William Dampier (August,1651 – March,1715) was a controversial English explorer, sea captain, and scientific observer. He was the first Englishman to explore or map parts of New Holland (Australia) and New Guinea.
Dampier was born near Yeovil. After various seafaring adventures, and leading a semi-piratical life, he was in 1688 marooned on Nicobar Island , but escaped to Acheen , returned to England in 1691.
He captained a voyage of discovery on HMS Roebuck .
Dampier Archipelago off Western Australia is named after him.
He was a crewmember of the pirate ship, the Cygnet, which was beached on the northwest coast of Australia (somewhere near King Sound in Western Australia).
In 1701 he was wrecked upon Ascension Island, from which he was rescued by an East Indiaman. He was afterwards court-martialled for cruelty, and wrote an angry but unconvincing vindication.
He had an unusual degree of influence on figures better known than he is :
His observations and analysis of natural history helped Darwin’s and Alexander von Humboldt’s development of their theories,
He made innovations in navigational technology that were studied by Capt. Cook and Adm. Nelson.
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, was reportedly inspired by his account of real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk.
His reports on breadfruit led to Capt. Bligh’s ill-fated voyage.
He is cited over a thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary.