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    Following Bligh's ships' boat across the Pacific
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2008 Dec 13, 08:55 +1100

    Across the ocean and into the past


    December 13, 2008

    An adventurer has chosen to re-create the perilous voyage William Bligh was forced to make, writes Keeli Cambourne.

    Wanted: two blokes who are looking for the adventure of a lifetime. Essential requirements include a sense of humour, an ability to live off meagre rations and do without toilet paper for more than 40 days and the desire to push yourself to your limits. Cost: $20,000. Apply to Don McIntyre, Australian adventurer.

    For McIntyre this latest voyage is the culmination of years of research and the chance to re-create what he considers one of the most epic sea voyages of all time: the desperate 3600-nautical-mile escape from Tonga to Timor in a seven-metre open-timber longboat by Captain William Bligh and 18 of the men who were victims of mutiny on the Bounty.

    April 28, 2009, is the 220th anniversary of the voyage and the day McIntyre, his "first mate" - an Australian Young Adventurer of the Year in 2004, Chris Bray - and the two successful applicants will push off from Tonga, hoping to make it to Timor about 40 days later.

    "This is the most exciting adventure I have done, because it is so multi-dimensional," McIntyre says. "I am really relaxed with the sea, so that part doesn't worry me at all, but to be in a little, open boat and know that there are so many things that can and will happen is what excites me.

    "The human dynamics will be as big as the voyage itself, and what happens on the boat is the real story."

    McIntyre is adamant that this will be a faithful re-creation of that journey. "Of course we have a few advantages over Bligh but the whole point of this adventure is to live Bligh's experience and do things exactly the same," he says.

    The boat has been built. It is not a replica of Bligh's boat, but one built to the specifications of the James Caird, a boat used in another great voyage - that of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who in 1916 sailed 700 nautical miles through some of the world's worst seas to South Georgia Island, in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

    "I saw an ad in a paper in Hobart for a whale boat for sale - a 25-foot boat that had been built for an expedition that failed due to a capsize," he says. "I bought that boat and had it rebuilt for this voyage. It took about a year but now it has a similar rig to the one Bligh used.

    "It is about a third of the volume of the original Bligh boat, but he had a crew of 18. It is a lot lighter so, even with four in it, it will be low in the water. It is still built on the 1800s whale boat concept, traditionally, with oars and a sailing rig."

    McIntyre says the entire voyage will re-create Bligh's as faithfully as possible - even down to the rationed food, including the unappetising ship's biscuits with which the original crew had to try to survive. That also means no modern navigational equipment, no stove, torches, beds or toilet paper.

    "We are only going to take what Bligh had in weight," McIntyre says. That will include 690 kilograms of ship's biscuits, 14.5 pounds of salted pork and 127 litres of water … I have calculated that we will have about 800 grams of food per day, which is enough to last us about 25 to 26 days.

    "But we could be out there for up to 40 days so we have to figure out how to ration these supplies as well. When we get to Tonga we can load up with any local stuff there, like Bligh did - coconuts, fruit and vegetables. Then we sail through the northern Fiji islands and the northern islands of Vanuatu but, like Bligh, we won't be landing. Then it's through the top of the Coral Sea to Restitution Island, where Bligh stopped for berries, fish, oysters.

    "And, like Bligh, if we do manage to catch a fish on the boat the first thing we have to eat is its guts and eyes, and then the flesh. But remember we will also have no stove to cook it on.

    "We are in the process now of making the ship's biscuits. They're just flour, water and salt, which are baked and left to dry for six months so they end up like ceramic plates and can last up to 20 years.

    "Bligh did manage to catch some sea birds, but we won't be doing that. What we will take instead is nine special rations and break them open on the same days that Bligh caught the birds. He also had six bottles of rum and wine and even though I don't drink we will take that. We will have a spoonful of rum every now and then. It's all part of the story and the experience."

    For the past 12 months McIntyre has used eBay to search the world for traditional sextants and an octant, as well as two 180-year-old pocket watches - the only things the crew will be able to use to judge the time for navigation. "I finally found a 150-year-old octant, the same that Bligh used, which is in mint condition, made out of ebony and ivory - very exciting," he says.

    "The only chart we will have on board is one covering half the world from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. That will show us the track that Bligh took.

    "We have no almanac so can only work out the latitude and will use a piece of wood and rope with knots in it to give us speed, helping us to estimate our longitude by dead reckoning, as Bligh did. There will be a lot of navigating by the stars."

    Although there are some people who would criticise McIntyre for being foolhardy and putting not just himself but those who go with him at risk, he is adamant that this adventure, like the others he has done over the past 25 years, has been planned to the last detail. "The first thing we have done is to make sure we have minimised the risk; I'm not planning on being rescued," he says.

    "Of course this has its risks, but we are capable and have all the modern safety equipment - distress beacons, life vests and raft. We will have a satellite phone to talk to Margie [his wife] every day to give our updates for the website but it is a one-way conversation, so Margie can't tell us anything about weather forecasts or what's happening on the cricket so we maintain our sense of isolation. We will have a satellite tracking device that locks on to Google Earth so people can track us 24 hours a day.

    "The big wild card is that, with global warming, cyclones are coming at different times than when Bligh set off, so we may run the risk of a late cyclone, but we have plans and tactics in place if that happens.

    "I have a simple philosophy that, if I ever have to be rescued, I need to be able to look my rescuer in the eye and say I have done everything I could to make sure I didn't need to be rescued and also minimise any search. Some of the greatest adventurers in the world are in the ranks of the rescue services, which is partly why they do it, and I respect every one of them, so give them the respect they deserve through careful planning and minimising risk."

    McIntyre says he is not looking for sailing or adventure experts to join him in April. "I'm looking for someone who can look after themself, and who is content within themself," he says.

    "They need to have done something on their own, like trekking, boating or camping, and I have to know that when it does get tough and grim they will have a degree of confidence. The crew that Bligh had were all ages and occupations and that is what will make this journey so unique.

    "I have plenty of mates busting to come with me but I am adamant that I want to do this with people I don't know."


    [Have attached a photo copied from a newspaper of said intrepid McIntyre at the helm. PF]

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