At daylight on a fine, fair, breezy day in March, a young man in his late teens said good-bye to his wife and stepped out of his neat cottage picturesquely set amid citrus trees at the foot of a hill for an excursion to the mountains. Darkly tanned and heavily tattooed with the traditional patterns of manhood across his backside, the youth could have passed for one of the Tahitians who met him outside. Peter Heywood, however, was an Englishman, not an "Indian," and close observation would have revealed that one of the tattoos inked on his leg was not native, but the symbol of the Isle of Man. Young Heywood had been living here, in his idyllic garden home just beyond Matavai Bay, since September 1789, when the Bounty, under the command of Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, had deposited him and fifteen other shipmates at Tahitiand then vanished in the night, never to be seen again.
Peter Heywood, former midshipman on the Bounty, had been only a few weeks shy of seventeen on the morning the mutiny had broken out and his close friend and distant relative Fletcher Christian had taken the ship. At Christian's command, Lieutenant Bligh and eighteen loyalists had been compelled to go overboard into one of the Bounty's small boats, where they had been left, bobbing in the wide Pacific, to certain death.
Fletcher Christian's control of the mutineers was to last no more than five months. When he eventually directed the Bounty back to Tahiti for what would be her final visit, he had done so because his company had disintegrated into factions. The majority of his people wished to bail out and take their chances at Tahiti even though, as they knew, a British naval ship would eventually come looking for them; some of these men had been loyal to Bligh, but had been held against their will on board the Bounty.
Peter Heywood had been one of the last men to take his farewell of Christian, whom he still regarded with affectionate sympathy. Then, when the Bounty had departed for good, he had turned back from the beach to set about the business of building a new life. Now, on this fresh March day, a year and a half after Christian's departure, Peter was setting out for the mountains with friends. He had gone no more than a hundred yards from his home when a man came hurrying after him to announce that there was a ship in sight.
Running to the hill behind his house, with its convenient lookout over the sea, he spotted the ship lying to only a few miles distant. Peter would later claim that he had seen this sight "with the utmost Joy," but it is probable that his emotions were somewhat more complicated. Racing down the hill, he went to the nearby home of his close friend midshipman George Stewart with the news. By the time he and Stewart had splashed their way out to the ship, another man, Joseph Coleman, the Bounty's armorer, was already on board. On introducing themselves as formerly of the Bounty, Heywood and Stewart had been placed under arrest and led away for confinement. The ship, Pandora, had been specifically commissioned to apprehend the mutineers and bring them to justice in England. These morning hours of March 23, 1791, were the last Peter Heywood would spend on Tahiti.
The news of the mutiny on board His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty had reached England almost exactly a year before. How the news arrived was even more extraordinary than the mutinyfor the messenger had been none other than Lieutenant William Bligh himself. After Fletcher Christian had put him and the loyalists into the Bounty's launch off the island of Tofua, Bligh, against all imaginable odds, had navigated the little 23-foot-long craft 3,618 miles over a period of forty-eight days to Timor, in the Dutch East Indies. Here, his starving and distressed company had been humanely received by the incredulous Dutch authorities. Eventually, passages had been found home for him and his men, and Bligh had arrived in England in a blaze of triumph and white-hot anger on March 13, 1790.
Notice of the mutiny and a description of the mutineers were swiftly dispatched to British and Dutch ports. In Botany Bay the news inspired seventeen convicts to escape in an attempt to join the "pirates" in Tahiti. Although it was at first supposed that two Spanish men-of-war already in the Pacific might have apprehended the Bounty, the Admiralty took no chances and began to mobilize an expedition to hunt down the mutineers. The expense and responsibility of sending yet another ship to the Pacific was not appealing: England seemed poised on the verge of a new war with Spain, and all available men and ships were being pressed into service. However, putting a British naval officer overboard in the middle of the Pacific and running away with His Majesty's property were outrages that could not go unpunished. Eventually, a 24-gun frigate named Pandora was dispatched under the command of Captain Edward Edwards to hunt the mutineers.
Departing in early November 1790, the Pandora made a swift and uneventful passage to Tahiti, avoiding the horrendous storms that had afflicted the Bounty three years before. Whereas the Bounty had carried a complement of 46 men, the Pandora bore 140. The Pandora's commander, Captain Edwards, had suffered a near mutiny of his own nine years earlier, when in command of the Narcissus off the northeast coast of America. Eventually, five of the would-be mutineers in this thwarted plot had been hanged, and two more sentenced to floggings of two hundred and five hundred lashes, respectively, while the leader of the mutiny had been hanged in chains. As events would show, Captain Edwards never forgot that he, the near victim of a mutiny, was now in pursuit of actual mutineers.
Also on the Pandora, newly promoted to third lieutenant, was Thomas Hayward, a Bounty midshipman who had accompanied Bligh on his epic open-boat journey. With memories of the thirst, near starvation, exposure and sheer horror of that voyage still fresh in his mind, Hayward was eager to assist in running to ground those responsible for his ordeal. His familiarity with Tahitian waters and people would assist navigation and island diplomacy; his familiarity with his old shipmates would identify the mutineers.
