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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allowance, by which time there was every reason to expect they would be
able to reach Timor. But as this was still uncertain, and it was
possible that, after all, they might be obliged to go to Java, it was
determined to proportion the allowance, so as to make the stock hold out
six weeks. 'I was apprehensive,' he says, 'that this would be ill
received, and that it would require my utmost resolution to enforce it;
for, small as the quantity was which I intended to take away for our
future good, yet it might appear to my people like robbing them of life;
and some who were less patient than their companions, I expected would
very ill brook it. However, on my representing the necessity of guarding
against delays that might be occasioned by contrary winds, or other
causes, and promising to enlarge upon the allowance as we got on, they
cheerfully agreed to my proposal.' It was accordingly settled that every
person should receive one twenty-fifth part of a pound of bread for
breakfast, and the same quantity for dinner as usual, but that the
proportion for supper should be discontinued; this arrangement left them
forty-three days' consumption.

On the 25th about noon, some noddies came so near to the boat, that one
of them was caught by hand. This bird was about the size of a small
pigeon. 'I divided it,' says Bligh, 'with its entrails, into eighteen
portions, and by a well-known method at sea, of "_Who shall have
this?_"[9] it was distributed, with the allowance of bread and water for
dinner, and eaten up, bones and all, with salt water for sauce. In the
evening, several boobies flying very near to us, we had the good
fortune to catch one of them. This bird is as large as a duck. They are
the most presumptive proof of being near land, of any sea-fowl we are
acquainted with. I directed the bird to be killed for supper, and the
blood to be given to three of the people who were the most distressed
for want of food. The body, with the entrails, beak, and feet, I divided
into eighteen shares, and with the allowance of bread, which I made a
merit of granting, we made a good supper compared with our usual fare.

'On the next day, the 26th, we caught another booby, so that Providence
appeared to be relieving our wants in an extraordinary manner. The
people were overjoyed at this addition to their dinner, which was
distributed in the same manner as on the preceding evening; giving the
blood to those who were the most in want of food. To make the bread a
little savoury, most of the men frequently dipped it in salt water, but
I generally broke mine into small pieces, and ate it in my allowance of
water, out of a cocoa-nut shell, with a spoon; economically avoiding to
take too large a piece at a time, so that I was as long at dinner as if
it had been a much more plentiful meal.'

The weather was now serene, which, nevertheless, was not without its
inconveniences, for, it appears, they began to feel distress of a
different kind from that which they had hitherto been accustomed to
suffer. The heat of the sun was now so powerful, that several of the
people were seized with a languor and faintness, which made life
indifferent. But the little circumstance of catching two boobies in the
evening, trifling as it may appear, had the effect of raising their
spirits. The stomachs of these birds contained several flying-fish, and
small cuttle-fish, all of which were carefully saved to be divided for
dinner the next day; which were accordingly divided with their entrails,
and the contents of their maws, into eighteen portions, and, as the
prize was a very valuable one, it was distributed as before, by calling
out, '_Who shall have this?_' - 'so that to-day,' says the lieutenant,
'with the usual allowance of bread at breakfast and at dinner, I was
happy to see that every person thought he had feasted.' From the
appearance of the clouds in the evening, Mr. Bligh had no doubt they
were then near the land, and the people amused themselves with
conversing on the probability of what they would meet with on it.

Accordingly, at one in the morning of the 28th, the person at the helm
heard the sound of breakers. It was the 'barrier reef' which runs along
the eastern coast of New Holland, through which it now became the
anxious object to discover a passage; Mr. Bligh says this was now become
absolutely necessary, without a moment's loss of time. The idea of
getting into smooth water and finding refreshments kept up the people's
spirits. The sea broke furiously over the reef in every part; within,
the water was so smooth and calm, that every man already anticipated the
heartfelt satisfaction he was about to receive, as soon as he should
have passed the barrier. At length a break in the reef was discovered, a
quarter of a mile in width, and through this the boat rapidly passed
with a strong stream running to the westward, and came immediately into
smooth water, and all the past hardships seemed at once to be forgotten.

They now returned thanks to God for His generous protection, and with
much content took their miserable allowance of the twenty-fifth part of
a pound of bread, and a quarter of a pint of water, for dinner.

The coast now began to show itself very distinctly, and in the evening
they landed on the sandy point of an island, when it was soon discovered
there were oysters on the rocks, it being low water. The party sent out
to reconnoitre returned highly rejoiced at having found plenty of
oysters and fresh water. By help of a small magnifying - glass a fire was
made, and among the things that had been thrown into the boat was a
tinder-box and a piece of brimstone, so that in future they had the
ready means of making a fire. One of the men too had been so provident
as to bring away with him from the ship a copper pot; and thus with a
mixture of oysters, bread, and pork, a stew was made, of which each
person received a full pint. It is remarked that the oysters grew so
fast to the rocks, that it was with great difficulty they could be
broken off; but they at length discovered it to be the most expeditious
way to open them where they were fixed.

The general complaints among the people were a dizziness in the head,
great weakness in the joints, and violent tenesmus, but none of them are
stated to have been alarming; and notwithstanding their sufferings from
cold and hunger, all of them retained marks of strength. Mr. Bligh had
cautioned them not to touch any kind of berry or fruit that they might
find; yet it appears they were no sooner out of sight, than they began
to make free with three different kinds that grew all over the island,
eating without any reserve. The symptoms of having eaten too much began
at last to frighten some of them; they fancied they were all poisoned,
and regarded each other with the strongest marks of apprehension,
uncertain what might be the issue of their imprudence: fortunately the
fruit proved to be wholesome and good.

'This day (29th May) being,' says Lieutenant Bligh, 'the anniversary of
the restoration of King Charles II, and the name not being inapplicable
to our present situation (for we were _restored_ to fresh life and
strength), I named this "Restoration Island"; for I thought it probable
that Captain Cook might not have taken notice of it.'

With oysters and palm-tops stewed together the people now made excellent
meals, without consuming any of their bread. In the morning of the 30th,
Mr. Bligh saw with great delight a visible alteration in the men for the
better, and he sent them away to gather oysters, in order to carry a
stock of them to sea, for he determined to put off again that evening.
They also procured fresh water, and filled all their vessels to the
amount of nearly sixty gallons. On examining the bread, it was found
there still remained about thirty-eight days' allowance.

Being now ready for sea, every person was ordered to attend prayers; but
just as they were embarking, about twenty naked savages made their
appearance, running and hallooing, and beckoning the strangers to come
to them; but, as each was armed with a spear or lance, it was thought
prudent to hold no communication with them. They now proceeded to the
northward, having the continent on their left, and several islands and
reefs on their right.

On the 31st they landed on one of these islands, to which was given the
name of 'Sunday.' 'I sent out two parties (says Bligh), one to the
northward and the other to the southward, to seek for supplies, and
others I ordered to stay by the boat. On this occasion, fatigue and
weakness so far got the better of their sense of duty, that some of the
people expressed their discontent at having worked harder than their
companions, and declared that they would rather be without their dinner
than go in search of it. One person, in particular, went so far as to
tell me, with a mutinous look, that he was as good a man as myself. It
was not possible for one to judge where this might have an end, if not
stopped in time; to prevent therefore such disputes in future, I
determined either to preserve my command or die in the attempt; and
seizing a cutlass, I ordered him to lay hold of another and defend
himself; on which he called out that I was going to kill him, and
immediately made concessions. I did not allow this to interfere further
with the harmony of the boat's crew, and every thing soon became quiet.'

On this island they obtained oysters, and clams, and dog-fish; also a
small bean, which Nelson, the botanist, pronounced to be a species of
dolichos. On the 1st of June, they stopped in the midst of some sandy
islands, such as are known by the name of _keys_, where they procured a
few clams and beams. Here Nelson was taken very ill with a violent heat
in his bowels, a loss of sight, great thirst, and an inability to walk.
A little wine, which had carefully been saved, with some pieces of bread
soaked in it, was given to him in small quantities, and he soon began to
recover. The boatswain and carpenter were also ill, and complained of
headache and sickness of the stomach. Others became shockingly
distressed with tenesmus; in fact, there were few without complaints.

