HMS Dolphin (1751)

HMS Dolphin was a 24-gun sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1751, she was used as a survey ship from 1764 and made two circumnavigations of the world under the successive commands of John Byron and Samuel Wallis. She was the first ship to circumnavigate the world twice. She remained in service until she was broken up in 1777.

Early service

Not long after her commissioning, the hostilities of the Seven Years' War had escalated and spread to Europe, and in May of 1756 Britain declared war on France of the Ancien Régime. Dolphin was pressed into service throughout the conflict, and was present at the Battle of Minorca in 1756 when a fleet under Admiral John Byng failed to protect a local garrison after losing an engagement with a French squadron (as a result of which Byng was later court-martialled and shot).

First circumnavigation

With Britain's successful conclusion of the Seven Years' War in 1763, her attentions turned towards consolidating her gains and continuing to expand her trade and influence at the expense of the other competing European powers. The Pacific Ocean was beginning to be opened up by exploratory European vessels, and interest had developed in this route as an alternate to reach the East Indies. This interest was compounded by theories put forward which suggested that a large, hitherto-unknown continental landmass (Terra Australis Incognita) must exist at southern latitudes to "counterbalance" the northern hemisphere's landmasses.

No longer in a state of war, the Admiralty had more funds, ships and men at her disposal to devote to exploratory ventures. Accordingly, an expedition was soon formed with instructions to investigate and establish a South Atlantic base from which Britain could keep an eye on voyages bound for the Pacific. Another purpose was to generally explore for unknown lands which could then be claimed and exploited by the Crown, and to reach the Far East if necessary. The Dolphin was selected as lead vessel for this voyage, and she was to be accompanied by the sloop HMS Tamar and the supply ship Florida.

Her captain was Commodore John Byron, a 42 year-old veteran of the sea, younger brother to the profligate William Byron, 5th Baron Byron.

Dolphin's first circumnavigation was the fastest circumnavigation to that date, and the first to take less than two years.

Second circumnavigation

Dolphin's second circumnavigation was under the command of Samuel Wallis, who sailed in 1766 accompanied with Philip Carteret in HMS Swallow. Carteret had served on Byron's circumnavigation. The then master's mate, John Gore, was among a number of crew from Byron's circumnavigation who crewed with Wallis.



  • HMS Dolphin. Ships of the World: an Historical Encyclopaedia. Retrieved on August 15., 2005.

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