In July 1577 a fleet of five small ships, under the command of Francis Drake aboard the 'Pelican', left the coast of England, under the guise of a North African trading expedition. Heading for the South American continent, their route took them across the Atlantic and up the coast of Peru, where they encountered many difficult conditions. Before passing through the Strait of Magellan, Drake decided to consolidate the fleet into three ships and, at the same time, he renamed his flagship 'The Golden Hinde'.
By September the following year, the small fleet had safely passed through the Strait into the Pacific, to be confronted with violent storms that battered them relentlessly. After several weeks at the mercy of rough seas, the two ships accompanying Drake had been lost - the little 'Marigold' went down with all hands, and the 'Elizabeth' found its way back to England. Now alone, and having been blown way off course, Drake's Golden Hinde sailed up the Pacific South American coast into the lands colonised by the forces of Spain. Some six months later Drake left the area with the Golden Hinde stacked to the gunnels, having almost helped himself to vast quantities of Spanish gold, silver and precious gems.
Sailing northwards, off the coast of North America, Drake sought shelter somewhere in the vicinity of latitude 38 degrees north (possibly in the Gulf of California), in an area that he claimed for his Queen, and named Nova Albion. Throughout June and July 1579, Drake remained in the relative safety of the bay whilst the Golden Hinde was repaired, and his crew enjoyed a well-deserved recovery. On leaving North America he sailed westwards into the vast Pacific once more, reaching the East Indies and the Spice Islands. Rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Drake's final leg of the voyage took him up the Atlantic coast of West Africa and eventually back to a triumphant arrival in England in the autumn of 1580.
The following April, Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hinde at Deptford Docks. As a monument to Drake's great achievements, the Golden Hinde remained at Deptford for the next 100 years but, due to poor preservation techniques at that time, it soon rotted beyond repair and was finally broken up. There is an elaborately carved old oak armchair in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, reputedly made from surviving timbers of the Golden Hinde, and a 19th century copy of that same chair can be seen at Drake's former home, Buckland Abbey in Devon.
The present 'Golden Hinde' now moored on the River Thames at London Bridge, is a replica, built to the highest standards by the Hinks shipyard in Appledore, Devon. Her keel was laid on 30th September 1971, and the new Golden Hinde was launched on 5th April 1973 by the Countess of Devon, appropriately sent on her way with a bottle of mead, instead of the traditional champagne. Once launched, she completed her own circumnavigation of the globe, returning to England in 1980 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Drake's own voyage. This magnificent ship has also completed several tours of the British coastline, and one trip to Canada, before coming to rest at her permanent London home in 1991.