Captain John Clipperton

ABOUT the beginning of the year 1718, some English merchants, foreseeing war between England and Spain, resolved to fit out two ships for the South Seas. Two ships were accordingly provided, one called the Success, the other the Speedwell. The command of the former was given to captain Clipperton, and captain Shelvock was appointed to command the latter. They sailed from Plymouth on the 18th of February 1719, with a fair wind; but the whole stock of wine, brandy and other liquors, for the use of both ships, was still on board the Speedwell. On the 15th, had squally weather with rain; in the evening, unbent the best and small bowers in the Success, stowed their anchors, and found themselves often obliged to shorten sail for the Speedwell. Captain Shelvock came this day under the lee of the Success, and complained to Clipperton of the crankness of his ship, which proceeded from having too much weight aloft; and, therefore, desired him to send for his wine and brandy, which would give him an opportunity of striking down some of his guns into the hold. This was never done.

About ten o'clock at night, on the 19th, there arose a fresh breeze, so as to oblige both ships to take in their topsails. The gale increasing, the Success made a signal for the Speedwell to bring to, and by seven o'clock both ships were under bare poles, nor able to bear a rag of canvass during the night. On the 20th, the storm abated, when Clipperton made sail, steering S. by E., whereas Shelvock stood away to the N. W., so that from this day they never saw each other till they met by accident in the South Seas.

The Canaries being the first place appointed for a rendezvous, Clipperton sailed thither with such expedition as to arrive on the 5th of March. After waiting ten days he determined to continue his voyage, lest he should miss his consort at the next place of rendezvous, which was the Cape de Verd Islands. On the 21st, they saw St. Vincent, and next morning anchored in the bay. They remained here ten days, but not meeting with their consort, proceeded on their voyage.

On the 29th of May, found themselves off the north point of the entrance of the straits of Magellan, and the next day entered the straits. They arrived in the South Seas on the 18th of August, and on the 7th of September cast anchor off the island of Juan Fernandez. They left this island on the 8th of October, leaving behind two deserters whom they had not been able to find. After taking a number of valuable prizes; the Success bore away for the Gallapagos, in order to refresh and anchored in York Road on the 9th of January 1720. On the 11th of August anchored with a prize they had taken, at the island of Lobos de la Mar. While here a conspiracy among the crew was discovered and punished.

On the 1st of November, sailed for the Bay of Conception; and in the passage took a ship, laden with tobacco, sugar and cloth. They made the Bay on the 6th in the afternoon, where they saw three men-of-war lying, with their topsails loose, who no sooner discovered them than they cut their cables, and stood in chase. At this time Captain Clipperton had one prize with him, which, as well as the Success, hauled close upon a wind; on which the best sailor among the Spanish men-of-war, gave chase to the prize, which she soon came up with and took. The other ships crowded all the sail they could for some time, till the largest, having her mizentop-mast carried away, fired a gun, tacked, and stood in for the shore, which gave the Success an opportunity of making her escape. In the Spanish prize Clipperton lost his third lieutenant, and twelve of his men.

They continued cruising to the northward, and on the 4th of December found themselves very near the Gallapagos. On the 17th saw the island of Cocos, and most of the crew went on shore. On the 19th of January, 1721, sailed from this place, and on the 25th arrived on the coast of Mexico, where, discovering a sail, they sent their pinnace to give chase, to whom he struck. On the return of the pinnace they had the surprising account that this was a Spanish ship called the Jesu Maria, now commanded by Captain Shelvock, who had lost his ship and most of his men, and taken this prize. These ships again parted, and on the 31st of May, Clipperton anchored in the road of Guam. On the 5th of July entered the port of Amoy, where the crew demanded that the prize money should be shared. Clipperton not complying, they applied to the chief mandarin of the place, requesting that he would do them justice against the captain. Clipperton was therefore summoned before him; and on the mandarin's demanding a reason why he refused to comply with the desires of the crew, he produced the articles, by which it appeared that the prize-money was not to be shared till their return to London. The mandarin decided that the shares should be settled, and this distribution was accordingly made on the 16th of September; £7,000 being set aside as belonging to the owners. This sum was immediately put on board a Portuguese East Indianian, which ship was afterwards burnt, and the greater part of the money lost.

Clipperton afterwards took passage for England in a Dutch ship, and arrived there bankrupt in health and fortune, after a long and disastrous voyage.