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Drake's voyage round the world: 1577-1581

On 13 December 1577 Drake sails from Plymouth with five ships. The Pelican, his own vessel and the largest of the fleet, is only 100 tons. His official purpose is to look for English trading opportunities in the east Indies, but Drake also has his sights on the unguarded Pacific coast of Latin America.

By October 1558, after passing through the straits of Magellan and weathering a terrible storm in the southern Pacific, Drake's fleet has been reduced to his own vessel. Three ships have become unseaworthy or foundered, one has turned for home after losing contact. Drake meanwhile renames the Pelican, calling it the Golden Hind - from the emblem of one of his patrons.

Drake now heads up the Pacific coast and captures a richly laden Spanish vessel, the Cacafuego, off Peru. He reaches California and possibly ventures even further north. Another of his aims may have been to look for a Pacific entrance to the supposed northwest passage.

In July 1579 Drake sets off across the Pacific, sailing for sixty-eight days without sight of land before reaching the Philippines. In the Moluccas he loads six tons of cloves. He is back in Plymouth in September 1580, the first commander to have successfully circumnavigated the globe. Elizabeth I knights him on board the Golden Hind. His share of the expedition's vast profits is sufficent to purchase Buckland Abbey as his family home.

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