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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary telling
Samuel Bawlf's account of the secret voyage Sir Francis Drake undertook from 1577 in order to (dis)prove the theoretical Strait of Anian (as predicted by the Flemish geographer, Abraham Ortelius) that provided a northern passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is a remarkable account of exploration by one of England's most revered heroes. By piecing together...
Published on September 23, 2003 by ilmk

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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unsupported by any evidence
Apparently the other reviews of this book were written by people who have no or little knowledge of Drake scholarship. Mr. Bawlf reveals no new sources, no new documents, no new evidence. Instead, he takes second-hand information about Drake's voyage, attributes it to Drake himself, and proceeds to weave a new story. This book is filled with errors, discrepancies and...
Published on February 8, 2009 by W. L. Morgan


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary telling, September 23, 2003
Samuel Bawlf's account of the secret voyage Sir Francis Drake undertook from 1577 in order to (dis)prove the theoretical Strait of Anian (as predicted by the Flemish geographer, Abraham Ortelius) that provided a northern passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is a remarkable account of exploration by one of England's most revered heroes. By piecing together cryptic notes in maps that Drake later gave to his friends after Crown refusal to publish the true account of the voyage of the Golden Hinde, Bawlf presents a more enlightening read of a voyage that has had the official cloak of secrecy about it for the past five centuries.
The author's four part book opens with Drake's privateering in the Carribean at the hands of John Hawkins and his saving of the Judith after the English fleet destruction at San Juan de Ulua. After necessarily giving a brief political sketch of the European powers at the time, Bawlf plunges into Drake's Private War on the Spanish from 1569 to primarily on the Isthmus of Panama, plundering Spanish-looted South American gold. Focusing on his attempts to gain the gold and gems bound for Nombre de Dios we are drawn into a compelling story of one wasted ambush after another until he finally attained success with the aid of the Frnech captain Le Testu and the cimarrones. After the ordered cessation of his privateering he turned his aims towards ther Southern Sea and a passage to Cathay and we learn muh of the politics surrounding Frobisher's claim a strait did exist to Cathay, Walsingham, John Dee and the effort to get an expedition together....to eventually be headed by Francis Drake.
Part II deals with his circumnavigation around the globe as per the official reports of the time. Sailing down South America's Eastern coastline he navigated the treacherous waters of Magellan's straits, discovered that Terra del Fuego is actually a very large island and displayed those almost hollywood-esque tendencies of being a gentleman cosair but his dealings with the traitorous John Doughty showed a man of steel. Once in the Pacific he became the scourge of the Spanish, eventually returning with huge amounts of plunder. It ends with reference to the inordinate amount of time it took him to sails through the Indonesian archipelago (6 months)
Part III deals with his later life, returning constantly to the theme that the details of his voyage were deliberately obscured by the Elizabthan government, pointing to various maps by the great cartographers of the time that show no landmass indications above 50 degrees latitude were permitted. We touch on his famous raid on Cadiz, his destruction of the Spanish Armada, the questioning of his achievements by Cavendish, and his subsequent death from dysentry in the Carribean. Bawlf touches on accounts of his voyage after his death, particularly on resumption of hostilities with Spain during 1625 and how his journey passed into popular myth. Further attempts to prove the existence of the Anian Strait are catlogued, from Perez's attempt of 1774, the Russian fur trade, Captain James Cook in 1778, Dixon's attempt of 1786, and Vancouver's of 1792 which finally concluded the only seaway was the Bering Strait tween the Pacific and the Artic.
Part IV returns to give a true account of the months April to September 1579 where a collation of the evidence (oral, documented and physical evidence) strongly suggests that Drake sailed up the American west coast and located Vancouver island (he named it Nova Albion) going so far as to site a possible colony at the Bay of Small Ships. Much detail is given over to plotting the exact course and whilst theoretical the deductive scholarship is extremely plausible.
Bawlf's book is immensely enjoyable and informative, not only dealing with the particulars of the official and actual events of Drake's voyage but supplying it in a global manner that explains much of Europe's interference in the New World and the commencement of the Great Age of Discovery. We follow a man, who became the greatest navigator of his time in both his country's and his enemies' eyes for whom his voyage to discover a northwest passage in order to further England's colonial hopes actually served to establish England's mastery of the Seas and commence what became a gradual march towards Empire. For the general reader this book is extremely accessible and is magisterial in its command of the subject matter. Never degrading into dry scholarship what Bawlf has managed to do is restore the glory that Drake deserved and reveal the truth behind his search beyond the 50 degree latitude.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining important account, November 15, 2003
This wonderful account is required reading for anyone interested in Piracy, the English Navy or exploration. Sir Francis Drake was a legend and his exploits are almost unbelievable. He almost brought Spanish trade to a standstill in the New world. He Sacked Cadiz and he helped defeat the Spanish armada of 1588. And in 1577-80 he circumnavigate the globe, becoming only the second person to do so since Magellan. Even more extraordinary he did so not for explorations purpose or to seek out trade, but mostly just for the hell of it. Drake went around the world because he had already navigated the straits of Magellan and entered the pacific to raid Spanish trade around Chili and the Philippines. By the time he was near the Philippines it was actually easier for Drake to go west rather then turn back.
The authors main argument and reason for writing this book is to investigate what Drake did for the many months that are unaccounted for in his voyage. The Authors argument, based on some evidence, is that Drake discovered/mapped the Northwest, including the coasts of Vancouver, Oregon and Alaska. Most of this information was omitted from official account, most likely because Queen Elizabeth wanted to establish a colony on the west coast of America to rival the Spanish Main.
The author explores much of Drakes life as well as covering the circumnavigation in depth. This is an important work that investigates a Pirate turned accidental explorer who helped map a region of the world that wouldn't be acknowledged and re-mapped for almost a hundred year or more. A wonderful account, very entertaining and easy to read.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unsupported by any evidence, February 8, 2009
This review is from: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 (Paperback)
Apparently the other reviews of this book were written by people who have no or little knowledge of Drake scholarship. Mr. Bawlf reveals no new sources, no new documents, no new evidence. Instead, he takes second-hand information about Drake's voyage, attributes it to Drake himself, and proceeds to weave a new story. This book is filled with errors, discrepancies and misstatements. At one point Bawlf refers to the "seven-and-a-half" month gap between Drake's leaving Huatulco and his arrival in the western Pacific. In fact the period was April 16 to September 30, 1579, about two months less than Bawlf states.

