Thursday, April 12, 2018
William Dampier on Ascension Island
Recently SV Delos has been on Ascension Island.
Well I say recently: what I mean is that they recently published a set of videos about their time on the island, in practice they were there back in July 2017.
While I can't see myself ever getting to what looks like an amazing place, it appears an alleged relative of mine did, namely William Dampier. I've posted about him and his amazing life before and my go-to book on the subject is A Pirate of Exquisite Mind. So after watching the Delos video I picked up my copy, looked in the index under Ascension, and yes there it was.
Dampier was on his way back from exploring the waters between north Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea as captain of the Roebuck. Alas his command was rotten and worm-eaten and while passing Ascension in 1701 it sprung "a great leak". After frantic attempts to save the ship (not helped by a carpenter who felt the best idea was to cut an even bigger hole) he was forced to beach the Roebuck on the shores of the island.
At the time Ascension was uninhabited and described as a "desolate island" but the castaways found a spring, turtles, goats and land crabs on which they survived until rescue came from some passing Royal Navel vessels and an East Indiaman.
Three hundred years later relics of that Roebuck were unearthed by archaeologists on Long Beach, Ascension including the ship's bell and a giant clam-shell, one of the specimens Dampier was returning for the Royal Society.
The bell is now on display in the museum on Ascension and the incident was depicted in a set of stamps issued by the island government showing Dampier, the Roebuck, its grounding and then recovery of the bell by divers: