Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England


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HAKLUYT, Principal Navigations, Vol. XI, pp. 101–132. World History


A Narrative of the Voyage of Drake (1577–1580)

The 15. day of November, in the yeere of our Lord 1577, Mr. Francis Drake, With a fleete of five ships and barkes, and to the number of 164 men, gentlemen and sailers, departed from Plimmouth, giving out his pretended voyage for Alexandria: but the wind falling contrary, hee was forced the next morning to put into Falmouth haven in Cornewael, where such and so terrible a tempest tooke us, as few men have seene the like, and was in deed so vehement, that all our ships were like to have gone to wracke: but it pleased God to preserve us from that extremitie, and to afflict us onely for that present with these two particulars: The mast of our Admirall, which was the Pellican, was cut over boord for the safegard of the ship, and the Marigold was driven ashore and some-what bruised: for the repairing of which damages wee returned againe to Plimmouth, and having recovered those harmes, and brought the ships againe to good state, we set forth the second time from Plimmouth, and set saile the 13. day of December following.

The 25. day of the same moneth we fell with the Cape Cantin, upon the coast of Barbarie, and coasting along, the 27. day we found an Island called Mogador, lying one mile distant from the maine, betweene which Island and the maine, we found a very good and safe harbour for our ships to ride in, as also very good entrance, and voyde of any danger. . . .

First sight of Brazil, 33° S.

From the first day of our departure from the Islands of Cape Verde, wee sayled 54 dayes without sight of land, and the first land that we fell with was the coast of Brasil, which we saw the rift of April in ye height of 33. degrees towards the pole Antarctike, and being discovered at sea by the inhabitants of the countrey, they made upon the coast great fires for a sacrifice (as we learned) to the devils, about which they use conjurations, making heepes of sande and other ceremonies, that when any ship shall goe about to stay upon their coast, not onely sands may be gathered together in shoales in every place, but also that stormes and tempests may arise, to the casting away of ships and men, whereof (as it is reported) there have bene divers experiments. . . .

From hence we went our course to 36. degrees, and entered the great river of Plate, and ranne into 54. and 55. fadomes and a halfe of fresh water, where wee filled our water by the ship’s side: But our Generall finding here no good harborough, as he thought he should, bare out againe to sea the 27. of April. . . .

The twentieth of June, wee harboured our selves againe in a very good harborough, called by Magellan Port St. Julian, where we found a gibbet standing upon the maine, which we supposed to be the place Magellan did execution upon some of his disobedient and rebellious company. . . .

Court martial of Thomas Doughty

In this Port our Generall began to enquire diligently of the actions of M. Thomas Doughtie, and found them not to be such as he looked for, but tending rather to contention or mutinie, or some other disorder, whereby (without redresse) the successe of the voyage might greatly have bene hazarded: whereupon the company was called together and made acquainted with the particulars of the cause, which were found partly by master Doughtie’s owne confession and partly by the evidence of the fact, to be true: which when our Generall saw, although his private affection to M. Doughtie (as hee then in the presence of us all sacredly protested) was great, yet the care he had of the state of the voyage, of the expectation of her Majestie, and of the honour of his countrey did more touch him (as indeede it ought) then the private respect of one man: so that the cause being thoroughly heard, and all things done in good order as neere as might be to the course of our lawes in England, it was concluded that M. Doughtie should receive punishment according to the qualitie of the offence: and he seeing no remedie but patience for himselfe, desired before his death to receive the Communion, which he did at the hands of M. Fletcher our Minister, and our Generall himselfe accompanied him in that holy action: which being done, and the place of execution made ready, hee having embraced our Generall and taken his leave of all the companie, with prayer for the Queene’s majestie and our realme, in quiet sort laid his head to the blocke, where he ended his life. This being done, our Generall made divers speaches to the whole company, perswading us to unitie, obedience, love, and regard of our voyage; and for the better confirmation thereof, willed every man the next Sunday following to prepare himselfe to receive the Communion, as Christian brethren and friends ought to doe, which was done in very reverent sort, and so with good contentment every man went about his businesse.

The 17. day of August we departed the port of S. Julian, and the 20. day we fell with the streight or freat of Magellan going into the South sea, at the Cape or headland whereof we found the bodie of a dead man, whose flesh was cleane consumed.

The Strait of Magellan, first passed through by Magellan sixty years before

The 21. day we entred the streight, which we found to have many turnings, and as it were shuttings up, as if there were no passage at all, by meanes whereof we had the wind often against us, so that some of the fleete recovering a Cape or point of land, others should be forced to turne back againe, and to come to an anchor where they could.

In this streight there be many faire harbors, with store of fresh water, but yet they lacke their best commoditie: for the water is there of such depth, that no man shal find ground to anchor in, except it be in some narrow river or corner, or betweene some rocks, so that if any extreme blasts or contrary winds do come (whereunto the place is much subject) it carieth with it no small danger.

The land on both sides is very huge & mountainous, the lower mountains whereof although they be monstrous and wonderfull to looke upon for their height, yet there are others which in height exceede them in a strange maner, reaching themselves above their fellowes so high, that between them did appeare three regions of cloudes. These mountaines are covered with snow: at both the Southerly and Easterly partes of the streight there are Islands, among which the sea hath his indraught into the streights, even as it hath in the maine entrance of the freat.

The streight is extreme cold, with frost and snow continually; the trees seeme to stoope with the burden of the weather, and yet are greene continually, and many good and sweete herbes doe very plentifully grow and increase under them.

The bredth of the streight is in some place a league, and in some other places 2. leagues, and three leagues, and in some other 4. leagues, but the narowest place hath a league over.

The 24. of August we arrived at an Island in the streights, where we found great store of foule which could not flie, of the bignesse of geese, whereof we killed in lesse then one day 3000. and victualled our selves throughly therewith.

The 6. day of September we entred the South sea at the Cape or head shore. . . .

Our Generall seeing this stayed her no longer, but wayed anchor, and set sayle towards the coast of Chili, and drawing towards it, we mette neere to the shore an Indian in a Canoa, who thinking us to have bene Spaniards, came to us and tolde us, that at a place called S. Iago, there was a great Spanish ship laden from the kingdome of Peru: for which good newes our Generall gave him divers trifles, wherof he was glad, and went along with us and brought us to the place, which is called the port of Valparizo.

Surprise and capture of a Spanish ship

When we came thither, we found indeede the ship riding at anker, having in her eight Spaniards and three Negros, who thinking us to have bene Spaniards and their friends, welcommed us with a drumme, and made ready a Bottija of wine of Chili to drinke to us: but as soone as we were entred, one of our company called Thomas Moone began to lay about him, and strooke one of the Spanyards, and sayd unto him, "Abaxo Perro," that is in English, "Goe downe dogge." One of these Spaniards seeing persons of that quality in those seas, all to crossed, and blessed himselfe: but to be short, wee stowed them under hatches all save one Spaniard, who suddenly and desperately leapt over boord into the sea, and swamme ashore to the towne of S. Iago, to give them warning of our arrivall.

They of the towne being not above 9. households, presently fled away and abandoned the towne. Our generall manned his boate, and the Spanish ships boate, and went to the Towne, and being come to it, we rifled it, and came to a small chappell which wee entred, and found therin a silver chalice, two cruets, and one altar-cloth, the spoyle whereof our Generall gave to M. Fletcher, his minister. . . .

Not farre from hence going on land for fresh water, we met with a Spaniard and an Indian boy driving 8. Llamas or sheepe of Peru which are as big as asses; every of which sheepe had on his backe 2. bags of leather, each bagge conteining 50. li. weight of fine silver: so that bringing both the sheepe and their burden to the ships we found in all the bags 800. weight of silver.

Here hence we sailed to a place called Arica, and being entred the port, we found there three small barkes which we rifled, and found in one of them 57 wedges of silver, each of them weighing about so pound weight, and every of these wedges were of the fashion and bignesse of a brickbat. In all these 3 barkes we found not one person: for they mistrusting no strangers, were all gone aland to the Towne which consisteth of about twentie houses, which we would have ransacked if our company had bene better and more in number. But our Generall contented with the spoyle of the ships, left the Towne and put off againe to sea and set sayle for Lima, and by the way met with a small barke, which he boorded, and found in her good store of linnen cloth, whereof taking some quantitie, he let her goe. . . .

Return by the Cape of Good Hope

Our generall at this place and time, thinking himselfe both in respect of his private injuries received from the Spaniards as also of their contempts and indignities offered to our countrey and Prince in generall, sufficiently satisfied and revenged: and supposing that her majestie at his return would rest contented with this service, purposed to continue no longer upon the Spanish coasts, but began to consider and to consult of the best way for his Countrey. He thought it not good to returne by the streights; he resolved therefore to avoyde these hazards, to goe forward to the Islands of the Malucoer, and therehence to saile the course of the Portugals by the Cape of Buena Esperanza. . . .

We arrived in England the third of November, 1580, being the third yeere of our departure.


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Chicago: "A Narrative of the Voyage of Drake (1577–1580)," Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947) (Boston: Ginn, 1935, 1922), 396–401. Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2022,

MLA: . "A Narrative of the Voyage of Drake (1577–1580)." Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, edited by Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947), Boston, Ginn, 1935, 1922, pp. 396–401. Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: , 'A Narrative of the Voyage of Drake (1577–1580)' in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England. cited in 1922, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. , Ginn, 1935, Boston, pp.396–401. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2022, from