Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/128

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124
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

boat, and each such prize was cut into 18 pieces and devoured. Many sea-snakes were seen but it did not occur to Bligh to use them for food.

One dark and stormy night they heard the roar of breakers close aboard and narrowly escaped being dashed to death upon the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. On the following day, however, they succeeded in sailing through a narrow opening in the reef, elated to find themselves upon smooth waters under the protection of the coral flats. Here they ventured to land upon several small deserted islands where they feasted upon shellfish, replenished their store of water, and above all, enjoyed the luxury of sleep.

Then on they went through Endeavour Strait growing daily weaker upon their reduced ration. Finally, on June 14, 1789, the people of the Dutch village of Coupang on Timor were horrified at the appearance of 18 ragged wretches reduced almost to skeletons who staggered and fell upon the shore while tears of joy streamed down their weather-beaten cheeks.

For 47 days Bligh had sailed across 3,618 miles of almost uncharted ocean, passing dreaded islands of the Fijis and the New Hebrides, surmounting not only the perils of the sea but even greater dangers from murderous cannibals, and his courage as a leader, and skill as a navigator must inspire respect as long as the annals of Britain's navy are cherished as a record of heroism.

But to return to Christian and the Bounty whom we left on that fateful morning of the 28th of April, 1789.

Christian knew full well the skill and resource of Bligh and foresaw that should the cast-off commander reach England, Tahiti would be but a death-trap to the Bounty's pirate crew. He therefore set his course for the small island of Tubuai, one of the Austral group, about 250 miles south of Tahiti. This lonely spot had been discovered by Captain Cook in 1777, who observed that the natives spoke the Tahitian dialect and appeared to be industrious cultivators of the soil.

Upon the Bounty's arrival, they crowded in great numbers to the shore blowing their triton war horns and brandishing clubs. Christian therefore changed his course for Tahiti, where his old friends warmly welcomed the Bounty and her crew. Here, however, he remained only long enough to supply his ship with provisions and live-stock, and together with a number of his Tahitian friends he sailed again to Tubuai, this time to be hospitably received.

A criminal in the eyes of civilization, Christian maintained until his death the respect of his lawless crew. They addressed him always as "Mr. Christian" and the generous spirit he displayed in sharing every hardship, no less than his real ability as an executive, showed that had he remained faithful to his country he might have died an admiral of the blue. As it was, he took his part in the immense labor of construct-