Buccaneers > Lionel Wafer

Lionel Wafer

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Background

Lionel Wafer (1640 – 1705) was a Welsh buccaneer and explorer who was famous for accompanying Bartholomew Sharp and William Dampier on the Pacific Adventure. Lionel started out his maritime career as a ships surgeon who made several expeditions to the South Seas and the Maritime Southeast Asia in 1676. Following this he would settle in British Jamaica in 1677 where he would continue to be a doctor and most likely settle around Port Royal. Within two years in 1679 he would meet a Captain John Cook and a Linen that persuaded him to join their fleet as a surgeon.

After a year of this Wafer would meet William Dampier in Cartagena de Indias where he would join in on the Pacific Adventure with Bartholomew Sharp. However, during the buccaneering expedition Wafer along with four others were marooned on the Isthmus of Darien. Here he would stay with the Cuna Ameridian tribe where he learned about their culture, shamanistic religion as well as part of their vocabulary. During this time he would study the natural history of the Isthmus which would become valuable scientific knowledge. A year later Wafer would leave the Cuna after promising to marry the chiefs sister and bring back dogs from England.

After surprising all of his buccaneering peers by arriving back in port dressed like an authentic Amerindian wearing body paint a nose ring, Wafer would eventually reunite with Dampier in 1688. Throughout the following year the two would privateer along the Spanish Main before he settled down in Philadelphia. By 1690 it was recorded that Wafer was back in England and in 1696 he published A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America. Following this the Darien Company would hire him as an advisor for their settlement on the isthmus in 1698. Wafer himself would die in 1705 but the book would later be translated into French (1706), German (1759), and Swedish (1789) and become an international hit for describing the region.

Buccaneers

Sources

Primary Sources

A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America, Lionel Wafer. Edited by L.E. Elliott Joyce (Oxford: Hakluyt Society, 1933).

A Buccaneer More Interested in Nature than Gold, by Cindy Vallar, about Lionel Wafer's and William Dampier's common adventures.

Secondary Sources