Another example of sloppy scholarship is Bawlf's definition (in chapter 6) of "knots" as "sailing speed in miles sailed per hour." While the length of a nautical mile has changed in the last four hundred years, in Drake's day it was 800 feet longer than a statute mile, or 6,080 feet. At no time have knots been synonymous with miles.

Bawlf also makes absurd claims about various mapmakers, suggesting relationships between them and Drake that are mere supposition, unsupported by any evidence. That might be the best description for this book, written by a Canadian politician.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on an interesting time, June 7, 2006
By 
L. Berlin "disraeli67" (Evanston, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 (Paperback)
Overall I enjoyed this book. I read it right after a biography of Magellan which made it especially poignant. Drake in many cases landed at places Magellan had previously been to and had to deal with the side or after-effects of Magellan's actions. The book is an easy read and gives a good overview of certain background elements such as Elizabeth and her political considerations. The adventures of Drake and his crew as they circled the world are an exciting read and I learned much.

I have three negative comments on the book: 1) It spent too little time on the Spanish Armada, which may not be the prime topic of the book, but is important to the story. 2) The weird organization at the end with Drake dieing and then the concluding chapters showing where Drake probably visited in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe it works, but it seemed disjointed. and 3) Most important- get a map. Yes lots of old maps are reproduced but not real readable in the paperback and nowhere is there a modern map showing Drake's route. Many latitudes and a few longitudes are given, but without a good memory for the latitude/longitude of say San Francisco, I was a bit lost.

