Friday, September 05, 2008

A pirate of exquisite mind

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1651 William Dampier (d. 1715) was christened in St Michael's Church, East Coker, in South Somerset, England (his date of birth is unknown).

He was an explorer, sea captain, and scientific observer, and known as a buccaneer – although he used the word himself, some dispute this.

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).

A pirate of 'exquisite mind': Dampier influences
Dampier is little known outside Britain and Australia (and, sadly, almost forgotten in those countries), but he had an unusual degree of influence on figures better known than he:

His observations and analysis of natural history helped Charles Darwin's and Alexander von Humboldt's development of their theories. He made innovations in navigational technology that were studied by Captain James Cook and Admiral Horatio Nelson. His reports on breadfruit led to Captain William Bligh's ill-fated voyage on The Bounty ...

According to Diana Preston and Michael Preston, A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier, among the many words and expressions William Dampier introduced into the English language: avocado; barbecue; breadfruit; caress (verb); cashew; chopsticks; excursion (trip); kumquat; Nor'wester (wind); posse; rambling; sea-breeze; sea-lion; serrated; settlement; snapper; soy sauce; stilts (house supports); subsistence (farming); sub-species (pre-Charles Darwin); swampy; thunder-cloud; to make snug (as a phrase) and tortilla ...

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