A Brief Timeline of Dampier's Life

Maritime History's blog | Created 6 years ago

Monday 3 April 2017
Below is a revised and corrected version of the Dampier timeline by M. McCarthy, from Dampier’s accounts and a number of sources, notably Baer, 1966; George 1999; Gill, 1997; Marchant, 1988; McCarthy, 2002; Mitchell, 2010; Preston and Preston, 2004, Rogers, 1925.
Published in The Great Circle vol.37. no.1 2015. VI-XII.


  1. 1651

    Born the second son of a tenant farmer at East Coker, Somerset, England.

  2. 1658

    His father George dies.

  3. 1665

    His mother Anne dies in the Great Plague. At school Dampier has a grounding in Latin and Arithmetic.

  4. 1669

    Apprenticed to a shipmaster in Weymouth. He sails to France and later to Newfoundland.

  5. 1670

    Sails to Java via Cape of Good Hope on East Indiaman John and Martha.

  6. 1672

    Enlists in the ‘Royal Navy’.

  7. 1673

    Serves on board the Royal Prince in the battle of Texel against the Dutch.

  8. 1674

    Sails to Jamaica to work on Squire Helyar’s sugar plantation. William Whaley is manager.

  9. 1675

    Leaves the plantation and departs Port Royal by trading ketch for the Bay Of Campeachy (Captain Hudsel). Sees the illegal ‘log-wooding’ (dye extraction) camps in progress, sails back to Jamaica with Hudsel. They are almost captured by the Spanish.

  10. 1676

    Goes back to Campeachy to enter the logwood trade. Doing well until a hurricane strikes the coast. Joins buccaneers.

  11. 1678

    Returns to Port Royal. Goes back to England. Purchases an estate, (possibly with his brother) marries Judith (who is in the household of the Duchess of Grafton).

  12. 1679

    Sails back to Jamaica. After sending home the deeds of his estate, joins buccaneers.

  13. 1680

    They seize Portobello. Together with the surgeon Lionel Wafer, they cross the Isthmus of Darien (Isthmus of Panama) with the assistance of the Kuna Indians. Basil Ringrose joins. They arrive at Panama Bay, capture a ship and sail with some seamen from the Mosquito Coast (then called Moskito, Mosquito or Muskito Indians) to the Juan Ferdandez Islands, arriving late December.

  14. 1681

    At Juan Ferdandez a Moskito Indian named Will is abandoned as Spanish ships surprise them there. They head back towards Panama and cross the Isthmus to the Caribbean coast. There in a ship commanded by Captain Wright they join a buccaneer fleet.

  15. 1682

    In July he arrives in Virginia, a centre for tobacco production.

  16. 1683

    Captain John Cook arrives in the Revenge. After some unspecified problems ashore Dampier joins. The quartermaster is Edward Davis, the navigator Ambrose Cowley. They sail across the Atlantic to Sierra Leone where in an act of blatant piracy they seized a Danish slave ship and rename the 36-gun ship Bachelors Delight (or Batchelor’s Delight). See 1709 entry.

  17. 1684

    They round Cape Horn and sail 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 recover ‘Will’ the Moskito Indian accidentally left there three years earlier. They head for the Galapagos. From there they proceed to New Spain (Mexico). Cook dies in June and Davis takes command. Soon they are joined by the 16-gun Cygnet under Charles Swan and become part of fleet of 10 ships, (some French) with over 500 men in total.

  18. 1685

    In August the buccaneers split up. Davis elects to go to Peru, Dampier transfers to the Cygnet under Swan for Mexico where they wait for the Manila Galleon at Acapulco.

  19. 1686

    After just missing the galleon, Swan, with Dampier’s backing, decides to sail across the Pacific from Mexico to the East Indies in search of a galleon. They leave in March. In May when an acute shortage of provisions led to a plot to eat those responsible (Dampier and the captain). This was believed by their fortuitous landing at Guam and their obtaining of food including an abundance of breadfruit.

  20. 1687

    Swan is replaced as captain by John Reed (Read) at Mindanao. They cruise the China Sea, the mouth of the Mekong, Thailand, Canton (Guangzhou). They decide to head for the southern tip of India which they do via the Philippines and the Celebes in the East Indies. They reach Timor and deviate south on the voyage to India to New Holland.

  21. 1688

    On 6 January they landed near Swan Point, east of Cape Leveque. On 12 February they sail 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 sails in the Nicobar Canoe towards the English factory at Achin (Banda Aceh) and he is hit by a violent storm. In July he leaves Achin for Tonquin (Tonkin) in north Vietnam, then, Cachao (Hanoi).

