George Anson Circumnavigation
George Anson came from Staffordshire when he was fourteen to sign onto the HMS Ruby. He had a long and distinguished naval career through peace and war and by 1739 had become a commodore. In that year he was appointed to lead a voyage into history and around the world. His general orders were to harass Spanish Shipping and Pacific coast seaports. His specific orders were to find and attack the Manila Galleon that sailed every year from Acapulco loaded with silver and if possible to attack Manila and garrison it with British troops.
Anson sailed on his flagship the Centurion with the fourth rate Gloucester(866 ton and 50 guns), the sloop Tryall, the Severn of 683 tons, Pearle - 559 tons, Wager - 559 tons, and two supply ships - the Anna and the Industry. Most of the ships were old because the Navy had been run down because of peace. But worse still, his men were a ragged mix of pressed men, recalcitrants from prisons and taverns. His 529 marines were a bunch untrained recruits that were in effect hospital veterans forced out of retirement.
Anson's fleet took five weeks to reach Madeira, the first stop for reprovisioning. They loaded up with provisions and set off across the Atlantic ocean on 3rd November. They made reached St Catherine Island off the coast of Brazil on 21 December. Anson stayed there a month making repairs to the fleet of worn out ships. Anson left St Catherine on 18 January, then met up with the rest of the fleet at Port St Julian and on 27 February 1741, he sailed for Cape Horn. Philip Saumarez was made commander of the Tryall when her captain died. Anson's fleet had to beat against wild storms for months because he had missed the best weather for rounding the horn. Many of the ships lost masts, damaged rudders, or shredded sails and in the middle of April the captains of the Severn and the Pearle had to turn back as they did not have enough crew for their broken down ships. The rest of the fleet struggled on got into the Pacific Ocean but they were scattered all over the place.
The Wager survived rounding the horn to be caught on a lee shore and smashed against the rocks of West Patagonia. The flagship Centurion with Anson on board made Juan Fernandez Island and anchored there waiting for the rest of the fleet. By August the Tryall, the Gloucester, and the Anna had reached the safety of Juan Fernandez Island. The men recovered their health and began to recaulk their ships and fixing damaged spars and ripped sails. Anson now set out to raid the spanish seaports along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru. They captured merchant vessels and looted the Chilean town of Payta. When Anson's fleet reached Mexico they had five ships, three of them captured spanish ships. The Tryall had been scuttled.
The Manila Galleon would not leave port so Anson sailed for Chequeton, where they filled the water barrels, and did as many repairs as they could. All the best ropes, spars and sails were taken from the spanish ships and put onto the Centurion and the Gloucester. The spanish ships were then scuttled and they set out across the Pacific on 6 May 1742 and sailed due west at 13 degrees north. They had bad sailing and soon scurvy and exhaustion gripped them. The Gloucester's rotten foremast snapped and she had to taken in tow. She sprung a leak as well and they could not pump her out so she was abandoned and everything they needed was loaded onto the Centurion.
Anson sailed to the portuguese port of Macao in China and in January 1743 the Centurion was careened and overhauled. She was recaulked, got new masts, spars, rigging and sails. When they got back to sea Anson told his crew they were going after the Manila Galleon. They would wait for her off the Phillippines. Anson knew the route and the arrival time of the Manila Galleon. Anson waited in the straits south of Luzon. When the spanish galleon came into sight, anson attacked her with grapeshot and brought down the sails and rigging. Anson captured the Nuestra Senora de Cobadonga and found a tresure worth millions. They took the prize ship to Macao where she was sold and they sailed for England on the final leg of their circumnavigation on 15 December. The Centurion sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, then up the Atlantic , arriving in England on 15 June 1744.
The Golden Ocean by Patrick O'Brian
- an historical novel about the circumnavigation of the world by Commodore George Anson.