A Voyage to the South Sea/Chapter 13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A Mutiny in the Ship.

1789. April. Monday 27.
We kept near the island Kotoo all the afternoon in hopes that some canoes would come off to the ship; but in this I was disappointed. The wind being northerly in the evening we steered to the westward to pass to the south of Tofoa. I gave directions for this course to be continued during the night. The master had the first watch, the gunner the middle watch, and Mr. Christian the morning watch. This was the turn of duty for the night.
Tuesday 28.
Just before sun-rising, while I was yet asleep, Mr. Christian, with the master at arms, gunner's mate, and Thomas Burkitt, seaman, came into my cabin, and seizing me tied my hands with a cord behind my back, threatening me with instant death if I spoke or made the least noise: I however called as loud as I could in hopes of assistance; but they had already secured the officers who were not of their party by placing sentinels at their doors. There were three men at my cabin door besides the four within; Christian had only a cutlass in his hand, the others had muskets and bayonets. I was hauled out of bed and forced on deck in my shirt, suffering great pain from the tightness which with they had tied my hands. I demanded the reason of such violence but received no other answer than abuse for not holding my tongue. The master, the gunner, the surgeon, Mr. Elphinstone, master's mate, and Nelson, were kept confined below; and the fore hatchway was guarded by sentinels. The boatswain and carpenter, and also the clerk, Mr. Samuel, were allowed to come upon deck, where they saw me standing abaft the mizenmast with my hands tied behind my back under a guard with Christian at their head. The boatswain was ordered to hoist the launch out with a threat if he did not do it instantly TO TAKE CARE OF HIMSELF.
When the boat was out Mr. Hayward and Mr. Hallet, two of the midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel, were ordered into it. I demanded what their intention was in giving this order and endeavoured to persuade the people near me not to persist in such acts of violence; but it was to no effect: "Hold your tongue, Sir, or you are dead this instant," was constantly repeated to me.
The master by this time had sent to request that he might come on deck, which was permitted but he was soon ordered back again to his cabin.
I continued my endeavours to turn the tide of affairs, when Christian changed the cutlass which he had in his hand for a bayonet that was brought to him and, holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied my hands, he with many oaths threatened to kill me immediately if I would not be quiet: the villains round me had their pieces cocked and bayonets fixed. Particular people were called on to go into the boat and were hurried over the side; whence I concluded that with these people I was to be set adrift: I therefore made another effort to bring about a change but with no other effect than to be threatened with having my brains blown out.
The boatswain and seamen who were to go in the boat were allowed to collect twine, canvas, lines, sails, cordage, an eight and twenty-gallon cask of water, and Mr. Samuel got 150 pounds of bread, with a small quantity of rum and wine, also a quadrant and compass; but he was forbidden on pain of death to touch either map, ephemeris, book of astronomical observations, sextant, timekeeper, or any of my surveys or drawings.
The mutineers having forced those of the seamen whom they meant to get rid of into the boat, Christian directed a dram to be served to each of his own crew. I then unhappily saw that nothing could be done to effect the recovery of the ship: there was no one to assist me, and every endeavour on my part was answered with threats of death.
The officers were next called upon deck and forced over the side into the boat, while I was kept apart from everyone, abaft the mizenmast; Christian, armed with a buoyant, holding me by the bandage that secured my hands. The guard round me had their pieces cocked, but on my daring the ungrateful wretches to fire they uncocked them.
Isaac Martin, one of the guard over me, I saw had an inclination to assist me, and as he fed me with shaddock (my lips being quite parched) we explained our wishes to each other by our looks; but this being observed Martin was removed from me. He then attempted to leave the ship, for which purpose he got into the boat; but with many threats they obliged him to return.
The armourer, Joseph Coleman, and two of the carpenters, McIntosh and Norman, were also kept contrary to their inclination; and they begged of me, after I was astern in the boat, to remember that they declared they had no hand in the transaction. Michael Byrne, I am told, likewise wanted to leave the ship.