A party was sent out by night to catch birds; they returned with only
twelve noddies, but it is stated, that, had it not been for the folly
and obstinacy of one of the party, who separated from the others and
disturbed the birds, a great many more might have been taken. The
offender was Robert Lamb, who acknowledged, when he got to Java, that he
had that night eaten _nine_ raw birds, after he separated from his two
companions. The birds, with a few clams, were the whole of the supplies
afforded at these small islands.

On the 3rd of June, after passing several keys and islands, and doubling
Cape York, the north-easternmost point of New Holland, at eight in the
evening the little boat and her brave crew once more launched into the
open ocean. 'Miserable,' says Lieutenant Bligh, 'as our situation was in
every respect, I was secretly surprised to see that it did not appear to
affect any one so strongly as myself; on the contrary, it seemed as if
they had embarked on a voyage to Timor in a vessel sufficiently
calculated for safety and convenience. So much confidence gave me great
pleasure, and I may venture to assert that to this cause our
preservation is chiefly to be attributed. I encouraged every one with
hopes that eight or ten days would bring us to a land of safety; and,
after praying to God for a continuance of His most gracious protection,
I served out an allowance of water for supper, and directed our course
to the west south-west.

'We had been just six days on the coast of New Holland, in the course of
which we found oysters, a few clams, some birds and water. But a
benefit, probably not less than this, was that of being relieved from
the fatigue of sitting constantly in the boat, and enjoying good rest at
night. These advantages certainly preserved our lives; and small as the
supply was, I am very sensible how much it alleviated our distresses.
Before this time nature must have sunk under the extremes of hunger and
fatigue. Even in our present situation, we were most deplorable
objects, but the hopes of a speedy relief kept up our spirits. For my
own part, incredible as it may appear, I felt neither extreme hunger nor
thirst. My allowance contented me, knowing that I could have no more.'
In his manuscript journal, he adds, 'This, perhaps, does not permit me
to be a proper judge on a story of miserable people like us being at
last driven to the necessity of destroying one another for food - but, if
I may be allowed, I deny the fact in its greatest extent. I say, I do
not believe that, among us, such a thing could happen, but death through
famine would be received in the same way as any mortal disease.'[10]

On the 5th a booby was caught by the hand, the blood of which was
divided among three of the men who were weakest, and the bird kept for
next day's dinner; and on the evening of the 6th the allowance for
supper was recommenced, according to a promise made when it had been
discontinued. On the 7th, after a miserably wet and cold night, nothing
more could be afforded than the usual allowance for breakfast; but at
dinner each person had the luxury of an ounce of dried clams, which
consumed all that remained. The sea was running high and breaking over
the boat the whole of this day. Mr. Ledward, the surgeon, and Lawrence
Lebogue, an old hardy seaman, appeared to be giving way very fast. No
other assistance could be given to them than a teaspoonful or two of
wine, that had been carefully saved for such a melancholy occasion,
which was not at all unexpected.

On the 8th the weather was more moderate, and a small dolphin was
caught, which gave about two ounces to each man: in the night it again
blew strong, the boat shipped much water, and they all suffered greatly
from wet and cold. The surgeon and Lebogue still continued very ill, and
the only relief that could be afforded them was a small quantity of
wine, and encouraging them with the hope that a very few days more, at
the rate they were then sailing, would bring them to Timor.

'In the morning of the 10th, after a very comfortless night, there was a
visible alteration for the worse,' says Mr. Bligh, 'in many of the
people, which gave me great apprehensions. An extreme weakness, swelled
legs, hollow and ghastly countenances, a more than common inclination to
sleep, with an apparent debility of understanding, seemed to me the
melancholy presages of an approaching dissolution. The surgeon and
Lebogue, in particular, were most miserable objects. I occasionally gave
them a few teaspoonfuls of wine, out of the little that remained, which
greatly assisted them. The hope of being able to accomplish the voyage
was our principal support. The boatswain very innocently told me that he
really thought I looked worse than any in the boat. The simplicity with
which he uttered such an opinion amused me, and I returned him a better

On the 11th Lieutenant Bligh announced to his wretched companions that
he had no doubt they had now passed the meridian of the eastern part of
Timor, a piece of intelligence that diffused universal joy and
satisfaction. Accordingly at three in the morning of the following day
Timor was discovered at the distance only of two leagues from the shore.

