing into his 50s. He died of dysentery after being defeated by the Spanish in 1596. We was about 55 years old.

Our question: What is a hind, an in the name of Drake’s flagship … the Golden Hind?

Today is Republic Day in Malta, and Sailors’ Day in Brazil.

It’s unofficially Ice Cream Day, National Cocoa Day, and National Violin Day.

It’s the birthday of actor Dick Van Dyke, who is 91, actor and comedian Jamie Foxx, who is 49, and singer Taylor Swift, who is 27.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1965, the top song in the U.S. was “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds.

The No. 1 movie was “A Patch of Blue,” while the novel “The Source” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

What wireless technology was named after a Danish king’s nickname?


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