It is of no moment for me to recount my endeavours to bring back the offenders to a sense of their duty: all I could do was by speaking to them in general; but it was to no purpose, for I was kept securely bound and no one except the guard suffered to come near me.
To Mr. Samuel I am indebted for securing my journals and commission with some material ship papers. Without these I had nothing to certify what I had done, and my honour and character might have been suspected without my possessing a proper document to have defended them. All this he did with great resolution, though guarded and strictly watched. He attempted to save the timekeeper, and a box with my surveys, drawings, and remarks for fifteen years past, which were numerous, when he was hurried away, with "Damn your eyes you are well off to get what you have."
It appeared to me that Christian was some time in doubt whether he should keep the carpenter or his mates; at length he determined on the latter and the carpenter was ordered into the boat. He was permitted but not without some opposition to take his tool chest.
Much altercation took place among the mutinous crew during the whole business: some swore "I'll be damned if he does not find his way home, if he gets anything with him," (meaning me) and, when the carpenter's chest was carrying away, "Damn my eyes he will have a vessel built in a month." While others laughed at the helpless situation of the boat, being very deep and so little room for those who were in her. As for Christian he seemed as if meditating destruction on himself and everyone else.
I asked for arms but they laughed at me, and said I was well acquainted with the people among whom I was going, and therefore did not want them; four cutlasses however were thrown into the boat after we were veered astern.
The officers and men being in the boat they only waited for me, of which the master at arms informed Christian, who then said: "Come, captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat and you must go with them; if you attempt to make the least resistance you will instantly be put to death" and, without further ceremony, with a tribe of armed ruffians about me, I was forced over the side where they untied my hands. Being in the boat we were veered astern by a rope. A few pieces of pork were thrown to us, and some clothes, also the cutlasses I have already mentioned; and it was then that the armourer and carpenters called out to me to remember that they had no hand in the transaction. After having undergone a great deal of ridicule and been kept some time to make sport for these unfeeling wretches we were at length cast adrift in the open ocean.
I had with me in the boat the following persons:
John Fryer: Master. Thomas Ledward: Acting Surgeon. David Nelson: Botanist. William Peckover: Gunner. William Cole: Boatswain. William Purcell: Carpenter. William Elphinston: Master's Mate. Thomas Hayward, John Hallet: Midshipman. John Norton, Peter Linkletter: Quarter Masters. Lawrence Lebogue: Sailmaker. John Smith, Thomas Hall: Cooks. George Simpson: Quarter Master's Mate. Robert Tinkler: A boy. Robert Lamb: Butcher. Mr. Samuel: Clerk.
There remained on board the Bounty:
Fletcher Christian: Master's Mate. Peter Haywood, Edward Young, George Stewart: Midshipmen. Charles Churchill: Master at Arms. John Mills: Gunner's Mate. James Morrison: Boatswain's Mate. Thomas Burkitt, Matthew Quintal, John Sumner, John Millward, William McKoy, Henry Hillbrant, Michael Byrne, William Musprat, Alexander Smith, John Williams, Thomas Ellison, Isaac Martin, Richard Skinner, Matthew Thompson: Able Seamen. William Brown: Gardener. Joseph Coleman: Armourer. Charles Norman: Carpenter's Mate. Thomas McIntosh: Carpenter's Crew.
In all 25 hands, and the most able men of the ship's company.
Having little or no wind we rowed pretty fast towards Tofoa, which bore north-east about 10 leagues from us. While the ship was in sight she steered to the west-north-west, but I considered this only as a feint; for when we were sent away "Huzza for Otaheite" was frequently heard among the mutineers.
Christian the chief of the mutineers is of a respectable family in the north of England. This was the third voyage he had made with me and, as I found it necessary to keep my ship's company at three watches, I had given him an order to take charge of the third, his abilities being thoroughly equal to the task; and by this means the master and gunner were not at watch and watch.
