Sir John Barrow.

The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences online

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expedition in the _Providence_, for on that occasion he collected more
bread-fruit plants than on the former, and spent only half the time in
doing so.

Be that as it may, Bligh might naturally enough conclude that the seamen
were casting 'a lingering look behind' towards Otaheite. 'If,' says
Forster (who accompanied Cook), 'we fairly consider the different
situations of a common sailor on board the _Resolution_, and of a
Taheitan on his island, we cannot blame the former if he attempt to rid
himself of the numberless discomforts of a voyage round the world, and
prefer an easy life, free from cares, in the happiest climate of the
world, to the frequent vicissitudes which are entailed upon the
mariner. The most favourable prospects of future success in England,
which he might form in idea, could never be so flattering to his senses
as the lowly hope of living like the meanest Taheitan. And supposing him
to escape the misfortunes incident to seamen, still he must earn his
subsistence in England at the expense of labour, and "in the sweat of
his brow," when this oldest curse on mankind is scarcely felt at
Taheité. Two or three bread-fruit trees, which grow almost without any
culture, and which flourish as long as he himself can expect to live,
supply him with abundant food during three-fourths of the year. The
cloth-trees and eddo-roots are cultivated with much less trouble than
our cabbages and kitchen-herbs. The banana, the royal palm, the golden
apple, all thrive with such luxuriance, and require so little trouble,
that I may venture to call them spontaneous. Most of their days are
therefore spent in a round of various enjoyments, where Nature has
lavished many a pleasing landscape; where the temperature of the air is
warm, but continually refreshed by a wholesome breeze from the sea; and
where the sky is almost constantly serene. A kind of happy uniformity
runs through the whole life of the Taheitans. They rise with the sun,
and hasten to rivers and fountains to perform an ablution equally
reviving and cleanly. They pass the morning at work, or walk about till
the heat of the day increases, when they retreat to their dwellings, or
repose under some tufted tree. There they amuse themselves with
smoothing their hair, and anoint it with fragrant oils; or they blow the
flute, and sing to it, or listen to the songs of the birds. At the hour
of noon, or a little later, they go to dinner. After their meals they
resume their domestic amusements, during which the flame of mutual
affection spreads in every heart, and unites the rising generation with
new and tender ties. The lively jest, without any ill-nature, the
artless tale, the jocund dance and frugal supper, bring on the evening;
and another visit to the river concludes the actions of the day. Thus
contented with their simple way of life, and placed in a delightful
country, they are free from cares, and happy in their ignorance.'

Such is the picture drawn of the happy people of Otaheite by a cold,
philosophical, German doctor, and such, with very little change, Bligh
found them. As far, however, as the mutiny of his people was concerned,
we must wholly discard the idea thrown out by him, that the seductions
of Otaheite had any share in producing it. It could not have escaped a
person of Christian's sagacity, that certain interrogatories would
unquestionably be put by the natives of Otaheite, on finding the ship
return so soon without her commander, without the bread-fruit plants,
and with only about half her crew; questions he knew to which no
satisfactory answer could be made; and though, at subsequent periods, he
twice visited that island, it was some time afterwards, and not from
choice but necessity; his object was to find a place of concealment,
where he might pass the remainder of his days, unheard of and unknown,
and where it is to be hoped he had time for sincere repentance, the only
atonement he could make for the commission of a crime, which involved so
many human beings in misery, and brought others to an untimely end - but
of this hereafter.



The boat is lower'd with all the haste of hate,
With its slight plank between thee and thy fate;
Her only cargo such a scant supply
As promises the death their hands deny;
And just enough of water and of bread
To keep, some days, the dying from the dead:
Some cordage, canvas, sails, and lines, and twine.
But treasures all to hermits of the brine,
Were added after, to the earnest prayer
Of those who saw no hope save sea and air;
And last, that trembling vassal of the Pole,
The feeling compass, Navigation's soul.

