|A Book of Discovery|
|by M. B. Synge|
|A fascinating account of the world's famous explorers, including the early travelers in ancient times, the discovery of the New World, explorations in Africa and Australia, and the expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Many of the explorers tell part of their story in their own words. Amply illustrated with reproductions of early maps and charts, as well as old woodcuts, drawings, paintings, and miniatures. Emphasis is placed on the explorers' 'record of splendid endurance, of hardships bravely borne, of silent toil, of courage and resolution unequalled in the annals of mankind, of self-sacrifice unrivalled and faithful lives laid ungrudgingly down.' Ages 12-18 |
DAMPIER DISCOVERS HIS STRAIT
 IT was not long before the great stretch of coast-line carefully charted by Tasman became known to the English,
and while the Dutch were yet busy exploring farther, Dampier—the first Englishman to visit the
country—had already set foot on its shores.
"We lie entirely at the mercy of the Dutch East India Company's geography for the outline of this part of the
coast of New Holland: for it does not appear that the ships of any other nation have ever approached it," says
an old history of the period.
Some such information as this became known in South America, in which country the English had long been
harassing the Spaniards. It reached the ears of one William Dampier, a Somersetshire man, who had lived a life
of romance and adventure with the buccaneers, pillaging and plundering foreign ships in these remote regions
of the earth. He had run across the Southern Pacific carrying his life in his hand. He had marched across the
isthmus of Panama—one hundred and ten miles in twenty-three days—through deep and swiftly flowing
rivers, dense growths of tropical vegetation full of snakes, his only food being the flesh of monkeys. Such
was the man who now took part in a privateering cruise under Captain Swan, bound for the East Indies.
On 1st March 1686, Swan and Dampier sailed away from the coast of Mexico on the voyage that led to Dampier's
cir-  cumnavigation of the globe. For fifty days they sailed without sighting land, and when at last they found
themselves off the island of Guam, they had only three days' food left, and the crews were busy plotting to
kill Captain Swan and eat him, the other commanders sharing the same fate in turn.
"Ah, Dampier," said Captain Swan, when he and all the men had refreshed themselves with food, "you would have
made but a poor meal," for Dampier was as lean as the Captain was "fat and fleshy." Soon, however, fresh
trouble arose among the men. Captain Swan lost his life, and Dampier on board the little Cygnet sailed
hurriedly for the Spice Islands.
He was now on the Australian parallels, "in the shadow of a world lying dark upon the face of the ocean." It
was January 1688 when Dampier sighted the coast of New Holland and anchored in a bay, which they named Cygnet
Bay after their ship, somewhere off the northern coast of eastern Australia. Here, while the ship was
undergoing repairs, Dampier makes his observations.
"New Holland," he tells us, "is a very large tract of land. It is not yet determined whether it is an island
or a main continent, but I am certain that it joins neither to Africa, Asia, or America."
"The inhabitants of this country," he tells us, "are the miserablest people in the world. They have no houses,
but lie in the open air without any covering, the earth being their bed and the heaven their canopy. Their
food is a small sort of fish, which they catch at low tide, while the old people that are not able to stir
abroad by reason of their age and the tender infants wait their return, and what Providence has bestowed on
them they presently broil on the coals and eat it in common. They are tall and thin, and of a very unpleasing
aspect; their hair is black, short, and curled, like that of the negroes of Guinea."
 This Englishman's first description of the Australian natives cannot fail to be interesting. "After we had
been here a little while, we clothed some of the men, designing to have some service from them for it; for we
found some wells of water here, and intended to carry two or three barrels of it aboard. But it being somewhat
troublesome to carry to the canoes, we thought to have made these men to have carry'd it for us, and therefore
we gave them some clothes; to one an old pair of breeches, to another a ragged shirt, to a third a jacket that
was scarce worth owning. We put them on, thinking that this finery would have brought them to work heartily
for us; and our water being filled in small, long barrels, about six gallons in each, we brought these our new
servants to the wells and put a barrel on each of their shoulders. But they stood like statues, without
motion, but grinn'd like so many monkeys staring one upon another. So we were forced to carry the water
They had soon had enough of the new country, weighed anchor, and steered away to the north. Dampier returned
to England even a poorer man than he had left it twelve years before. After countless adventures and
hairbreadth escapes, after having sailed entirely round the world, he brought back with him nothing but one
unhappy black man, "Prince Jeoly," whom he had bought for sixty dollars. He had hoped to recoup himself by
showing the poor native with his rings and bracelets and painted skin, but he was in such need of money on
landing that he gladly sold the poor black man on his arrival in the Thames.
