Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for December 13.
Today in 1577 Francis Drake left for his voyage around the world. He would go on to successfully circumnavigate the globe, the first English explorer to do so, on a journey that took 1020 days. Drake had sailed in the Caribbean a few times on trading missions, and he had learned about how to navigate around the West Indies on these trips.
Five ships set sail from Plymouth in 1577, and the Golden Hind (which had been called the Pelican at this point) was the largest. The Golden Hind, renamed when the ship reached the Pacific, was the only one to come back. 56 men made it home with him.
The point of the journey wasn’t originally to sail around the world – it was simply to try to intercept the gold and jewels that the Spanish were removing from South America, and Drake captured 26 tons of silver, half a ton of gold, thousands of coins, pieces of jewelry, and jewels. After he captured the goods, he couldn’t go home the way he’d planned because Spanish were waiting for him. So he moved north, up the coast to present day California, made it up to Vancouver trying to find the North West passage.
He wasn’t successful in finding it, and so he had to turn west to Japan. He sailed across the Pacific Ocean, past the north coast of Australia, into Indonesia and the Spice Islands where he also got six tons of cloves – which were almost worth their weight in Gold at the time. Then he went southwest past India, and around Africa. People in England were surprised when he returned home, as he had long been assumed dead.
The value of the goods he brought back were worth over half a billion dollars in today’s money. He was nicknamed El Draco by the Spanish, and was knighted.
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com where there are several episodes on Drake, and explorers of the Elizabethan era.
Throwback Episode 31: Trade and Exploration in the 16th century