I would recommend this book, but only with accompanying maps.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous scholarship; exceptional narrative, July 20, 2003
This history of Drake's voyage around the world in 1577 is a rare delight. It has the narrative force of one of the world's great adventure stories but only because Bawlf clearly and economically provides all of the political and economic context necessary to intrpet the context, the true purpose and the consequences of the voyage. Of the many accounts of Drake's voyage that I've read, this is by far the most comprehensive and enjoyable. The prose is clear, unassuming and well-crafted.
It is also, of course, a surprising book. Though the voyage is very well known, many of the well-established events are not. The book is serious scholarship and as compelling as Patrick O'Brian's fiction. The primary thesis of the latter portion of the book, that Drake traveled much further north than is usually assumed, is clearly presented and documented; I hope and expect that this will lead to further scholarship on the issue. Nevertheless, independent of that point, the book remains as one of the clearest and well-written and enjoyable narratives of one of European histories most important voyages.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great historical composition., August 26, 2003
By 
Robert N. Schroeter (Scituate, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Bawlf does a great job of telling the story of the man that first circumnavigated the globe. He tells us of the battles fought, the seamen hanged, the gales that beat down on them, and does it all with extensive use of various resources that seem to have taken a long time to research. This is the first book that I've read on the subject, so I cannot speak of any discrepencies or possible points of conflict with other resources on the subject or times, though I cannot imagine a scenario where such an historian as Bawlf, could lead us to believe that the story he told is anything but the truth. It is with great pleasure that I've learned about the amazing Drake through this easy to follow historical guide. I would reccomend this book to anyone with an interest in nautical history, and also to anyone who's interested in historical piracy because in fact, Drake was exactly that: possibly the most successful and notorious pirate of all time.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Detailed Account of Drake's 1577-1580 Trip, August 17, 2003
By 
Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" (Ishpeming, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
Author Samuel Bawlf has provided us with a very scholary account of Sir Francis Drake's trip around the world with an emphasis on his April to September 1579 trip to latitude 57 degrees in southern Alaska. Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison, as have numerous other historians, labeled Drake's Bay and Nova Albion off the coast of California north of San Francisco whereas author Bawlf has Nova Albion located on Vancouver Island. Albion, by the way, is the Greek word for England, so Nova Albion would translate to New England. I am not to argue one way or another regarding how far north Drake traveled up the North American west coast, but the author provides a good case for Drake traveling north to latitude 57 degrees. Drake's trip was to be one of exploration, but Elizabeth made it clear to him that if he conducted raids on Spanish settlements along the way, she would not object. A good account is provided regarding the execution of Thomas Doughty for stirring up discontent among the crew against Drake near the same location where Ferdinand Magellan staged an execution of his own near Port St. Julian in what is now southern Argentina. I knew Drake died at sea in the Caribbean, but did not know he had suffered and died from dysentery and his body was then lowered into the sea. Drake wasn't sure how Queen Elizabeth would react to the death of Thomas Doughty, and I found it interesting that when Drake kneeled before the queen to be knighted on the Golden Hind that she mentioned that maybe she should remove his head instead. Near the end, I felt the book told me more than I cared to know about the islands north of Vancouver Island. However, if you are interested in books on exploration, you should enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Maritime History, July 15, 2008
This review is from: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 (Paperback)
Hats off to Samuel Bawlf (gotta love the name) for this riveting account of the life and exploits of explorer cum pirate Sir Francis Drake. Bawlf concentrates on the voyage that made Drake world famous (and the secrets about the trip that Queen Elizabeth suppressed), but does a marvelous job of providing an overview of the political and economic climate in which that voyage was made. And save for a slight drag about three-quarters of the way through, Bawlf keeps the pace fast and full of suspense, without once sacrificing intelligence and clarity. For anyone interested in world history and the extraordinary men and women who made it, this is a wonderful, highly entertaining read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventurous, thought provoking, January 7, 2005
By 
William J. Higgins,III (Laramie, Wyoming United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 (Paperback)
Once the reader gets past the European political chess games of the day, this is a bold, daring and energetic portrayal of possibly the most celebrated English navigator to sail the seas. Not only does Bawlf lure the reader into Drake's numerous exploits around the world, but he also augments the attention level as far as Drakes' secret undertakings to locate the infamous Strait of Anian. His voyage to search out the Northwest Passage is a thrilling experience of confronting and battling storms, plundering Spanish treasure fleets, capturing naval captains, day to day survival tactics, etc.

The author does justice in examining the secretiveness and elusiveness of Drake's northern Pacific mission by detailing and meticulously picking through the available literature to vindicate his whereabouts. Possibly the first expedition to traverse the Pacific into its far northern limits, Drake then heads south to explore Vancouver Island and the Columbia River, two centuries before Cook and others.

For the most part, Drake was the gentleman's pirate, always treating his captives with the utmost regard. Many of his short-term prisoners had a high reverence for the man. It goes without saying, he frustrated Spain's King Philip by constantly evading his nautical strategies.

A very enjoyable and insightful read.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling in the dark gaps of a voyage kept secret, December 5, 2004
This review is from: The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 (Paperback)
A very interesting book that reads like an adventure tale but is packed with clever insight and useful indications, assumptions, deductions and data. It retraces the whole maritime career of Sir Francis Drake, centering on his "secret voyage" that took him from England to the Strait of Magellan, then to the Pacific Ocean, up the coast of Chile and Peru, as far as Mexico, then up the coast of North America, as far as the southern limit of Alaska, and back along the present coast of Canada, Washington and Oregon, and finally across the Pacific Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and back to England.

The book describes this trip in great detail and discusses the reconnaissance of the coast of Canada, Washington and Oregon thoroughly, from the famous Strait of Anian in the north to the Bay of Small Ships or Bay of Fires (Portus Nova Albionis for Drake or Whale Cove for us) in the south, a territory he called Nova Albion and of which he took possession in the name of Elizabeth I.

The book is very rich in details about this trip and Drake's discoveries. Sir Francis Drake was the first to state that south of the Strait of Magellan lay a set of islands and not an extension of the antarctic continent. He was the first to explore and map the various islands, particularly Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada and north-west coast of the US. He also determined the longitude of this west coast and the width of the North American continent, reducing it drastically and approaching the real size. He did his measurements through the observation of the moon in what he calls the "Point of Position" whose name today is Nehalem Bay, where the various stones used for these calculations were found rather recently.

The author's method is to bring together all the information he can gather and to compare and discuss all the sources to get some believable deductions from them; then, he confronts this knowledge to the reality of the various sites along the coast and is thus able to come to some geographical conclusions that are realistic, hence acceptable.

But the book is a lot more interesting than that. First the author analyzes the policy of Queen Elizabeth I in real perspective. He considers what preceded her and the policy she developed. He shows how her maritime and colonial policy was entirely under the influence of the menace that Philip II of Spain cultivated around England with the war against the Dutch rebellious protestants, the capture of the Portuguese Crown, the building of an enormous fleet and army with the clear intention of invading England and imposing Mary Stuart on the throne. The author shows how Elizabeth tried not to provoke the King of Spain and yet how she helped the protestants in the Netherlands. He shows how she even tried to get into an alliance, even a marriage, with the French royal family, to counterbalance Philip. But she essentially tried to keep under control the maritime and colonial ambition of Sir Francis Drake and other navigators to pacify the King of Spain, at least to prevent him from feeling provoked. Yet she used the skill and power of English navigators to seize a lot of riches, gold and silver, spices and other goods, from Spanish ships and colonies, to pay for her expenses--which makes an essential difference with Spain. She did not cover all the expenses to enhance England's defenses and prepare against the attack of the Spanish Armada. She looked for a working alliance with London merchants who provided her with ships, sailors and equipment. She resorted to piracy--Sir Francis Drake being one of the most important captains to work along that line--when she wanted to get some quick load of gold or silver, or when she wanted to slow down the building and preparation of the Armada, even, when necessary, by attacking Spanish or Portuguese harbours. But this constant menace from Spain prevented her from realizing, maybe not understanding but definitely starting, the vast conquest of American territories that would come later. That is why Drake's voyage and discoveries are very badly known: because she prevented the publishing of Drake's notes and maps, to keep some issues and locations secret. In other words, Elizabeth appears as a very cautious--even if very courageous too--sovereign who could probably not achieve, because of this, what was within grasp. At times we could even think the Queen was unstable in her decisions and irresolute in her goals. Sir Francis Drake's discoveries were going to lay unknown and unused for at least two centuries as a result of that.

Secondly, and it is important to emphasize this element, from the very start, her initiatives in the field of maritime and colonial conquest were joint ventures ("joint-stock compan[ies]" [226]) between the crown, the navigators and the merchants. The risks were shared, the profits too. It never was a national or state initiative. The merchants of London and the sailors and captains of Plymouth were always associated and they paid for a good share of the cost in exchange for privileges in the conquered territories and the ensuing commerce. The Queen got part of the profit, but only in proportion to the part of the cost she had paid. She was in no way different from the other investors. This will in great part explain the type of colonial ventures England would launch into later: the colonies would not be the property of the Crown but of commercial companies that would pay taxes to the Crown after somehow buying special permission or license to take possession of an area and start exploiting it. This approach of the colonization of America produced, at the same time, the big private plantations in the southern colonies and the desire of the plantation owners to remain independent and free from Crown control. They had paid for this freedom. In other words we can understand further events like the War of Independence and even the Civil War with reference to this colonizing method.

