The Golden Hinde is a replica, built in Devon in 1973. It is however a bona fide, seaworthy vessel and has travelled nearly 150,000 miles, including a full circumnavigation of the globe (in 1979-1980), like its illustrious predecessor. As a former merchant seaman, with a similar number of sea miles behind me, raw figures or statements such as 'circumnavigation' can never conjure the brute reality of circling the world in such a snail-like fashion. Seasons reverse as you swap from one hemisphere to the next and weather takes prominence over which particular day, month or even year it is. I did it in a modern steel ship and experienced the towering seas off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the lulls between the Roaring Forties in the Southern Ocean and the excitement of seeing land after crawling across the Pacific for weeks.
Imagining the threat and adventure of undertaking the whole experience in a small wooden vessel, which relies on consistent winds, skill and a certain amount of luck, forces you to admire the courage of human spirit. A spirit which was severely tested when first venturing across the oceans and into the unknown, during the 15th and 16th centuries. The fact that the replica has a rich maritime history of its own (having travelled far further), earns it a level of respect above that of a simple modern facsimile. It's a historical tool, which carved its own unique history.
The original Golden Hinde, was initially called the Pelican. Sir Fancis Drake was chosen by Elizabeth I to set sail with a fleet of five small ships in 1577 (the Pelican being the flagship and renamed during the voyage to 'The Golden Hinde' - the others were: the Elizabeth, the Benedict, the Marigold and the Swan). The intention was to round South America via the Straits of Magellan. This safer, inland route avoids the perilous 'Cape Horn'. Once through, he was to circumnavigate and explore opportunities in the oceans beyond, for the benefit of the Crown. He was also [unofficially] given permission to loot Spanish ships he chanced upon.
In March 1579, the Golden Hinde captured the Spanish Galleon - Cacafuego, carrying a cargo of unimaginable wealth. It took six days to transfer as much treasure into the hold as they could carry, replacing the ballast and storing the excess in the bilge. Twenty-six tons of silver was aboard the Cacafuego, most of which they were forced to leave behind. Drake then visited San Francisco in the north, crossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope, before entering Plymouth harbour in September 1580, three years after he left. The other four ships didn't make it - the Elizabeth returned after being separated in the Pacific, the Benedict and Swan were broken up in South America and the Marigold went down in a fierce storm.
Only 56 of the Golden Hinde's original 100 crew survived the journey. The ship continued to Deptford, on the Thames where Elizabeth knighted Drake, though indirectly (via a French representative), to avoid association with Drake's 'privateer' activities. The Golden Hinde remained as a public exhibition at Deptford through Elizabeth's request, the first museum ship in history and survived for over 100 years, before rotten timbers, forced her to be broken up. Elizabeth's share of the booty cleared the country's entire national debt, and then some. Even the lowliest cabin-boy received a substantial share (in excess of £1million in today's money).
In addition to tours of the ship - of impressive dimensions in its day, something of a minnow by today's standards - there are children's activities conducted by guides in traditional dress, as well as the opportunity to hire the ship for parties, special events or sleepovers.
|Sponsored by:||Queen Elizabeth I of England|
|Renamed:||1577 – Golden Hinde - after the heraldic doe of Sir Christopher Hatton: a principal sponsor. Just prior to entering the Straits of Magellan.|
|Fate:||Disintegrated and broken up approximately 300 years ago; two replicas exist|
|Speed:||8 knots (15 km/h)|
The Golden Hinde is open between 10.00am and 5:30pm daily
Self Guided Tours admission- Adult - £6.00, Children/ Concession - £4.50, Family - £18.00
The Golden Hinde, St. Mary Overie Dock, London, SE1 9DG.
Call: 020 7403 0123
Nearest Tube/Rail: London Bridge