Third to circumnavigate the globe

The next recorded visitor to the Mariana Islands after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, was British adventurer Thomas Cavendish in 1588 aboard The Desire. He traded briefly, and as he left he ordered his men to open fire from the rear of the ship to discourage the islanders from following.

Cavendish, a courtier and a man of known extravagance, set out to repair his fortune with a voyage around the world. He sailed from Plymouth, England on 21 July 1586 with 123 men in three vessels, only one of which (the Desire) came home.

Among his prizes were 19 vessels of worth, and especially the treasure galleon, the Great St. Anne, which he captured off Cape St. Lucas, the southern extremity of California on 14 November 1587.

He traveled by way of Sierra Leone, the Cape Verde Islands in Brazil, down to Patagonia, through Magellan’s Straits, visiting Spanish settlements on the west coast of South and Central America and of Mexico. Next he sailed across the Pacific visiting Guam, the Philippines, Moluccas and Java. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived again at Plymouth on 9-10 September 1588, having circumnavigated the globe in two years and fifty days.

He died on another grand expedition, this time to China, and was buried at sea in 1592.

By Shannon J. Murphy