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Sept. 26, 1580: Drake returns to England

Compass

In 1580 Francis Drake sailed back into the English port of Plymouth, completing his three-year circumnavigation of the globe and becoming the first person since Magellan (who actually died during his trip) and the first British sailor to travel around the world – a trip some cruise ships make today, although with minor alterations.

Drake’s trip was not unmarked by controversy: He beheaded his co-commander, traded in slaves, raided towns throughout South America and generally engaged in piracy. After setting out in 1577 with five ships, Drake was also besieged by storms and attacks from other unscrupulous seamen. He eventually made his way through the Magellan Strait and traveled up the Pacific Coast looking for a northeast passage to connect back to the Atlantic. Ultimately he was forced to turn back and cross the Pacific. Only one ship, the Golden Hind, eventually returned to England.

Along the way Drake “discovered” a number of destinations on the Western edge of the Americas, including much of the coastal area around present-day San Francisco, where he landed in 1579 to repair his ship, rest and claim for Queen Elizabeth what he dubbed “Nova Albion.” After his return, Drake brought reports back of the beautiful lands, encouraging future generations to flock to the Pacific Coast. Many places along the coast north of the Golden Gate Bridge are now named for Drake, including Drake’s Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore – a popular tourist destination.

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