WILLIAM DAMPIER, OR A SEA-KING OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

'Ah! Dampier, you would have afforded them but a sorry meal.'
"Ah! Dampier, you would have afforded them but a sorry meal."

During this voyage, Dampier had discovered several hitherto unknown islands, and especially the Baschi group. Like the thorough adventurer he was, immediately he recovered his health he travelled over the south of Asia, Malacca, Tonkin, Madras, and Bencoolen, where he enrolled himself as an artilleryman in the English service. Five months afterwards he deserted and returned to London. The narrative of his adventures and his privateering obtained for him a certain amount of sympathy amongst the higher classes, and he was presented to the Earl of Oxford, Lord High Admiral. He speedily received the command of the ship Roebuck to attempt a voyage of discovery in the seas which he had already explored. He left England on the 14th January, 1699, with the intention of passing through the Strait of Magellan, or of making the tour of Tierra del Fuego, so as to commence his discoveries on the coasts of the Pacific, which had hitherto received the visits of a comparatively small number of travellers. After crossing the line on the 10th March, he sailed for Brazil, where the ship was revictualled. Far from being able again to descend the coast of Patagonia, he beheld himself driven by the wind to forty-eight miles south of the Cape of Good Hope, whence he steered east-south-east towards New Holland, a long passage which was not signalized by any adventure. On the 1st August, Dampier saw land, and at once sought for a harbour in which to land. Five days later he entered the Bay of Sea-Dogs upon the western coast of Australia; but he only found there a sterile soil, and met with neither water nor vegetation. Until the 31st August, he sailed along this coast without discovering what he sought. Once when he landed, he had a slight skirmish with some of the inhabitants, who seemed to be very thinly scattered over the country. Their chief was a young man of middle height, but quick and vigilant; his eyes were surrounded by a single ring of white paint, while a stripe of the same colour descended from the top of his forehead to the end of his nose; his chest and arms were likewise striped with white. His companions were black, fierce in aspect, their hair woolly, and in shape they were tall and slender.

For five weeks Dampier hovered near land, and found neither water nor provisions; however, he would not give in, and intended to continue to ascend the coast northwards, but the shallows which he incessantly encountered, and the monsoon from the north-west which was soon due, obliged him to give up the enterprise, after having discovered more than 900 miles of the Australian continent. He afterwards steered towards Timor, where he intended to repose and recruit his crew, exhausted by the long voyage. But he knew little of these parts, and his charts were quite insufficient. He was therefore obliged to make a reconnaissance of it, as if the Dutch had not already been long settled there. Thus he discovered a passage between Timor and Anamabao, in a locality in which his map only indicated a bay. The arrival of Dampier in a port known only to themselves, astonished and greatly displeased the Dutch. They imagined that the English could only have reached it by means of charts taken on board a ship of their own. However, in the end they recovered from their fright and received the strangers with kindness.

Although the precursors of the monsoon were making themselves felt, Dampier again put to sea, and steered towards the western coast of New Guinea, where he arrived on the 4th February, 1700, near to Cape Maho of the Dutch. Amongst the things which struck him, Dampier notices the prodigious quantities of a species of pigeon, bats of extraordinary size, and scallops, a kind of shell fish, of which the empty shell weighed as much as 258 lbs. On the 7th of February he approaches King William's Island and runs to the east, where he soon sights the Cape of Good Hope of Schouten, and the island named after that navigator. On the 24th the crew witnessed a curious spectacle: "Two fish, which had accompanied the vessel for five or six days, perceived a great sea serpent, and began to pursue it. They were about the shape and size of mackerel, but yellow and green in colour. The serpent, who fled from them with great swiftness, carried his head out of the water, and one of them attempted to seize his tail. As soon as he turned round, the first fish remained in the rear, and the other took his place. They retained their wind for a long time, always heedful to defend themselves by flight, until they were lost to view."