Francis Drake



Occupation 1


Occupation 2



NA/South & Gulf region


Europe's Reconnaissance (1351-1640)








Circumnavigator� When Drake was a boy� he was apprenticed to the master of a coasting vessel. [In 1570] Drake� began to make voyages on his own account. During a voyage in 1572-1573, like Vasco N��ez de Balboa sixty years earlier, Drake crossed the Isthmus of Darien and first saw the Pacific Ocean. He captured a Spanish mule train carrying silver across the isthmus and returned to England a rich man.

His ambition now was to sail in the Pacific, a voyage made possible by the patronage of a number of the most powerful people in England including, probably, Queen Elizabeth I. A small squadron of five ships was assembled at Plymouth for the expedition, the objectives of which are not entirely clear. Some have conjectured that it was to found an English settlement in southernmost South America, or to find a passage through North America from the Pacific--the legendary Strait of Anian. Whatever the purpose, the ships set sail late in 1577 and reached the Atlantic to the Strait of Magellan in June the next year. Here the squadron was reduced to three ships, which passed through the strait in sixteen days, a record for the century.

As they entered the Pacific, the ships met a severe storm, which drove them southward and led to the discovery of Drake Passage, the body of water between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. One ship was lost, and another returned to England while Drake, in the Golden Hind, progressed northward along the Pacific coast of South America. With the help of pilots he picked up along the way and stores he took from ships and Spanish settlements that he raided, Drake reached the North Pacific. Taking a captured vessel in tow, the Golden Hindsailed to the midlatitudes in this ocean beyond any settlement in New Spain and farther north (48�?) than any previous expedition. Drake returned to 38� north latitude to an area in present-day California that he designated Nova Albion�

After sojourning there for five weeks the Golden Hind set sail across the Pacific. Navigating by way of Palau and the Philippines, Drake reached the Moluccas in November� After many adventures in the Indian Ocean, Drake returned via the Atlantic to Plymouth, arriving on 26 September 1580. His was the first expedition to circumnavigate the earth in which the commander himself returned to report his accomplishment (Magellan died on the way). The "Famous Voyage," as it became known, was the greatest of many achievements�

In 1585-1586 Drake took a large fleet to the West Indies and in 1587 delayed the Spanish armada by raiding Cadiz. [Delivered Ralph Lane and some Roanoke settlers to England -- June 19 to July 20/Plymouth] When the armada came into the Channel in July 1588, Drake, serving as vice admiral of the English fleet, greatly distinguished himself in defeating the invaders�

Drake sailed once more to the West Indies in 1595; he died of dysentery at sea�

Related Images

Image Id: 945

Related Vessels

Golden Hind (1577)

External Links

Sir Francis Drake on the California coast (1577)

Record ID: 253