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    Re: HMS Bounty
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 May 18, 22:44 +0100

    Interesting that Doug Royer should refer to a recent book about Bligh and
    "Bounty".
    
    At the weekend I happened to watch (yet again) on TV the 1962 Hollywood
    version of "Mutiny on the Bounty". Absolute hokum, of course, making little
    connection with the history. And Brando's affectation of an English toff's
    accent is quite excruciating.
    
    However, it showed well  Bligh's futile attempt to round the Horn Westward.
    In the end, after a month of battling, he had to turn tail to reach Tahiti
    Eastwards, going round the World downwind: that really happened. The film
    portrayed those storms at sea as convincingly as in any film I remember.
    
    "The log of the Bounty" was published in 2 volumes by Golden Cockerel Press
    in 1936 in only 300 copies (and unfortunately, I don't own one). It
    contained both the log and Bligh's Journal.
    
    "A major part" of Bounty's log is contained in "Mutiny!" by R M Bowker and
    William Bligh (Bowker and Bertram, 1978). However, although it describes
    the circumstances of the mutiny itself, disappointingly it has nothing to
    say about Blighs's famous boat journey to Timor, that followed.
    
    Bligh wrote "A Narrative of the mutiny ..", extracted from his log and
    journal, in 1790, followed in 1792 by a more complete "Narrative of the
    voyage to Otaheite with an account of the Mutiny and of his Boat Journey to
    Timor.", and that 1792 Narrative was republished (ed. Laurence Irving) by
    Methuen in 1936, as "Bligh and the Bounty". This book contains details of
    the daily log of that boat journey, so is most enlightening.
    
    I am aware of another book, "Mr Bligh's bad language"m (Cambridge, 1992) by
    Greg Dening, an Australian academic anthropologist. I do not recommend it,
    mainly because it's written by an Australian academic anthropologist, but
    it does contain some information new to me.
    
    I will be very interested to learn Doug's judgement on Caroline Alexander's
    "The Bounty", when he has finished it. Particularly in regard to the
    details of navigation and seamanship which interest me, and presumably Doug
    also.
    
    There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence that Bligh was more inhumane
    toward his crews than the general run of ship's captains of his period. He
    seems to have been a stickler for propriety, however, to judge from his
    appointment of Governor of New South Wales in later life. He incurred the
    enmity of the prosperous settlers and soldiers by attacking their
    profitable monopolies in rum and in supply of convict labour, and faced
    with another mutiny, was recalled after three years.
    
    Bligh was put into Bounty's 23 ft. boat along with 17 others, which must
    have made a tight fit, with little freeboard. He says- "Mr Samuel got 150
    lb of bread, with a small quantity of rum and wine, also a quadrant and
    compass; but he was forbidden, on pain of death, to touch either map,
    ephemeris, book of astronomical observations, sextant, time-keeper, or any
    of my surveys or drawings." Later he adds "To Mr Samuel I am indebted for
    securing my journals and commission, with some material ship papers. ... He
    attempted to save the time-keeper, and a box with my surveys, drawings, and
    remarks for fifteen years past, which were numerous; when he was hurried
    away, with "Damn your eyes, you are well off to get what you have".
    
    Additionally, the gunner carried his pocket watch (which stopped when they
    got to New Holland, Queensland).
    
    That seems clear enough. And yet, Bligh records his subsequent navigation,
    day by day, giving noon latitude, quoted to the nearest minute, and
    longitude by reckoning using an improvised ship's log. How could he have
    done this without a table of day-by-day Sun declination, that only the
    ephemeris or some other nautical table could provide? If he was heading for
    Timor, how could he have done so without at least a rough idea of the
    latitude of that (large) Island? Did Bligh actually possess more
    information than he admitted to?
    
    Dening's book offers a very different story. He tells us (but without
    providing any references) that Fletcher Christian "denied the men in the
    launch charts but secretly gave them his own best sextant" (page 97). He
    adds (page 99)- On board the launch were Hamilton Moore's"the Practical
    Navigator and Seaman's New Daily Assistant" as well as the "Tables
    Requisite" to be used with the "Nautical Ephemeris for finding theLatitude
    and Longitude at Sea" and mentions that half a dozen positions in the New
    Hebrides and for Timor had beem transcribed from these into a notebook. He
    adds- "with a Ramsden ten-inch sextant, a quadrant, an Adams compass,
    navigational tables, and luck in clear noon sightings, they could do their
    latitudinal navigation with no great difficulty."
    
    How did Dening discover this, I wonder? He doesn't say. But it rings true.
    If Bligh carried only the information he said he had, he would have been
    unable to do the navigation he did.
    
    I wonder if Doug's new book, or any other listmember's own knowledge,
    throws any light on this matter?
    
    Bligh made the best possible use of his circumstances, in my view. It was a
    downwind trade-wind passage to Timor. On the way, the Queensland peninsula
    provided an unmissable waypoint, once the dangers of the Barrier Reef were
    surmounted, with plentiful shellfish on the reef's islands. Bligh had
    visited Timor 10 years earlier. Cook had explored the Queensland coast, at
    rather closer quarters than he intended, and Bligh had sailed with Cook,
    but not on that voyage. Peckover, the gunner, had been with Cook then, and
    could no doubt advise about the environment within the reef, and then the
    passage of the Arafura Sea.
    
    Bligh had no chart to follow, and therefore no detaled navigation to do.
    His passage was not a feat of navigation, in my view, but it was a feat of
    seamanship, boat-handling, and man management. What marked him as special
    was that even in his desparate circumstances, he was noting and sketching
    approximate positions of islands along his track for the benefit of future
    navigators.
    
    George
    
    ================================================================
    contact George Huxtable by email at george---.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    ================================================================
    
    
    

       
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