Not fearing the 13th, Sir Francis Drake set off on a trip around the world on this day, December 13, in 1577.

He was a privateer of Queen Elizabeth I – meaning he was a royally sanctioned pirate. He had already gained some fame for raiding Caribbean ports and commandeering Spanish gold ships. The Spaniards hated and feared him. Some said he was a dark wizard.

Elizabeth commissioned him to sail the Atlantic Ocean in search of Terra Australis Incognita. That was the name given to a continent that was believed to lie south of South America. Of course, while he searched for the continent, he was encouraged to get whatever Spanish gold or silver he might encounter.

He left Plymouth with five ships, but only his ship, the Golden Hind, completed the circumnavigation. (A hind is a female deer.) From England, he traveled the Atlantic coast of North and South America, and through the Strait of Magellan. Then he made his way up the Pacific coast, where he raided and pillaged for five and a half months.

On 1 March 1579, off the coast of Ecuador, he captured the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a galleon that had the largest treasure captured to that date: over 360,000 Pesos. The six tons of treasure took six days to transfer to his ship.

He was a “gentleman pirate” (perhaps an oxymoron) and supposedly violence was kept to a minimum and no one was intentionally harmed in his raids.

He went as far as what is now California, which he named “Nova Albion” and claimed for Elizabeth.  Nova Albion, also known as New Albion, was the name of all of North America north of Mexico, from “sea to sea,” claimed by Drake for England. The extent of New Albion and the location of Drake’s port have long been debated by historians, with most believing that he came ashore in the Bay Area on the coast of northern California.  Albion, “the white”, is an archaic name for the island of Great Britain, referring to the White Cliffs of Dover, so it was the original “New England.”

From there, he sailed through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and home to Plymouth.

Arriving home on 26 September 1580, Francis Drake sailed into Plymouth Harbor with a ship that was indeed golden, along with much silver and spices. 56 of the original crew of 80 survived.

Queen Elizabeth I stooped to board the Golden Hind and personally bestowed a knighthood on Drake. Drake turned out to be someone worth investing in. Her share of the treasure came to almost £160,000: “enough to pay off her entire foreign debt” and still have £40,000 left over to invest in a new trading company. Her return and that of other investors came to £47 for every £1 invested, or a total return of 4,700%.