timeline boat

They depart Plymouth

Successfully setting sail the second time on 13 December in 1577 from Plymouth, five vessels, the Pelican (renamed Golden Hinde on 20 August 1578), Elizabeth, Marigold, Swan, and Benedict, journeyed towards the Spanish Empire in the New World on a covert mission, funded by high officials including Privy Councillors and possibly the Queen, to capture treasure from the Spanish ships returning to Spain from the New World.


Mutinous Thomas Doughty

The small fleet sailed to the Cape Verde Islands, northwest coast of Africa capturing Spanish and Portuguese vessels along the way. A captured ship joined the fleet as well as Nuño de Silva, a Portuguese pilot, who was taken as a prisoner because of his experience sailing around the coast of Brazil. Crossing the Atlantic to South America they reached Brazil then headed south to Port St. Julian. It was here that the situation with Thomas Doughty, Drake’s friend and gentleman officer of the crew, came to a head, ending with his trial and execution for mutiny and treason. This was the same place that Magellan had dealt with the mutiny on his voyage 58 years earlier.


Renaming the ship

With the crisis concerning Doughty behind them, on 17 August a fleet of only three of the original ships continued with their voyage and faced traversing the perilous Strait of Magellan. Renaming a ship was and still is considered to be bad luck. Perhaps to appease Sir Christopher Hatton, a Privy Council member of Elizabeth I, as Doughty was his personal secretary and a nobleman, and possibly to move on from the event, Drake’s ship, the Pelican, was renamed as the Golden Hinde on 20 August. Sir Christopher Hatton’s family crest featured a golden hinde. The ships made it through in 16 days, on exiting the strait they encountered fierce storms, only the Golden Hinde remained as the Marigold was lost and the Elizabeth returned to England after getting separated.


Discovering treasure and California

Once in the Pacific, the Golden Hinde skilfully used the Spanish colonies’ complacency and their escaped slaves against them to successfully attack ships and ports for treasure. Drake’s biggest prize was capturing the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción on 1 March also known as the Cacafuego which was laden with treasure. Drake continued north to avoid Spanish retribution, it was likely they were lying in wait for him if he was looking to return the way he came. The ship may have sailed as far north as Vancouver Island, possibly to find the Northwest Passage. For years there have been debates over the location of where Drake came ashore in America to repair his ship. In 2012, the US government ended the controversy by determining that Drake landed in Marin County in the San Francisco Bay area and claimed California for Queen Elizabeth I by nailing a brass plaque to a tree.


The return journey

A month later after making much-needed repairs to the ship, the crew continued their voyage across the Pacific stopping at Ternate in the East Indies to trade with the Sultan and made their way to Java, around the Cape of Good Hope and finally arrived in Plymouth on 26 September 1580. Having been at sea for three years, it was not known whether Elizabeth was still Queen or if the political situation had changed with Spain, so their return was perhaps filled with trepidation rather than celebration.


A hero’s welcome

Political disagreement with Spain and the vast amount of treasure brought back was more than enough to secure their safety, the Queen’s share helped pay off England’s foreign debt. The successful expedition yielded a return of investment of over 4000 percent making Drake incredibly rich and his supporters wealthy. The sailors did well out of the voyage as well. He was becoming a household name in England and news of his achievements reached Europe.


A knighthood for Drake

On 1 or 4 April 1581, many of the public turned up to see Francis Drake knighted aboard the Golden Hinde and the ship was to be preserved as a museum at the dockyard in Deptford. Queen Elizabeth awarded Drake his own coat of arms with the motto ‘Sic Parvis Magna’ which translates as "Thus great things from small things (come)". This son of a yeoman farmer had come a long way.