Ixtapa Zihuatanejo - History, William Dampier

Famous Navigators


1652 - 1715†

He was a great explorer and a sea captain. He is regarded as the best navigator and map-maker of that time. Dampier was born in Somersetshire, England in 1652. He went to sea by the age of 16 and between 1675 and 1678 he became involved with buccaneers along Mexico and Central America.

These adventures in America are told in his own books and are corroborated by the writing of two of his shipmates, Basil Ringrose whose journal was included in Esquemeling's Buccaneers of America printed in 1685 and the surgeon Lionel Wafer, whose own account was published in the year of 1699.

William Dampier

Dampier's most unusual associate, was probably Alexander Selkirk (see his history at bottom of this page), a member of the crew of the Cinque Ports in the 1703 voyage, who was marooned by his own wish on one of Juan Fernandez Islands near Chile, South America, because of a strong dispute with a superior officer.

Selkirk story was partly retold and adapted by Daniel Defoe in his famous novel Robinson Crusoe published in 1719. He was eventually rescued by one of Dampier' ships on his last voyage back to England after being 5 years at this solitary island.


Dampier led several voyages of mapping and exploration around the world and in Mexico and Central America, its is in one of them that he visited Zihuatanejo and thanks to his writings in the ship's log we know a little more of our history.

During this incursion of exploration and mapping in the Pacific Ocean, Dampier had a Letter of Marque (Privateer) therefore he attacked merchant ships of other nations. This helped him finance his trip and pay his sailors that as salary received a percentage of the loot captured.




A map of Dampier showing Mexico


The HMS Roebuck, Dampier's ship

In his writings and drawings, Dampier provides some of the most reliable earliest descriptions of native cultures, as well as coastlines, location of villages and rivers, etc.

Dampier's voyage around the world

Despite his fame as a map-maker and navigator, Dampier died at the age of 63 penniless in London.



1676 - 1721†

Born in Largo, Fife, Scotland. He was the Sailing Master of the Cinque Ports when he was put ashore in one of Juan Fernandez Islands called Mas a Tierra, about 400 miles in front of Chile, South America, due to a strong quarrel with Lieutenant  Thomas Stradling who was in charge of the ship, about the deplorable condition of the vessel.

There, he lived in complete solitude for almost 5 years.


In 1966 the name of this island was officially changed to "Robinson Crusoe Island" to honor Defoe and Selkirk.

Selkirk settle in a area baptized as Aguas Blancas (white waters) with a musket, gunpowder, an ax, navigational instruments and a bible. He survived on a diet of shellfish, fish, sea turtles, wild goats which surely were introduced by a crew that made a stop at the island and that he tamed to have milk and meat supplies, turnips, cabbage, allspice berries, palmtree's hearts and other eatable vegetables he found. He even was able to tame wildcats who served him as guards against rats. He was known to be a hotheaded and grumpy guy but also very knowledgeable about the sea and consequently, on how to survive in bad situations.

Even thou 5 years have gone by, Dampier believed he was still alive and sent one of the ships of his fleet to look for him and take him back home. Selkirk left the island on February 2nd, 1709. Maybe he was not a very nice person but his was an amazing feat of survival, ingenuity and mental strength.

Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island (before Mas a Tierra Island)

After his rescue by the vessel Duke under the command of Capt. Woodes Rogers, he returned to his native Largo and in 1712 he continued his career as a sailor. In his talks with other persons and sailors, he always remarked that he missed the tranquility and the spiritual peace he had at the island. At the time of his death on December 12th, 1721 he was a Master's Mate in the Weymouth, a ship of the English Navy. He was buried at sea off the coast of Western Africa.

Capt. Rogers at his return to England published a book called Cruising Voyage Round the World where he describes in part, Selkirk's life on the solitary island.

Selkirk joining the Duke by Robert C. Leslie

In the year 2005, a Japanese archaeological expedition to the island found nautical instruments of the eighteenth century that very probably have belonged to Selkirk because they match the ones Capt. Rogers described as seeing in his campsite.

Although each of them made the other famous, a curious fact is that it is not known if Alexander Selkirk and Daniel Defoe ever met personally.

Maybe if Alexander Selkirk had a chance to see Zihuatanejo, the story of Robinson Crusoe would have been different.



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