* * * * *

The launch is crowded with the faithful few
Who wait their Chief - a melancholy crew:
But some remained reluctant on the deck
Of that proud vessel, now a moral wreck - And
view'd their Captain's fate with piteous eyes;
While others scoff'd his augur'd miseries,
Sneer'd at the prospect of his pigmy sail,
And the slight bark so laden and so frail.

Christian had intended to send away his captain and associates in the
cutter, and ordered that it should be hoisted out for that purpose,
which was done - a small wretched boat, that could hold but eight or ten
men at the most, with a very small additional weight; and, what was
still worse, she was so worm-eaten and decayed, especially in the bottom
planks, that the probability was, she would have gone down before she
had proceeded a mile from the ship. In this 'rotten carcass of a boat,'
not unlike that into which Prospero and his lovely daughter were

not rigg'd,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively had quit it,

did Christian intend to cast adrift his late commander and his eighteen
innocent companions, or as many of them as she would stow, to find, as
they inevitably must have found, a watery grave. But the remonstrances
of the master, boatswain, and carpenter prevailed on him to let those
unfortunate men have the launch, into which nineteen persons were
thrust, whose weight, together with that of the few articles they were
permitted to take, brought down the boat so near to the water, as to
endanger her sinking with but a moderate swell of the sea - and to all
human appearance, in no state to survive the length of voyage they were
destined to perform over the wide ocean, but which they did most
miraculously survive.

The first consideration of Lieutenant Bligh and his eighteen unfortunate
companions, on being cast adrift in their open boat, was to examine the
state of their resources. The quantity of provisions which they found to
have been thrown into the boat, by some few kind-hearted messmates,
amounted to one hundred and fifty pounds of bread, sixteen pieces of
pork, each weighing two pounds, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine,
with twenty-eight gallons of water, and four empty barricoes. Being so
near to the island of Tofoa, it was resolved to seek there a supply of
bread-fruit and water, to preserve if possible the above-mentioned stock
entire; but after rowing along the coast, they discovered only some
cocoa-nut trees, on the top of high precipices, from which, with much
danger owing to the surf, and great difficulty in climbing the cliffs,
they succeeded in obtaining about twenty nuts. The second day they made
excursions into the island, but without success. They met however with a
few natives, who came down with them to the cove where the boat was
lying; and others presently followed. They made inquiries after the
ship, and Bligh unfortunately advised they should say that the ship had
overset and sunk, and that they only were saved. The story might be
innocent, but it was certainly indiscreet to put the people in
possession of their defenceless situation; however, they brought in
small quantities of bread-fruit, plantains, and cocoa-nuts, but little
or no water could be procured. These supplies, scanty as they were,
served to keep up the spirits of the men; 'They no longer, says Bligh,
'regarded me with those anxious looks, which had constantly been
directed towards me, since we lost sight of the ship: every countenance
appeared to have a degree of cheerfulness, and they all seemed
determined to do their best.'

The numbers of the natives having so much increased as to line the whole
beach, they began knocking stones together, which was known to be the
preparatory signal for an attack. With some difficulty on account of the
surf, our seamen succeeded in getting the things that were on shore into
the boat, together with all the men, except John Norton, quarter-master,
who was casting off the stern-fast. The natives immediately rushed upon
this poor man, and actually stoned him to death. A volley of stones was
also discharged at the boat, and every one in it was more or less hurt.
This induced the people to push out to sea with all the speed they were
able to give to the launch, but to their surprise and alarm, several
canoes, filled with stones, followed close after them and renewed the
attack; against which, the only return the unfortunate men in the boat
could make, was with the stones of the assailants that lodged in her, a
species of warfare in which they were very inferior to the Indians. The
only expedient left was to tempt the enemy to desist from the pursuit,
by throwing overboard some clothes, which fortunately induced the canoes
to stop and pick them up; and night coming on, they returned to the
shore, leaving the party in the boat to reflect on their unhappy

