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William Dampier [1651-1715] is the most remarkable seaman that England produced in the century and a half between Drake and Captain Cook. They each circumnavigated the world once; Dampier did so three times. He commanded the first government-funded voyage of discovery with a specific mission to report on matters of government and science. A good seaman, but a bad commander, he spent most of his life as a privateer, buccaneer, or pirate, and his career culminated in the capture of the great treasure galleon sent each year from the New World to Spain. But he was also a great writer, author of the first major English travel book, A New Voyage Round the World, and of scientific treatises and descriptions of natural history. His expedition to Australia was in many ways disastrous, with his ships being lost; but the book that came out of it, A Voyage to New Holland, is rich in evocative accounts of the peoples and places he had found or visited. He was not afraid to record things he could not explain, for `better qualified persons who shall come after me', and his books were reference works used extensively not only by subsequent voyagers but by modern scientists who continue to cite his observations. This edited account of his voyages gives an admirable picture of this fascinating and unorthodox figure in his own words.
GERALD NORRIS writes on maritime and musical subjects. His books include West Country Pirates and Buccaneers, Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee and Tchaikovsky and A Musical Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland.