Being a captain is hard work. Even harder is to become a captain that makes enough noise to claim their place in history, for good or bad. Below are a few historical captains.

boat captain

Sir Francis Drake (1542-1596) – This self-made Elizabethan privateert is one passionate treasure hunter but, he did not stop at that. He was a daring island explorer, too. Drake and his crew were the first Englishmen to circumnavigate the world for three years. They had claimed a portion of California for Elizabeth. He is also revered as a hero in the fight against the Spanish Armada and even earned the moniker El Draque, “The Dragon.”
Sir Walter Ralegh (1554-1618) – He was a politician seaman, explorer, poet, philosopher and courtier, making him one of the most popular men during his lifetime. He built a warship named Ark Ralegh which he later gave to the Queen who named it with Ark Royal. It became the flagship of the English fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada. He also financed and led expeditions to the Americas.
James Cook (1728 – 1779) – He learned his trade in small sailing ships in a small Yorkshire village. He served the Royal Navy and won the appointment of commander of the Endeavour in 1768. He was then sent on a mission in the Pacific to accompany astronomers as they recorded the transit of Planet Venus passing through the Sun, a rare happening which aims to measure the distance between the Sun and Earth.
Capt. William Kidd (1645 – 1701) – It is ironic how somebody like him who was originally employed to rid the pirates in the seas became one himself, and became one of the most popular pirates of all time. He was asked by the King to captain a powerful ship, capture pirates of Madagascar and capture French ships. However, he recruited cutthroats and began plundering all kinds of ships along the coast of Malabar in India. He was ultimately arrested in New York, shipped to England and executed with his body dipped in tar and hung by chains along the Thames. This served as warning to aspiring pirates in the coming years.

While pirates and notorious captains are, for the most part, a thing of the past it is fascinating to look back in time at the feats of historical captains, good and bad. Do you have a favorite historical maritime figure?