The men now intreated their commander to take them towards home; and on
being told that no hope of relief could be entertained till they
reached Timor, a distance of full twelve hundred leagues, they all
readily agreed to be content with an allowance, which, on calculation of
their resources, the commander informed them would not exceed one ounce
of bread, and a quarter of a pint of water, per day. Recommending them,
therefore, in the most solemn manner, not to depart from their promise
in this respect, 'we bore away,' says Bligh, 'across a sea where the
navigation is but little known, in a small boat twenty-three feet long
from stem to stern, deeply laden with eighteen men. I was happy,
however, to see that every one seemed better satisfied with our
situation than myself. It was about eight o'clock at night on the 2nd
May, when we bore away under a reefed lug-foresail; and having divided
the people into watches, and got the boat into a little order, we
returned thanks to God for our miraculous preservation, and, in full
confidence of His gracious support, I found my mind more at ease than it
had been for some time past.'

At day-break on the 3rd, the forlorn and almost hopeless navigators saw
with alarm the sun to rise fiery and red, - a sure indication of a severe
gale of wind; and accordingly, at eight o'clock it blew a violent storm,
and the sea ran so very high, that the sail was becalmed when between
the seas, and too much to have set when on the top of the sea; yet it is
stated that they could not venture to take it in, as they were in very
imminent danger and distress, the sea curling over the stern of the
boat, and obliging them to bale with all their might. 'A situation,'
observes the commander, 'more distressing has, perhaps, seldom been

The bread, being in bags, was in the greatest danger of being spoiled by
the wet, the consequence of which, if not prevented, must have been
fatal, as the whole party would inevitably be starved to death, if they
should fortunately escape the fury of the waves. It was determined,
therefore, that all superfluous clothes, with some rope and spare sails,
should be thrown overboard, by which the boat was considerably
lightened. The carpenter's tool-chest was cleared, and the tools stowed
in the bottom of the boat, and the bread secured in the chest. All the
people being thoroughly wet and cold, a teaspoonful of rum was served
out to each person, with a quarter of a bread-fruit, which is stated to
have been scarcely eatable, for dinner; Bligh having determined to
preserve sacredly, and at the peril of his life, the engagement they
entered into, and to make their small stock of provisions last eight
weeks, let the dally proportion be ever so small.

The sea continuing to run even higher than in the morning, the fatigue
of baling became very great; the boat was necessarily kept before the
sea. The men were constantly wet, the night very cold, and at daylight
their limbs were so benumbed, that they could scarcely find the use of
them. At this time a teaspoonful of rum served out to each person was
found of great benefit to all. Five small cocoa-nuts were distributed
for dinner, and every one was satisfied; and in the evening, a few
broken pieces of bread-fruit were served for supper, after which prayers
were performed.

On the night of the 4th and morning of the 5th, the gale had abated; the
first step to be taken was to examine the state of the bread, a great
part of which was found to be damaged and rotten - but even this was
carefully preserved for use. The boat was now running among some
islands, but after their reception at Tofoa, they did not venture to
land. On the 6th, they still continued to see islands at a distance; and
this day, for the first time, they hooked a fish, to their great joy;
'but,' says the commander, 'we were miserably disappointed by its being
lost in trying to get it into the boat.' In the evening, each person had
an ounce of the damaged bread, and a quarter of a pint of water for

Lieutenant Bligh observes, 'it will readily be supposed our lodgings
were very miserable, and confined for want of room'; but he endeavoured
to remedy the latter defect, by putting themselves at watch and watch;
so that one half always sat up, while the other lay down on the boat's
bottom, or upon a chest, but with nothing to cover them except the
heavens. Their limbs, he says, were dreadfully cramped, for they could
not stretch them out; and the nights were so cold, and they were so
constantly wet, that, after a few hours' sleep, they were scarcely able
to move. At dawn of day on the 7th, being very wet and cold, he says, 'I
served a spoonful of rum and a morsel of bread for breakfast.'