'It is not possible for me,' says this experienced navigator, 'to
describe the pleasure which the blessing of the sight of this land
diffused among us. It appeared scarcely credible to ourselves that, in
an open boat, and so poorly provided, we should have been able to reach
the coast of Timor in forty-one days after leaving Tofoa, having in that
time run, by our log, a distance of three thousand six hundred and
eighteen nautical miles; and that, notwithstanding our extreme distress,
no one should have perished in the voyage.'

On Sunday the 14th they came safely to anchor in Coupang Bay, where they
were received with every mark of kindness, hospitality, and humanity.
The houses of the principal people were thrown open for their reception.
The poor sufferers when landed were scarcely able to walk; their
condition is described as most deplorable. 'The abilities of a painter
could rarely, perhaps, have been displayed to more advantage than in the
delineation of the two groups of figures which at this time presented
themselves to each other. An indifferent spectator (if such could be
found) would have been at a loss which most to admire, the eyes of
famine sparkling at immediate relief, or the horror of their preservers
at the sight of so many spectres, whose ghastly countenances, if the
cause had been unknown, would rather have excited terror than pity. Our
bodies were nothing but skin and bones, our limbs were full of sores,
and we were clothed in rags, in this condition, with the tears of joy
and gratitude flowing down our cheeks, the people of Timor beheld us
with a mixture of horror, surprise, and pity.

'When,' continues the commander, 'I reflect how providentially our lives
were saved at Tofoa, by the Indians delaying their attack? and that,
with scarcely anything to support life, we crossed a sea of more than
twelve hundred leagues, without shelter from the inclemency of the
weather; when I reflect that in an open boat, with so much stormy
weather, we escaped foundering, that not any of us were taken off by
disease, that we had the great good fortune to pass the unfriendly
natives of other countries without accident, and at last to meet with
the most friendly and best of people to relieve our distresses - I say,
when I reflect on all these wonderful escapes, the remembrance of such
great mercies enables me to bear with resignation and cheerfulness the
failure of an expedition, the success of which I had so much at heart,
and which was frustrated at a time when I was congratulating myself on
the fairest prospect of being able to complete it in a manner that would
fully have answered the intention of his Majesty, and the humane
promoters of so benevolent a plan.'

Having recruited their strength by a residence of two months among the
friendly inhabitants of Coupang, they proceeded to the westward on the
20th August in a small schooner, which was purchased and armed for the
purpose, and arrived on the 1st October in Batavia Road, where Mr. Bligh
embarked in a Dutch packet, and was landed on the Isle of Wight on the
14th March, 1790. The rest of the people had passages provided for them
in ships of the Dutch East India Company, then about to sail for Europe.
All of them, however, did not survive to reach England. Nelson, the
botanist, died at Coupang; Mr. Elphinstone, master's-mate, Peter
Linkletter and Thomas Hall, seamen, died at Batavia; Robert Lamb, seaman
(the booby-eater), died on the passage; and Mr. Ledward, the surgeon,
was left behind, and not afterwards heard of. These six, with John
Norton, who was stoned to death, left twelve of the nineteen, forced by
the mutineers into the launch, to survive the difficulties and dangers
of this unparalleled voyage, and to revisit their native country. With
great truth might Bligh exclaim with the poet,

