Sir Francis Drake is one of the great heroes of British exploration. Early in his career, he engaged in piracy and illegal slave trading. In 1577, he was recruited to lead an expedition around the southern tip of South America through the Strait of Magellan, and helped open new trade routes that allowed Great Britain to compete effectively with the much larger Spanish Navy and the Spanish colonies that dominated the Atlantic coast of South America. He continued across the Pacific Ocean and around the tip of Africa and home to England, becoming the first Englishman to sail around the world. Drake also played a key role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which was threatening to invade and conquer England in 1588. Vastly outnumbered, Drake helped lead daring raids on the Armada while it was anchored in Spanish ports, destroying dozens of ships and sowing confusion and fear.