Francis Drake Circumnavigation
Francis Drake and some of his shipmates had been tortured and cruelly treated by the Spanish and Drake was eager for revenge. In 1577 he devised a plan that would strike at Spain and make him rich. He wanted to sail through the Magellan Straits and raid the spanish seaports along the Pacific Coast of South and Central America. When he had loaded up his ships with pirate booty, he would sail north until he found the North-West Passage and hence sail home to England and fame and fortune. The plan was presented to Queen Elizabeth I in 1577 but she hesitated until late July before she said yes. Drake sorted out his backers, then shot off to Plymouth to oversee the provisioning of ships and crew mustering.
On the 15th November 1577 Drake set out in the Pelican but was forced back into harbour by Channel storms. They did not start proper until 13 December. The Pelican was one hundred tons, one hundred feet long, and had a beam of twenty feet. The consort was the Elizabeth at eighty tons. The store ship or canter was called the Swan , and a messenger, the Christopher, was a fifteen ton bark. The total crew for this fleet was a meagre 164 men.
Sir Francis Drake set off down the African coast until Cape Verde Islands, where they revictualled the fleet. Off Praia harbour he attacked two carracks, sacked their holds and took their experience pilot Nun a da Silva. Then the fleet hit the doldrums and eventually they reached Brazil , refreshed their supplies, and sailed south. Eventually they came to the fateful St Julian's Bay in July 1578, where they stayed for six weeks, waiting for the winter storms to subside. While there, Drake renamed the Pelican to The Golden Hind. The fleet now consisted of only three ships - the Golden Hind, Elizabeth, and the Marigold.
The fleet set sail on 17 August and six days later was anchored in the Magellan Straits. They ran through the straits easily and entered the Pacific Ocean on 6th September, where they ran into a north-west gale. They lost the Marigold and in a lull crept north west to be set upon by another storm which blew them all the way to Cape Horn. The Golden Hind and the Elizabeth were separated and Drake made it back to the western end of the Magellan straits. The Elizabeth had fled from Drake and his perilous voyage to return home. But Drake wasted no time and starting sacking seaports all along the coast and filling up his Golden Hind with stolen loot. He found out the a Galleon, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, had just sailed from Callao for Panama with a boatload of silver. Drake chased her and caught her on 1 March 1579 just off Cape San Francisco. Drake captured the Galleon and gained silver and coins that would be worth about forty million dollars today.
Drake now had to get away with his captured loot. He had two escape routes - North to the fabled North-west passage or west across the Pacific. Drake sailed north-west to pick up the coast of North America and follow it around the north-west passage back into the Atlantic. Drake got to about the latitude of Vancouver but was forced to head back by bad wind and weather. Drake found a safe anchorage probably somewhere around San Francisco for a refit. On 23rd July 1579 Sir Francis Drake sailed west across the Pacific on his way home.
Drake had an easy passage across the Pacific with the trade winds behind him and arrived at the Caroline Islands 66 days later. On 21 October Drake reached Mindanao, revictualled and sailed south looking for the spice islands. After bumbling around the islands, he arrived at Ternate, hoping to set up a trading center for the British. The Sultan welcomed him warmly as another European power that he could play off against the Spanish and Portuguese. The Golden Hind filled up with cloves and sailed for the Celebes and Java. She had to sail direct to the Cape of Good Hope and sailed into the Atlantic Ocean on 18 June 1580. The crew had been reduced to 59 and it was another month until they landed at sierra leone. On the 26th September, The Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth Sound and Drake sailed into a knighthood and immortality.
Francis Drake Resources
Drake Circumnavigation - Google Earth
Sir Francis Drake Circumnavigation - Google Maps