But Dampier had made himself a name as a successful traveller, and in 1699 he was appointed by the King,
William III., to command the Roebuck, two hundred and ninety tons, with a crew of fifty men and
provisions for twenty months. Leaving England in the middle of January
 1699, he sighted the west coast of New Holland toward the end of July, and anchored in a bay they called
Sharks Bay, not far from the rocks where the Batavia was wrecked with Captain Pelsart in 1629. He
gives us a graphic picture of this place, with its sweet-scented trees, its shrubs gay as the rainbow with
blossoms and berries, its many-coloured vegetation, its fragrant air and delicious soil. The men caught sharks
and devoured them with relish, which speaks of scarce provisions. Inside one of the sharks (eleven feet long)
they found a hippopotamus. "The flesh of it was divided among my men," says the Captain, "and they took care
that no waste should be made of it, but thought it, as things stood, good entertainment."
DAMPIER'S SHIP THE CYGNET.
As it had been with Pelsart, so now with Dampier, fresh water was the difficulty, and they sailed north-east
in search of it. They fell in with a group of small rocky islands still known as Dampier's Archipelago, one
island of which they named Rosemary Island, because "there grow here two or three sorts of shrubs, one just
like rosemary." Once again he comes across natives—"very much the same blinking creatures, also
abundance of the same kind of flesh-flies teasing them, with the same black skins and hair frizzled." Indeed,
he writes as though the whole country of New Holland was a savage and worthless land inhabited by dreadful
 "If it were not," he writes, "for that sort of pleasure which results from the discovery even of the barrenest
spot upon the globe, this coast of New Holland would not have charmed me much." His first sight of the
kangaroo—now the emblem of Australia—is interesting. He describes it as "a sort of raccoon,
different from that of the West Indies, chiefly as to the legs, for these have very short fore-legs, but go
jumping upon them as the others do, and like them are very good meat." This must have been the small kangaroo,
for the large kind was not found till later by Captain Cook in New South Wales.
But Dampier and his mates could not find fresh water, and soon wearied of the coast of New Holland; an
outbreak of scurvy, too, decided them to sail away in search of fresh foods. Dampier had spent five weeks
cruising off the coast; he had sailed along some nine hundred miles of the Australian shore without making any
startling discoveries. A few months later the Roebuck stood off the coast of New Guinea, "a high
and mountainous country, green and beautiful with tropical vegetation, and dark with forests and groves of
tall and stately trees." Innumerable dusky-faced natives peeped at the ship from behind the rocks, but they
were not friendly, and this they showed by climbing the cocoanut trees and throwing down cocoanuts at the
English, with passionate signs to them to depart. But with plenty of fresh water, this was unlikely, and the
crews rowed ashore, killed and salted a good load of wild hogs, while the savages still peeped at them from
DAMPIER'S STRAITS AND THE ISLAND OF NEW BRITAIN.
Thus then they sailed on, thinking they were still coasting New Guinea. So doing, they arrived at the straits
which still bear the name of the explorer, and discovered a little island which he called New Britain. He had
now been over fifteen months at sea and the Roebuck was only provisioned for twenty months, so
 Dampier, who never had the true spirit of the explorer in him, left his discoveries and turned homewards. The
ship was rotten, and it took three months to repair her at Batavia before proceeding farther. With pumps going
night and day, they
made their way to the Cape of Good Hope; but off the island of Ascension the Roebuck went
down, carrying with her many of Dampier's books and papers. But though many of the papers were lost, the
"Learned and Faithful Dampier" as he is called, the "Prince of Voyagers," has left us accounts of his
adventures unequalled in those strenuous ocean-going days for their picturesque and graphic details.
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