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Having left the port of a second slaughter,* Port St. Julian, on the 20th August, 1578, Drake came with his squadron to the eastern entrance of the Strait of Magelhaens, which no Englishman had ever passed, and only he whose name it bears : a strait which, though often since passed, is, even in our days, considered so troublesome, dangerous, and uncertain as to time, that the passage from the Atlantic into the Pacific is generally made round Cape Horn. Drake besides had the whole strait to examine as he went along, being without chart or sailing directions of any kind; yet he succeeded in working his way through it, and entered the Pacific on the sixteenth day.
Having passed into the Pacific, a gale of wind drove the fleet so far to the southward that Drake saw the land to the south of Tierra-del-fuego, from which it is separated by a wide channel, and thus was the first navigator that discovered Cape Horn, and the junction of the Pacific with the Southern Atlantic. Here, however, he had the misfortune of losing two of his three ships, that entered along with him the Strait of Magelhaens. The Pelican (her name now changed to that of the “Golden Hind”) parted from her anchors, and drove out to sea. The Elizabeth, which was with her, got back into the strait, and, having waited a few days, made the best of her way home, “by Captain Winter's
* That by Magelhaens being the first.
compulsion,” says Cliffe, “full sore against the mariners' mind.”* The Marigold, Captain Thomas, parted company in the gale, and was never more heard of. The Swan had separated before they reached Port St. Julian, and the Mary was broken up.
Here, then, was Drake left alone on an unknown coast, and on a wide ocean never navigated by an English seaman, in a small vessel of 100 tons, with a reduced crew, without medical assistance, and dependent entirely for provisions on what could be procured on an enemy's coast, or from enemy's shipping. But he had formed a settled plan in his mind, and was resolved to pursue it; and “resolution,” as Dr. Johnson says, “ is success.” It requires nothing more to establish the character of this celebrated man for ability and spirit of enterprise, than to state that, through perils by land, perils by sea, and perils by the enemy, he carried his little bark from lat. 56° S. to 48° N.--a distance of more than seven thousand English miles-without losing more than two men killed by the savages, and one slain by the Spaniards. Before this, eight men had been driven back in the pinnace into the Strait of Magelhaens, one of whom only, after many perils, reached England. Fletcher the minister observes, that had the Pelican retained her name, she might now indeed have been said to be as “a pelican alone in the wilderness.”
* Hakluyt, from Cliffe's Voyage.
Arrived at his highest point of north latitude, Drake announced his intention of seeking a passage home by the north-east, round America, into the Atlantic-one of the most daring and courageous proposals in the whole record of navigation :-a small and solitary bark, with a diminished and feeble crew, to be put upon an unknown and unexplored sea of ice, cut off from all civilized and; probably, from all human beings in any shape, and without the smallest chance (all other dangers excluded) of ever reaching Baffin's Bay by the only narrow channel which leads into it from the Polar Sea, and of which Drake knew nothing, exposed to the almost certainty of losing not only his own life, but those of his crew, and with them the whole of their property, procured by many toils, difficulties, and extreme dangers—when these things are considered, the attempt appears alike hopeless and desperate. But fortunately the extreme cold of the climate they had already reached, had such an effect on the minds and feelings of the men, that Drake found it prudent to abandon the project, and to bend his course homewards through the East Indian Archipelago, and round the Cape of Good Hope; this voyage being the second occasion, in which he was the first man to attempt what had never been done before by any of his countrymen.
The notice bestowed on Drake, on his return, was
worthy of the success of his unparalleled adventures. The Queen visited him in his own ship, and there bestowed on him the honour of knighthood. It was a joyful day at Deptford, nothing going on but music, and dancing, and feasting. The poets were not idle in supplying the Golden Hind with songs for the amusement of the crew. One very appropriate, but quaint, conceit is said to have been exhibited on the sign of the Queen's Head tavern :-
“O), Nature! to old England still
And for our Dux such Drakes.”
1585. The Queen having, in the course of this important year, sent considerable auxiliary forces to the assistance of Holland, to oppose any attempt of the Duke of Parma, on the part of Spain, against the Netherlands, was fully aware that, by so doing, she would immediately incur the increased hostility of Philip, and that, in order to meet the same, it was the best policy at once to declare open war. Sir Francis Drake was sent for by the Queen, and appointed to the command of a fleet, with orders to make reprisals on the shipping and possessions of the Spaniards in the West Indies. She appropriated four of her best ships for the purpose, which were made up to twenty sail by volunteer adventurers, who rushed forwards with the greatest alacrity; these ships, with the addition of the Queen's
own, embarked about 3000 men. Among those who were desirous of volunteering with Drake was a very extraordinary personage, the amiable and accomplished Sir Philip Sidney, who proposed himself as commander of the land forces, and actually joined, to the utter dismay of Drake, knowing him to be one of the Queen's favourites, whose permission he had not obtained; but he was soon relieved from his embarrassment by a nobleman sent down by the Queen to take him back to court.
The officers consisted of Sir Francis Drake, Admiral; Thomas Fenner, his Captain; Martin Frobisher, Vice-Admiral; Francis Knollis, RearAdmiral; Lieutenant-General Carlisle to command the troops, with the requisite officers. In September, 1585, they left Plymouth, took Porta Praya without difficulty ; proceeded to Dominica, inhabited entirely by aboriginal natives; thence to St. Domingo, where, by kindling a few fires, they obtained a ransom. Hence it was their intention to visit Nombre de Dios, and cross the Isthmus to Panama, but the “very burning and pestilent ague which had seized them” made it expedient they should proceed homeward. In their way along the coast of Florida they destroyed the rising town of St. Augustine, and another called St. Helena; came to the miserable colony of Virginia; embarked the Governor (Lane) and all his settlers, and arrived at Portsmouth in July, 1586.