  22. 1689

    In February he leaves Cachao to return to Achin and in September leaves as mate on an English trading vessel bound for Malacca. There he learns William and Mary are crowned King and Queen of England. Leaves for Fort St George.

  23. 1690

    In April he meets Captain Moody who has with him Prince Jeoly and his mother who are originally from the island of Meangas near Sulawesi. In July they head for Sumatra where briefly Dampier is in charge of a fort at Bencoolen (Bengkuli) for the East India Company. He purchases Prince Jeoly and his mother, but she soon dies.

  24. 1691

    In January he leaves for England with Jeoly in the Defence under Captain Heath, calling at Cape Town where he describes the Hottenots. He leaves in May, reaching the Downs in September. He reunites with Judith.

  25. 1692

    Jeoly is sold and exhibited at the Blue Boar Inn, London. He later dies in Oxford.

  26. 1693

    In August Dampier joins the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping’, a privateering venture. A mutiny breaks out led by William Avery.

  27. 1694

    Dampier and all who did not join the mutiny are forced to remain at La Coruña in Spain.

  28. 1695

    In February, the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping’ finally folds. In May Dampier testifies at a lawsuit in London for wages owing to him and others.

  29. 1696

    In October he testifies for the defence at the trial of the captured pirates.

  30. 1697

    In January he is still in court. In April he signs power of attorney to his wife Judith. A New Voyage Round the World is published. He is appointed to a post in the customs at £35 per annum.

  31. 1698

    Submits a proposal to the British Admiralty for a voyage to the East Indies and New Holland. Dines with diarist John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys. His portrait entitled ‘Pirate and Hydrographer’ is commissioned by Hans Sloane and executed in this year.

  32. 1699

    Sails from England in the Roebuck, down to Bahia, Brazil, mistreats and abandons Lt Fisher RN, rounds the Cape of Good Hope, anchors in ‘Sharks Bay’ and lands on Dirk Hartog Island, East Lewis Island, Dampier Archipelago, Lagrange Bay 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 publishes 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.

  33. 1700

    Sails around New Guinea to New Ireland, names New Britain then, with his ship in need of repairs, heads back home via Batavia and Cape Town.

  34. 1701

    Roebuck founders at Ascension Island, South Atlantic. They remain on Ascension Island 24 February to 3 April when they are picked up by British ships. Arrives in England in August 1701.

  35. 1702

    Court-martialled for his treatment of Lt. Fisher, and for the loss of the Roebuck.

  36. 1703

    A Voyage to New Holland &c. is published. Dampier is introduced to Queen Anne by the Lord High Admiral. He is arrested in a civil action brought by Lt. Fisher. Dampier is bailed and leaves England in command of the St George for a privateering voyage. He teams up with the Cinque Ports and leaves Ireland in September for Brazil.

  37. 1704

    Rounds the Horn, up to Juan Fernandez Islands and the coast opposite. Heads up to Panama Bay takes several small ships. Cinque Ports goes back down to Juan Fernandez Islands where Alexander Selkirk is marooned. Dampier in St George remains 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.

  38. 1705

    Another mutiny occurs, this time on the Mexican coast. William Funnell, the mate, and John Welbe desert 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).

  39. 1706

    They arrive in Batavia, but unable to produce his Letter of Marque, authorising him to be a privateer, Dampier is imprisoned.

  40. 1707

    Is released and arrives back in England. Publishes 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. John Welbe replies.

  41. 1708

    Agitates for a new privateering voyage. Appointed ‘pilot’ (navigator) under Woodes Rogers. Together the vessels Duke and Dutchess travel via Brazil and the Falkland Islands, to Cape Horn. Edward Cooke is onboard.

  42. 1709

    They proceed to Juan Fernandez Island picking up Alexander Selkirk who is made mate on the Duke. They head 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 rename the captured galleon Batchelor after one of their backers. Continuation of a New Voyage to New Holland &c. in the Year 1699 is published in London while he is away.

  43. 1710

    In January the fleet head home via Guam, arriving at Batavia in June and Cape Town in December where the wait for a convoy of East Indiamen to escort them home.

  44. 1711

    They leave in April and travel around the north of Scotland to Amsterdam, arriving in July. The return to London in October.

  45. 1712

    Woodes Rogers publishes his account.

  46. 1714

    ’Diseased and weak in body but sound and perfect mind’, living in Coleman Street, Old Jewry, in the Parish of St Stephen; Dampier makes 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 disbursed to Dampier from the time he embarked with Woodes Rogers to his death, there is quite some confusion how much Dampier and his heirs actually received.

  47. 1715

    In March Dampier dies and is buried in an unmarked grave.