- 'Tis mine to tell their tale of grief,
Their constant peril and their scant relief;
Their days of danger, and their nights of pain;
Their manly courage, even when deem'd in vain;
The sapping famine, rendering scarce a son
Known to his mother in the skeleton;
The ills that lessen'd still their little store,
And starved even Hunger till he wrung no more;
The varying frowns and favours of the deep,
That now almost engulphs, then leaves to creep
With crazy oar and shatter'd strength along
The tide, that yields reluctant to the strong;
Th' incessant fever of that arid thirst
Which welcomes, as a well, the clouds that burst
Above their naked bones, and feels delight
In the cold drenching of the stormy night,
And from the outspread canvas gladly wrings
A drop to moisten Life's all-gasping springs;
The savage foe escaped, to seek again
More hospitable shelter from the main;
The ghastly spectres which were doom'd at last
To tell as true a tale of dangers past,
As ever the dark annals of the deep
Disclosed for man to dread or woman weep.

It is impossible not fully to accord with Bligh when he says, 'Thus
happily ended, through the assistance of Divine Providence, without
accident, a voyage of the most extraordinary nature that ever happened
in the world,[11] let it be taken either in its extent, duration, or
the want of every necessary of life.' We may go further and say, it is
impossible to read this extraordinary and unparalleled voyage, without
bestowing the meed of unqualified praise on the able and judicious
conduct of its commander, who is in every respect, as far as this
extraordinary enterprise is concerned, fully entitled to rank with
Parry, Franklin, and Richardson. Few men, indeed, were ever placed for
so long a period in a more trying, distressing, and perilous situation
than he was; and it may safely be pronounced, that, to his discreet
management of the men and their scanty resources, and to his ability as
a thorough seaman, eighteen souls were saved from imminent and otherwise
inevitable destruction, it was not alone the dangers of the sea, in an
open boat, crowded with people, that he had to combat, though they
required the most consummate nautical skill, to be enabled to contend
successfully against them; but the unfortunate situation, to which the
party were exposed, rendered him subject to the almost daily murmuring
and caprice of people less conscious than himself of their real danger.
From the experience they had acquired at Tofoa of the savage disposition
of the people against the defenceless boat's crew, a lesson was learned
how little was to be trusted, even to the mildest of uncivilized people,
when a conscious superiority was in their hands. A striking proof of
this was experienced in the unprovoked attack made by those amiable
people, the Otaheitans, on Captain Wallis's ship, of whose power they
had formed no just conception; but having once experienced the full
force of it, on no future occasion was any attempt made to repeat the
attack. Lieutenant Bligh, fully aware of his own weakness, deemed it
expedient, therefore, to resist all desires and temptations to land at
any of those islands, among which they passed in the course of the
voyage, well knowing how little could be trusted to the forbearance of
savages, unarmed and wholly defenceless as his party were.

But the circumstance of being tantalized with the appearance of land,
clothed with perennial verdure, whose approach was forbidden to men
chilled with wet and cold, and nearly perishing with hunger, was by no
means the most difficult against which the commander had to struggle.
'It was not the least of my distresses,' he observes, 'to be constantly
assailed with the melancholy demands of my people for an increase of
allowance, which it grieved me to refuse.' He well knew that to reason
with men reduced to the last stage of famine, yet denied the use of
provisions within their reach, and with the power to seize upon them in
their own hands, would be to no purpose. Something more must be done to
ensure even the possibility of saving them from the effect of their own
imprudence. The first thing he set about, therefore, was to ascertain
the exact state of their provisions, which were found to amount to the
ordinary consumption of five days, but which were to be spun out so as
to last fifty days. This was at once distinctly stated to the men, and
an agreement entered into, and a solemn promise made by all, that the
settled allowance should never be deviated from, as they were made
clearly to understand that on the strict observance of this agreement
rested the only hope of their safety; and this was explained and made so
evident to every man, at the time it was concluded, that they
unanimously agreed to it; and by reminding them of this compact,
whenever they became clamorous for more, and showing a firm
determination not to swerve from it, Lieutenant Bligh succeeded in
resisting all their solicitations.

This rigid adherence to the compact, in doling out their miserable
pittance, - the constant exposure to wet, - the imminent peril of being
swallowed up by the ocean, - their cramped and confined position, - and
the unceasing reflection on their miserable and melancholy
situation; - all these difficulties and sufferings made it not less than

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 8 of 24)