William Dampier | State Library of New South Wales

William Dampier - Voyage to New Holland

William Dampier (1652-1715) was an English sailor, adventurer and pirate. He spent the first part of his nautical career as a buccaneer, carrying out raids on Spanish ships and settlements. He first visited Australia in 1688, landing near King Sound in Western Australia. Dampier made notes about the people he encountered there as well as the strange flora and fauna he saw. He published his journals on his return to England, and was instantly acknowledged as an authority on the South Seas. After this, the English navy offered him the command of the Roebuck and commissioned him to explore the east coast of New Holland (Australia) and New Guinea.

Starting in Shark Bay, Western Australia, Dampier travelled north east up the coast, collecting specimens and making scientific observations along the way. His ship was in poor repair, however, and he was forced to give up the attempt to explore the east coast of the continent and return to England. The Roebuck disintegrated en route, marooning her crew on Ascension Island. They were picked up by another ship and arrived back in England in 1701.

Dampier’s contribution to Australian natural history is often overlooked, but his observations and the drawings made by one of his crew (possibly James Brand) were published to great acclaim in 1703.  A voyage to New Holland contains the first published images of Australian flora and Dampier’s observations about the flora of Australia influenced the later studies of Joseph Banks.

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 > View selections from Dampier's Voyage to New Holland on the Library's catalogue Link to catalogue