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joined, was an Englishman, who had gone to sea at an early age, and for upward of thirty years had been enduring the innumerable hardships and vicissitudes incident to the life of a sailor in those times. He was a man of ardent mind and great abilities, as the accounts of his voyages which he has left testify; and he had gained more knowledge of the South Seas than any man then living. He had not, however, with all his energy and skill, been very successful in improving his own fortunes; and now, at the age of fifty years, he was planning another expedition, which he hoped would issue in the acquisition of immense riches for all concerned. He found little difficulty in persuading some merchants to fit out two vessels, the St. George and the Fame, each of twenty-six guns, the former to be commanded by himself, the latter by a Captain Pulling; and as war had just been declared against France and Spain, in consequence of a dispute regarding the succession to the crown of the latter, in which Great Britain, Holland, and several other countries ranged themselves against France, he easily obtained the necessary commissions from Prince George, then high admiral of England, authorizing the crews of the two ships to attack and plunder the French and Spaniards for their own profit. Thus entitled, so far as the lord high admiral's
warrant could entitle them, to grow rich by robbing Frenchmen and Spaniards all over the world, the adventurers listened eagerly to the plans which Dampier proposed as most sure to succeed. The first of these was, that they should sail to the south-eastern coast of South America, proceed up the river La Plata as far as Buenos Ayres, and earn £600,000 at one stroke by capturing the Spanish galleons usually stationed there. Should this plan fail, they were to sail round Cape Horn, and make a privateering cruise as far as the coast of Peru, where they would be likely to fall in with some valuable prizes; and should they fail also in this, they could still find profitable occupation in plundering the Spanish towns along the western coast of South America, waiting for the ship which periodically sailed from the Mexican port of Acapulco, and which would be a splendid capture. Such were the hopes which Dampier held out to the crews. The vessels were victualed for nine months; "and the articles of agreement were, no purchase, no pay; or, in other words, the merchants risked the vessels, and the crews their limbs and lives.'
All was prepared for sailing, and the vessels were already in the Downs, when, in conse
Howell's Life of Alexander Selkirk.
quence of a quarrel between Dampier and Pulling, the latter went off alone, intending, he said, to make for the Canary Islands. Neither he nor the ship was ever heard of afterward. Dampier, on Pulling's departure, lost no time in procuring the equipment of another vessel instead of the Fame. The name of the new vessel was “The Cinque Ports," of about ninety tuns burden, with a crew of sixty-three, and carrying sixteen guns. This ship joined the St. George in the Bay of Kinsale, on the Irish coast, on the 18th of May, 1703, and made all haste to proceed on their voyage. Still it was not till the 11th of September that they left Kinsale. The following is the list of the officers of the ships respectively as given by Mr. Howell: In the St. George-William Dampier, captain; John Clipperton, chief mate; William Funnel, second mate; and John Ballet, surgeon. In the Cinque Ports—Charles Pickering, captain; Thomas Stradling, lieutenant; and Alexander Selkirk, sailing-master. The appointment of our hero to so responsible a situation as that of sailing-master indicates considerable confidence in his abilities and seamanship.
On the 25th of September the vessels reached Madeira, and here Dampier had the disappointment of learning that his delay, in consequence
of Pulling's desertion, had deprived them of the chance of capturing the galleons in the La Plata river, these ships having already arrived at Teneriffe. The crews then resolved to trust to the chances which the other plans proposed by Dampier might afford. Accordingly, they made straight for the South American coast. The only incident of consequence on the way was the disagreement of Captain Dampier with some of his crew. On the 2d of November they passed the equator, and on the 8th they saw the coast of Brazil.
On the 24th of November they anchored at the island of Le Grand, in latitude twenty-three degrees thirty minutes south. “It produces,” says William Funnel, the second mate of the St. George, who wrote a narrative of the voyage, “rum, sugar, and several kinds of fruit, but-all very dear, on account of supplying the inland town of St. Paul with necessaries. Here we wooded, watered, and refitted our ships; and nine of our men falling out with Captain Dampier, left us, and went ashore.” Another incident which happened at Le Grand, and which exercised a bad effect on the remainder of the expedition, was the death of Captain Pickering, of the Cinque Ports, who was succeeded by his lieutenant, Stradling, a man of ferocious and quarrelsome temper. The death of Pickering, the appointment of Stradling, the frequent altercations between Dampier and his crew, the difference of views which began to be manifested among the sailors as to the best plan for rendering the rest of the voyage successful, all preyed upon
the mind of Selkirk to such a degree, as to render him disgusted with his situation. He had a dream, it is said, off the coast of Le Grand, which left the firm impression on his mind that the expedition was to be disastrous, and that he ought to take the first opportunity of giving up all connection with it. It was not till some time afterward, however, that he resolved finally to do so.
Leaving Le Grand on the 28th of December, the vessels continued their voyage southward; passed the Falkland Isles on the 29th, and were encountered by such a storm in rounding Cape Horn, that they lost sight of each other on the 4th of January, 1704. They did not fall in with each other again till the 10th of February, when the St. George, anchoring at the island of Juan Fernandez, after a tedious voyage along the coasts of Patagonia and Chili, found that the Cinque Ports had been waiting there for her three days. “We anchored,” says Funnel, “in the great bay, in thirty-five fathoms. At this island we wooded, watered, and refitted our ships, giving them a heel, to clean their sides