In the course of this day they passed close to some rocky isles, from
which two large sailing-canoes came swiftly after them, but in the
afternoon gave over the chase. They were of the same construction as
those of the Friendly Islands, and the land seen for the last two days
was supposed to be the Fiji Islands. But being constantly wet, Bligh
says, 'it is with the utmost difficulty I can open a book to write, and
I feel truly sensible I can do no more than point out where these lands
are to be found, and give some idea of their extent.' Heavy rain came on
in the afternoon, when every person in the boat did his utmost to catch
some water, and thus succeeded in increasing their stock to thirty-four
gallons, besides quenching their thirst for the first time they had been
able to do so since they had been at sea: but it seems an attendant
consequence of the heavy rain caused them to pass the night very
miserably; for being extremely wet, and having no dry things to shift or
cover themselves, they experienced cold and shiverings scarcely to be

On the 8th, the allowance issued was an ounce and a half of pork, a
teaspoonful of rum, half a pint of cocoa-nut milk, and an ounce of
bread. The rum, though so small in quantity, is stated to have been of
the greatest service. In the afternoon they were employed in cleaning
out the boat, which occupied them until sunset before they got every
thing dry and in order. 'Hitherto,' Bligh says, 'I had issued the
allowance by guess, but I now made a pair of scales with two cocoa-nut
shells; and having accidentally some pistol-balls in the boat,
twenty-five of which weighed one pound or sixteen ounces, I adopted one
of these balls as the proportion of weight that each person should
receive of bread at the times I served it. I also amused all hands with
describing the situations of New Guinea and New Holland, and gave them
every information in my power, that in case any accident should happen
to me, those who survived might have some idea of what they were about,
and be able to find their way to Timor, which at present they knew
nothing of more than the name, and some not even that. At night I served
a quarter of a pint of water and half an ounce of bread for supper.

On the morning of the 9th, a quarter of a pint of cocoa-nut milk and
some of the decayed bread were served for breakfast; and for dinner, the
kernels of four cocoa-nuts, with the remainder of the rotten bread,
which, he says, was eatable only by such distressed people as
themselves. A storm of thunder and lightning gave them about twenty
gallons of water. 'Being miserably wet and cold, I served to the people
a teaspoonful of rum each, to enable them to bear with their distressing
situation. The weather continued extremely bad, and the wind increased;
we spent a very miserable night, without sleep, except such as could be
got in the midst of rain.'

The following day, the 10th, brought no relief, except that of its
light. The sea broke over the boat so much, that two men were kept
constantly baling; and it was necessary to keep the boat before the
waves for fear of its filling. The allowance now served regularly to
each person was one twenty-fifth part of a pound of bread and a quarter
of a pint of water, at eight in the morning, at noon, and at sunset.
To-day was added about half an ounce of pork for dinner, which, though
any moderate person would have considered only as a mouthful, was
divided into three or four.

The morning of the 11th did not improve. 'At day-break I served to every
person a teaspoonful of rum, our limbs being so much cramped that we
could scarcely move them. Our situation was now extremely dangerous, the
sea frequently running over our stern, which kept us baling with all our
strength. At noon the sun appeared, which gave us as much pleasure as is
felt when it shows itself on a winter's day in England.

'In the evening of the 12th it still rained hard, and we again
experienced a dreadful night. At length the day came, and showed a
miserable set of beings, full of wants, without any thing to relieve
them. Some complained of great pain in their bowels, and every one of
having almost lost the use of his limbs. The little sleep we got was in
no way refreshing, as we were constantly covered with the sea and rain.
The weather continuing, and no sun affording the least prospect of
getting our clothes dried, I recommended to every one to strip and wring
them through the sea-water, by which means they received a warmth that,
while wet with rain-water, they could not have.' The shipping of seas
and constant baling continued; and though the men were shivering with
wet and cold, the commander was under the necessity of informing them,
that he could no longer afford them the comfort they had derived from
the teaspoonful of rum.