Haywood is also of a respectable family in the north of England and a young man of abilities as well as Christian. These two had been objects of my particular regard and attention, and I had taken great pains to instruct them, having entertained hopes that as professional men they would have become a credit to their country.
Young was well recommended and had the look of an able stout seaman: he however fell short of what his appearance promised.
Stewart was a young man of creditable parents in the Orkneys, at which place on the return of the Resolution from the South Seas in 1780 we received so many civilities that on that account only I should gladly have taken him with me but, independent of this recommendation, he was a seaman and had always borne a good character.
Notwithstanding the roughness with which I was treated the remembrance of past kindnesses produced some signs of remorse in Christian. When they were forcing me out of the ship I asked him if this treatment was a proper return for the many instances he had received of my friendship? he appeared disturbed at my question and answered with much emotion: "That, captain Bligh, that is the thing; I am in hell, I am in hell."
As soon as I had time to reflect I felt an inward satisfaction which prevented any depression of my spirits: conscious of my integrity and anxious solicitude for the good of the service in which I had been engaged I found my mind wonderfully supported, and I began to conceive hopes, notwithstanding so heavy a calamity, that I should one day be able to account to my King and country for the misfortune. A few hours before my situation had been peculiarly flattering. I had a ship in the most perfect order and well stored with every necessary both for service and health: by early attention to those particulars I had as much as lay in my power, provided against any accident, in case I could not get through Endeavour Straits, as well as against what might befall me in them; add to this the plants had been successfully preserved in the most flourishing state: so that upon the whole the voyage was two-thirds completed, and the remaining part to all appearance in a very promising way; every person on board being in perfect health, to establish which was ever amongst the principal objects of my attention.
It will very naturally be asked what could be the reason for such a revolt? in answer to which I can only conjecture that the mutineers had flattered themselves with the hopes of a more happy life among the Otaheiteans than they could possibly enjoy in England; and this, joined to some female connections, most probably occasioned the whole transaction.
The women at Otaheite are handsome, mild and cheerful in their manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved. The chiefs were so much attached to our people that they rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions. Under these and many other attendant circumstances equally desirable it is now perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely possible to have been foreseen, that a set of sailors, most of them void of connections, should be led away; especially when, in addition to such powerful inducements, they imagined it in their power to fix themselves in the midst of plenty on one of the finest islands in the world, where they need not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond anything that can be conceived. The utmost however that any commander could have supposed to have happened is that some of the people would have been tempted to desert. But, if it should be asserted that a commander is to guard against an act of mutiny and piracy in his own ship more than by the common rules of service, it is as much as to say that he must sleep locked up and when awake be girded with pistols.
Desertions have happened more or less from most of the ships that have been at the Society Islands; but it has always been in the commanders power to make the chiefs return their people: the knowledge therefore that it was unsafe to desert perhaps first led mine to consider with what ease so small a ship might be surprised, and that so favourable an opportunity would never offer to them again.
The secrecy of this mutiny is beyond all conception. Thirteen of the party who were with me had always lived forward among the seamen; yet neither they nor the messmates of Christian, Stewart, Haywood, and Young, had ever observed any circumstance that made them in the least suspect what was going on. To such a close-planned act of villainy, my mind being entirely free from any suspicion, it is not wonderful that I fell a sacrifice. Perhaps if there had been marines on board a sentinel at my cabin-door might have prevented it; for I slept with the door always open that the officer of the watch might have access to me on all occasions, the possibility of such a conspiracy being ever the farthest from my thoughts. Had their mutiny been occasioned by any grievances, either real or imaginary, I must have discovered symptoms of their discontent, which would have put me on my guard: but the case was far otherwise. Christian in particular I was on the most friendly terms with: that very day he was engaged to have dined with me, and the preceding night he excused himself from supping with me on pretence of being unwell; for which I felt concerned, having no suspicions of his integrity and honour.