In 1570, Francis Drake, a Devon seaman, sailed to South America and sacked the Spanish town of Nombre de Dios. Later he climbed a tree on the Isthmus of Panama and saw, away in the distance, the shimmer of the Pacific Ocean. He swore that one day he would return and sail an English ship on that great ocean. It was seven years before he achieved this aim. Five ships, led by his flagship, the Pelican, sailed from Plymouth on 8 December 1577. They called at the Cape Verde Islands, then set sail again for the coast of South America. The three largest ships – for the others had been emptied of stores and set adrift – then turned southwards. They reached the Magellan Straits and sailed through to the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. To celebrate the fact that his dream had come true, Drake decided to change his flagship’s name, renaming it the Golden Hind. Alone now, for the other ships had turned back, the Golden Hind began to plunder Spanish settlements on the west coast of South America. Finally, heavy with treasure, the ship turned away from the coast and again headed westwards. On 3 November 1580, nearly three years after leaving England, Drake sighted Plymouth again, having sailed right around the world. He was not only the first Englishman but the very first sea captain to circumnavigate the globe.
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