Walter Ralegh’s Final Voyage
Ralegh's fateful attempt to discover El Dorado began on March 17th, 1617.
Having been a favourite of Elizabeth I, Walter Ralegh (1554-1618) found himself on the wrong side after her death and was arrested in 1603 and imprisoned for 13 years in the Tower of London for his part in the Main Plot against James I.
In 1595, during the Anglo-Spanish war, Ralegh had set out on an exploration of the Orinoco river in South America, in search of the legendary ‘City of Gold’, El Dorado.
The expedition was difficult: Ralegh and his men, in competition with a Spanish crew, had to build rafts to navigate the shallow waters and found themselves hacking through jungle. Despite this, they only lost two men: one guide inexplicably vanished and another crew member was eaten by a crocodile in front of his companions while taking a swim.
Having travelled 400 miles without success, Ralegh ordered the expedition to turn back. It was on this return journey that he heard of a gold mine at Mount Iconuri and sent a party, headed by one of his captains, Lawrence Keymis, to investigate. Although Keymis did not find the mine, the quality of the rock quartz in the area convinced him of its existence.