Thirdly, Sir Francis Drake was a gentleman in his political and human even humane behaviour in his voyages. He always treated his opponents with fairness and elegance, never resorting to violence when it was not necessary, never destroying ships or cities or killing people when it was not indispensable. He treated his enemies and prisoners with grace and good will. But he also showed a great sense of compassion and patience with the natives he found and met everywhere. He would rather stay away from those who were hostile and he befriended those who were welcoming. This was dictated to him by his understanding of the longer and greater historical interest of England, viz. to make friends among these natives in order to facilitate the opening of colonies and the establishing of commercial relations with them later. He was able to consider such a long historical perspective. He never doubted these territories would be English sooner or later but he never envisaged getting rid of the natives. He even seems to have at times envisaged some commercial alliance with those who would be politically organized and strong. He seemed to understand that the people living in these territories were an asset and not a disadvantage. This position is in fact the long-running result of a "feudal" vision that makes people define a property not only from the value of the earth, woodland, water ways, game, all natural resources, but also from the very people living on this earth, hence working, cultivating or exploiting it. It is this consideration that enabled slavery to be replaced by feudalism and serfdom. It is also this dimension, which sees the value of man in his work, in his activities and production, that will survive and become the ferment of modern humanism, economics and philosophy. Never, I think, is Sir Francis Drake shown as considering these natives as nothing else but cattle or game. Much evidence exists showing how Drake gave presents to the natives, not only useless "decorations" but also useful implements. We can even think that in some cases he provided some of these natives, when they were not hostile of course, with tools, even tools he produced on the spot, to enable them to improve their work and life.

And yet there is a fourth remark to be made. When contact with those natives was established he never forgot that they were, let us say, primitive and had strange beliefs and practices. He never forgot that one of England's aims would be to spread the Christian faith, the true one, the protestant religion, the religion of "the God we did serve and whom they ought to worship" [318]. This will be the source of long lasting problems later on when the puritanical faith arrives with its desire to survive in a hostile world and convert this world to the true God of theirs; and when this blend of survival instinct and conquering imperialism gets associated with the enterprising spirit of merchants or plantation owners, it will lead to extremes that still have consequences in our modern history. Sir Francis Drake did not seem to be keen on engaging in any slave trade; he even seemed to be willing to associate with ex-slave escapees here and there or even help slaves to escape, taking some under his protection on his ships (even a black woman who seems to have been his mistress; yet he abandonned her on some island when she got pregnant, showing both that he had compassion for the mother and the child who would have been obliged to live and survive in drastic conditions on the ship from the Pacific Ocean to England, and that he probably thought of what would be said and done when he returned to England). But later on the logic of the plantations and the greed of the free entrepreneurs would lead to the development of slavery as an economic system, just as the desire to survive and conquer that came from the puritan protestant faith would lead to pushing away or even destroying all obstacles. Sir Francis Drake did not seem to carry in his mind and behaviour these extremes and he gave many signs of a gentlemanly and humane approach, though we don't know what he would have done if confronted to hostile native populations. He generally avoided them as much as he could, but his aim was not to stay and open a colony; it was only to discover and evaluate new territories. He was not a conqueror but a maritime trailblazer.

The last remark I will make concerns the author of the book himself when he says, "Although each major group was linguistically distinct from the others, their social organization, technology, and methods were very similar" [282], speaking of the natives Sir Francis Drake met on the coast behind Vancouver Island. It might very well have been a remark from the Europeans in Drake's ship. But this remark, endorsed by the author, is surprising: what is this linguistic distance between the various tribes? Is it the distance that exists between various dialects of a same language, between various languages of a same linguistic family, or between languages from different linguistic families? We would like to know more about it. But this has nothing to do with the rest. The difficult, maybe even extreme, surviving conditions in this territory at the time, the precarious lives these Indians were forced to live would necessarily have a great homogenizing effect on "social organization, technology and methods." What is more, the times when these various Indian tribes arrived might have been different. This would have enabled the first ones to establish some realistic living organization that would be copied later on by tribes arriving later. Housing depended on the weather conditions and materials available, and these two elements tend to impose some general conception or design. It is the same thing with technology--the invention of tools made with whatever materials were available, in order to hunt, fish or cultivate the earth in one particular place under some particular conditions. The languages spoken by these tribes, even if they were from different linguistic families, would be of little influence on these material elements. What is more, in a deeper back-looking perspective, these tribes were all coming from the same original migrating route. Migration and surviving in new hostile conditions would be a strong force to impose some concrete solutions perfectly adapted to the terrain, be it through sharing knowledge and experience or through copying those that had come first or had been faster in adapting to the area. In other words this remark may seem to be anachronic and totally unfounded; however, and this is remarkable, this anachronic remark is probably the only one in the book--at least the only one I found, and that made me react intellectually. As a whole, the book seems to be very respectful of the time distance between today and Sir Francis Drake's living period.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580
The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 by R. Samuel Bawlf (Paperback - May 25, 2004)
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