William Dampier was a Somerset man who turned pirate, although the ships and town he plundered were usually Spanish. In January 1688 he was second-in-command of a ship called the Cygnet when the coast of New Holland – as Australia was then called – came in sight. The ship was run into a bay to be careened, and Dampier went ashore with some of the crew. He was therefore in the first group of Englishmen to step on to Australian soil. He met some Aborigines and was to describe them later as ‘the miserablest people in the world’. The party explored a little of the coast before sailing away to the north. On returning to England, Dampier wrote the story of his adventures, calling the book A New Voyage Round the World. It made him famous, and his readers conveniently forgot his past as a pirate. The Admiralty did the same, for in 1699 he was appointed to command the Roebuck. He returned to New Holland and charted much of the coast, including a group of islands now known as Dampier’s Archipelago. His ship foundered on the way home, destroying many of his notes and papers, and Dampier and his crew, struggling ashore, were forced to live on turtles and goats until they were rescued, five weeks later.
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