|Born||Great Yarmouth, Norfolk|
|Known for||namesake of Clipperton Island|
Early life and personality
John Clipperton was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in 1676, into a family of seafarers. In his younger days he sailed all the seas of Europe, made one trip to the West Indies and one around the world. He was an able pilot and seaman, but also a man with faults. He was a blunt, rough, free-spoken sailor. He definitely was no gentleman, but at times tried to be one. Rash fits of rage would befall him, but he was soon appeased. Then he would be ready to repair any injustice that he had committed in the heat of anger—at least if this was possible.
First privateer expedition
In 1704 he sailed with the expedition of captain William Dampier. Dampier had appointed Clipperton as a captain of one of the Spanish ships he had taken as a prize. This first voyage of Clipperton did not proceed well. He led a mutiny against Dampier, and was later taken captive by the Spaniards. The Marquis of Villa Roche, who later governed Panama, treated him with much indifference. He returned home in 1712 after four years of captivity.
It was, however, during this journey, that he is said to have discovered Clipperton Island. He was later to use the island as a hideout.
History of Clipperton Island
Clipperton later became captain of the Success under a different privateering syndicate, in which he also held under his command Captain George Shelvocke of the Speedwell.
In his activities attacking Spanish targets on the west coast of the Americas, he used Clipperton Island as a base from which to stage his attacks and store loot and supplies, fortifying Clipperton Rock and expanding its cave network.
On the voyage around the Cape, he dallied in the islands there hoping that the Speedwell, which had been separated from the Success in a North Atlantic storm, would catch up. When the Success departed the area, Clipperton left two men marooned as punishment on Juan Fernandez island which Alexander Selkirk (who was the basis of the Robinson Crusoe story) had been marooned on years before.
Much more is known about Clipperton‘s second voyage to the Pacific Ocean, in 1719. By that time Clipperton had become an able and diligent captain, but he was still unable to control his rash temper. In 1718, a group of London Merchants, the 'Gentleman Venturers' had financed a privateering expedition in expectation of the outbreak of the War of the Quadruple Alliance, with a commission to cruise against the Spanish in the South Sea. Clipperton in the Success journeyed to the South Seas with the Speedwell, Captain George Shelvocke, Clipperton having replaced Shelvocke as overall commander of the expedition before the two ships left Plymouth in February 1719. The two ships lost each other shortly after setting sail in a storm out from the Bay of Biscay and did not meet up again until nearly two years later in the Pacific.
Clipperton sailed right around South America, raiding Spanish shipping. He captured his old enemy the Marquis of Villa Roche, whom he treated with much respect. Later, his travels carried him to Mexico and to Macau, where he stayed as his health deteriorated. He then sailed to Batavia (now Jakarta) in Dutch Indonesia, finally returning to his family in Galway in Ireland in June 1722. He died a week after returning home.