On the 13th and 14th the stormy weather and heavy sea continued
unabated, and on these days they saw distant land, and passed several
islands. The sight of these islands, it may well be supposed, served
only to increase the misery of their situation. They were as men very
little better than starving with plenty in their view; yet, to attempt
procuring any relief was considered to be attended with so much danger,
that the prolongation of life, even in the midst of misery, was thought
preferable, while there remained hopes of being able to surmount their

The whole day and night of the 15th were still rainy; the latter was
dark, not a star to be seen by which the steerage could be directed, and
the sea was continually breaking over the boat. On the next day, the
16th, was issued for dinner an ounce of salt pork, in addition to their
miserable allowance of one twenty-fifth part of a pound of bread. The
night was again truly horrible, with storms of thunder, lightning, and
rain; not a star visible, so that the steerage was quite uncertain.

On the morning of the 17th, at dawn of day, 'I found,' says the
commander, 'every person complaining, and some of them solicited extra
allowance, which I positively refused. Our situation was miserable;
always wet, and suffering extreme cold in the night, without the least
shelter from the weather. The little rum we had was of the greatest
service: when our nights were particularly distressing, I generally
served a teaspoonful or two to each person, and it was always joyful
tidings when they heard of my intentions. The night was again a dark and
dismal one, the sea constantly breaking over us, and nothing but the
wind and waves to direct our steerage. It was my intention, if possible,
to make the coast of New Holland to the southward of Endeavour Straits,
being sensible that it was necessary to preserve such a situation as
would make a southerly wind a fair one; that we might range along the
reefs till an opening should be found into smooth water, and we the
sooner be able to pick up some refreshments.'

On the 18th the rain abated, when, at their commander's recommendation,
they all stripped and wrung their clothes through the sea-water, from
which, as usual, they derived much warmth and refreshment; but every one
complained of violent pains in their bones. At night the heavy rain
recommenced, with severe lightning, which obliged them to keep baling
without intermission. The same weather continued through the 19th and
20th; the rain constant - at times a deluge - the men always baling; the
commander, too, found it necessary to issue for dinner only half an
ounce of pork.

At dawn of day, Lieutenant Bligh states, that some of his people seemed
half dead; that their appearances were horrible; 'and I could look,'
says he, 'no way, but I caught the eye of some one in distress. Extreme
hunger was now too evident, but no one suffered from thirst, nor had we
much inclination to drink, that desire perhaps being satisfied through
the skin. The little sleep we got was in the midst of water, and we
constantly awoke with severe cramps and pains in our bones. At noon the
sun broke out and revived every one.

'During the whole of the afternoon of the 21st we were so covered with
rain and salt water, that we could scarcely see. We suffered extreme
cold, and every one dreaded the approach of night. Sleep, though we
longed for it, afforded no comfort; for my own part, I almost lived
without it. On the 22nd, our situation was extremely calamitous. We were
obliged to take the course of the sea, running right before it, and
watching with the utmost care, as the least error in the helm would in a
moment have been our destruction. It continued through the day to blow
hard, and the foam of the sea kept running over our stern and quarters.

'The misery we suffered this night exceeded the preceding. The sea flew
over us with great force, and kept us baling with horror and anxiety. At
dawn of day I found every one in a most distressed condition, and I
began to fear that another such night would put an end to the lives of
several, who seemed no longer able to support their sufferings. I served
an allowance of _two_ teaspoonfuls of rum; after drinking which, and
having wrung our clothes and taken our breakfast of bread and water, we
became a little refreshed.

On the evening of the 24th, the wind moderated and the weather looked
much better, which rejoiced all hands, so that they ate their scanty
allowance with more satisfaction than for some time past. The night also
was fair; but being always wet with the sea, we suffered much from the
cold. I had the pleasure to see a fine morning produce some cheerful
countenances; and for the first time, during the last fifteen days, we
experienced comfort from the warmth of the sun. We stripped and hung up
our clothes to dry, which were by this time become so thread-bare, that
they could not keep out either wet or cold. In the afternoon we had many
birds about us, which are never seen far from land, such as boobies and

As the sea now began to run fair, and the boat shipped but little water,
Lieutenant Bligh took the opportunity to examine into the state of their
bread; and it was found that, according to the present mode of living,
there was a sufficient quantity remaining for twenty-nine days'

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 7 of 24)