A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: David Pike
Date: 2016 Aug 26, 13:49 -0700
Frank. There’s a lot of what I was going to write, but never got around to, in your latest submission (apart from the use of a Ramsden sextant as an angling implement). One thought re the Ramsden which did occur to me was, if the Ramsden was on-loan for the expedition, was it ever handed back when Bligh returned to UK? Despite his ‘and you know it’s a good one’ utterance, I find it hard to believe that Fletcher Christian’s family circumstances would have allowed him to own a Ramsden. Bligh too would have had more important things to spend his money on. Perhaps Sir Joseph Banks or Bligh’s ship owning uncle-in-law Duncan Campbell had something to do with it.
With regard to Bligh’s apparent talking up of his achievement by failing to mention some of the equipment he had with him, is there anything in this scenario? Bligh’s origins were no higher than middle, middle class. He had until fairly recently had no one to ‘take an interest’ in his career (indicated by the time he took to reach lieutenant despite his obvious ability. Some sons of the gentry were Post Captains at 21). He was a struggling junior officer with a wife and young family to support, and there was no Social Security in the eighteenth century. He probably had a greater chance of improving his status in the Royal Navy than most places, but to do so he had to excel as a great seaman/navigator or taker of prizes. The prizes would come later, but in 1789 he had to rely on his reputation as a navigator/seaman/chart-maker. He also had the small matter of the loss of one of HM ships to explain away, his first RN command. Now it’s the duty of a commanding officer to report what’s happened to their Lordships of the Admiralty as soon as possible, so you can’t blame Bligh for ensuring he was first home, but it also meant that he was first to tell the tale of the journey. Don’t you think it was his duty to himself and his family to make sure that he came out of it in the best possible light ,even if it meant forgetting about a sextant and a couple of navigation books? DaveP