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    Re: Was Fletcher Christian a great navigator?
    From: Don Seltzer
    Date: 2013 Jul 25, 08:19 -0700

    Frank,

    Thanks for the link to the site fatefulvoyage.com. It does make reading Bligh's journal much easier.

    One reason that I thought that the missing sextant screw might have been scavenged is that Bligh's entry for the day mentions it in conjunction with Compass B, stolen by natives and later recovered damaged. He is not specific about which natives, however. After leaving Tahiti, the Bounty passed by several islands and were often visited by natives in canoes. Just a few days earlier, some women had been sneaked aboard to spend the night. The missing screw and the stolen compass might have been from this period. Or, as you suggest, dating back to the extended time on Tahiti. Bligh may have only had gotten around to recording this several weeks into sailing. And in fact, there is no mention of Compass B in the daily observations during these weeks.

    My question about Fletcher's navigating skills is partly directed towards understanding the typical abilities at that date. In 1789, there were only a handful of captains and maybe a few masters that had ever used a chronometer. There were no books for aspiring midshipmen to learn the proper care and record keeping for determining rate. How likely is it that Bligh would have taken the time to instruct young Fletcher on these new methods, still being developed?

    Also, I am curious as to how widespread the lunar method was in 1789. Again I wonder if a midshipman/master's mate like Fletcher would have been proficient in its practice. If he had such skills prior to the Bounty's voyage, I would have thought that it would have been mentioned in some correspondence with the Admiralty or with Joseph Banks during crew selection. And once the voyage began, I suspect that Fletcher was fully occupied with daily routine as Bligh's second in command in an under-manned, under-officered vessel.

    All we really know of Fletcher's navigating skills is that after the mutiny, he was able to find his way to Tahiti, another island 300 miles south of Tahiti, and seems to have wandered for four months and possibly thousands of miles among potential sanctuaries before reaching Pitcairn.

    Don Seltzer
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