Sir Thomas Cavendish (19 September 1560 – May 1592) was an English explorer and a privateer known as "The Navigator" because he was the first who deliberately tried to emulate Sir Francis Drake and raid the Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific and return by circumnavigating the globe. Magellan's, Loaisa's, Drake's, and Loyola's expeditions had preceded Cavendish in circumnavigating the globe. His first trip and successful circumnavigation made him rich from captured Spanish gold, silk and treasure from the Pacific and the Philippines. His richest prize was the captured 600-ton sailing ship the Manila Galleon Santa Ana (also called Santa Anna). He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I of England after his return. He later set out for a second raiding and circumnavigation trip but was not as fortunate and died at sea at the age of 31.
Cavendish was born in 1560 at Trimley St Martin near Ipswich, Suffolk, England. His father was William Cavendish, a descendant of Roger Cavendish, brother to Sir John Cavendish from whom the Dukes of Devonshire and the Dukes of Newcastle derive their family name of Cavendish.
When Thomas Cavendish was 12 he inherited a fortune from his father's estate. At the age of 15 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, remaining for two years, but did not take a degree. After leaving school at age 17, he spent most of the next 8 years or so in luxurious living. He was a Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury, Dorset, in 1584. In 1585 he sailed with Sir Richard Grenville to aid in the colonization of Roanoke, gaining much valuable experience but losing money on his investments. He was a member of Parliament for Wilton, 1586.
Cavendish sailed on a second expedition in August 1591, accompanied by the navigator John Davis. They went further south to the Strait of Magellan and then returned to Brazil, where they hid and reprovisioned in Ilhabela and looted Santos and São Vicente. Going further north, they lost most of the crew in a battle against the Portuguese at the village of Vitória, today the capital of the State of Espirito Santo. One abandoned sailor, Anthony Knivet, later wrote about his adventures in Brazil. Cavendish set off across the Atlantic towards Saint Helena with the remainder of the crew, but died of unknown causes at age 31, possibly off Ascension Island in the South Atlantic in 1592. The last letter of Cavendish, written to his executor a few days before his death, accuses John Davis of being a "villain" who caused the "decay of the whole action". John Davis continued on with Cavendish's crew and ships and discovered the Islas Malvinas, before returning to England with most of his crew lost to starvation and illness.