The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580

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9780802714053: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580

On September 26, 1580, Francis Drake sailed his ship, the Golden Hinde, into Plymouth Harbor on the southwest coast of England. He had long been given up for lost, and rumors quickly circulated about where he had been on his three-year round-the-world voyage, and about the plunder he had brought home to fill Queen Elizabeth's treasury. However, a veil of secrecy was immediately imposed on the expedition: Drake's journals and charts were impounded, and his men were forbidden, on pain of death, to divulge where they had been―especially during the summer of 1579, when they had dropped from sight in the North Pacific.

In hindsight, Drake's journey was arguably the greatest sea voyage of all time. In a ship barely one hundred feet long, he sailed more than 40,000 miles, much of the voyage at extraordinary speed; disrupted the Spanish Empire in the New World; encountered often hostile native peoples on four continents; narrowly escaped disaster on numerous occasions; and became the first captain to circumnavigate the globe.

Samuel Bawlf masterfully recounts the drama of this extraordinary expedition within the context of England's struggle to withstand the aggression of Catholic Europe and Drake's ambition for English enterprise in the Pacific. He offers fascinating insight into life at sea in the sixteenth century―from the dangers of mutiny and the lack of knowledge about wind and current to the arduous physical challenges faced every day by Drake's men. But it is Bawlf's assertion of Drake's whereabouts in the summer of 1579 that gives his book even greater originality. From a seminal study of maps of the period, Bawlf shows with certainty that Drake sailed all the way to Alaska―much farther than anyone has heretofore imagined―thereby rewriting the history of exploration. Drake was, Bawlf claims, in search of the western entrance to the fabled Northwest Passage, at which he planned to found England's first colony, which could wrest control of the Pacific, and the wealth of the East Indies, from Spain. Drake's voyage was, in fact, far ahead of its time: another 200 years would pass before the eighteenth-century explorers of record reached the northwest coast of North America.

A cast of luminous characters runs through The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: Philip II of Spain, Europe's most powerful monarch; Elizabeth's spymaster and powerful advisor, Francis Walsingham; the encyclopedic cosmographer John Dee; and Abraham Ortelius, the great Dutch mapmaker to whom Drake leaked his Pacific discoveries. In the end, though, it is Francis Drake himself who comes most fully to life through the lens of his epic voyage. Remembered most as a privateer and for his victory over the Spanish Armada, the Drake that emerges from these pages is so much more: a dynamic leader of men, a brilliant navigator and sailor, and surely one of history's most daring explorers.

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About the Author:

Samuel Bawlf is a geographer and former minister in the government of British Columbia, responsible for the province's historic and archaeological sites and its coastal ferry service. He has sailed the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to San Francisco, and enjoys a lifelong passion for maritime history. He lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

From Publishers Weekly:

Maritime historian Bawlf skillfully uncovers new information regarding Drake's circumnavigation of the globe, which began, amidst political and religious upheaval in Europe, in 1577. Until now, Drake's secret voyage-the exploration of the Pacific Northwest in hopes of finding the fabled Northwest Passage to eastern trade routes, and to establish a British colony in the New World-was hidden under a "cloak of secrecy" due to Drake's complicated relationship with Queen Elizabeth and England's precarious political situation with Spain. With braided historical, nautical, geographical and imagined narrative elements, Drake's voyage unfolds slowly at first, and at times lags under the weight of all Bawlf attempts to include. But once underway, it becomes an increasingly compelling tale, as Drake earns his reputation as "one of the greatest mariners that sail[ed] the seas, both as a navigator and as a commander," feared by his enemies for the "alarming scope of his [pirating] success." The account is thoroughly researched and carefully plotted, but Bawlf's true accomplishment is his humanization of historical icon Drake, a demanding, unyielding captain and ruthless sacker of Spanish ships and colonies, while at the same time a man who was deeply religious, who treated his captives with courtesy and was eager to establish strong bonds with the indigenous people he encountered along his journey. In the end, what resonates most is Drake's disappointment at being denied public ownership of his most important discoveries. This sympathetic, thorough treatment adds greater dimension to an already celebrated life. 60 b&w illus., 20 maps.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Samuel Bawlf
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ISBN 10: 0802714056 ISBN 13: 9780802714053
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Bawlf, Samuel
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