So it was that in March 1791, under cloudless skies and mild breezes, the Pandora sighted the lush, dramatic peaks of Tahiti. Closer in, and the mountain cascades, the graceful palms, and the sparkling volcanic black beaches could be seen beyond thundering breakers and surf. The few ships that had anchored here had all attempted to describe the vision-like beauty of the first sight of this island rising into view from the blue Pacific. Bligh had called Tahiti "the Paradise of the World."
Now, as the Pandora cruised serenely through the clear blue waters, bearing justice and vengeance, she was greeted by men canoeing or swimming toward her.
"Before we Anchored," wrote Edwards in his official report to the Admiralty, "Joseph Coleman Armourer of the Bounty and several of the Natives came on board." Coleman was one of four men whom Bligh had specifically identified as being innocent of the mutiny and detained against his will. Once on board, Coleman immediately volunteered what had become of the different factions. Of the sixteen men left by Christian on Tahiti, two had already been responsible for each other's deaths. Charles Churchill, the master-at-arms and the man described as "the most murderous" of the mutineers, had in fact been murdered by his messmate Mathew Thompson, an able seaman from the Isle of Wight. Churchill's death had in turn been avenged by his Tahitian friends, who had murdered Thompson and then offered him "as a Sacrifice to their Gods," as Edwards dispassionately reported.
Meanwhile, on his way to the anchored ship, Peter Heywood had learned from another Tahitian friend that his former shipmate Thomas Hayward was on board. The result of this friendly inquiry, as Peter reported in a long letter he wrote to his mother, was not what he had ingenuously expected.
"[W]e ask'd for him, supposing he might prove our Assertions," Peter wrote; "but he like all other Worldlings when raised a little in Life received us very coolly & pretended Ignorance of our Affairs....So that Appearances being so much against us, we were order'd in Irons & look'd uponinfernal Words!as piratical Villains."
As the Pandora's company moved in, inexorably bent upon their mission, it became clear that no distinction would be made among the captured men. Coleman, noted as innocent by Bligh himself and the first man to surrender voluntarily, was clapped in irons along with the indignant midshipman. Edwards had determined that his job was simply to take hold of everyone he could, indiscriminately, and let the court-martial sort them out once back in England.
From the Tahitians who crowded curiously on board, Edwards quickly ascertained the likely whereabouts of the other eleven fugitives. Some were still around Matavai, others had by coincidence sailed only the day before, in a thirty-foot-long decked schooner they themselves had built, with much effort and ingenuity, for Papara, a region on the south coast where the remainder of the Bounty men had settled. With the zealous assistance of the local authorities, the roundup began and by three o'clock of the second day, Richard Skinner, able seaman of the Bounty, was on board Pandora.
A party under the command of Lieutenants Robert Corner and Hayward was now dispatched to intercept the remaining men. Aiding them in their search was one John Brown, an Englishman deposited on Tahiti the year before by another ship, the Mercury, on account of his troublesome ways, which had included carving up the face of a shipmate with a knife. The Mercury had departed Tahiti only weeks before Christian's final return with the boatshe had even seen fires burning on the island of Tubuai, where the mutineers had first settled, but decided not to investigate. Brown, it became clear, had not been on terms of friendship with his compatriots.
At Papara, Edwards's men discovered that the mutineers, hearing of their approach, had abandoned their schooner and fled to the mountain forest.
"[U]nder cover of night they had taken shelter in a hut in the woods," wrote the Pandora's surgeon, George Hamilton, in his account of this adventure, "but were discovered by Brown, who creeping up to the place where they were asleep, distinguished them from the natives by feeling their toes." British toes apparently lacked the telltale spread of unshod Tahitians'.
"Tuesday, March 29th," Edwards recorded in the Pandora's log. "At 9 the Launch returned with James Morrison, Charles Norman and Thomas Ellison belonging to His Majesty's Ship Bountyprisoners." Also taken in tow was the mutineers' schooner, the Resolution, an object for them of great pride and now requisitioned by the Pandora as a tender, or service vessel.
The three newcomers were at first housed under the half deck, and kept under around-the-clock sentry. Meanwhile, the ship's carpenters were busy constructing a proper prison, a kind of low hut to the rear of the quarterdeck, where the prisoners would be placed, as Edwards reported to the Admiralty, "for their more effectual security airy & healthy situation." The prisoners in their turn assessed their circumstances somewhat differently, referring sardonically to the shallow, cramped structure, with its narrow scuttle, as "Pandora's Box."
At some point during the pursuit of James Morrison and the men on the Resolution, Michael Byrn, the almost blind fiddler of the Bounty, either was captured or came on board of his own accord. Insignificant at every juncture of the Bounty saga, Byrn, alone of the fugitives, arrived on the Pandora unrecorded. Eight men had now been apprehended and were firmly held in irons; six men remained at large, reported to have taken flight in the hill country around Papara.
Over the next week and a half, while searches were made for the fugitives under the guidance of the ever helpful Brown, Captain Edwards and his officers got a taste of life in Tahiti. Their immediate host was Tynah, the stately king, whose girth was proportionate to his outstanding nearly six-foot-four-inch height. Around forty years of age, he could remember William Bligh from his visit to the island in 1777, with Captain Cook, as well as his return eleven years later with the Bounty. Upon the Pandora's arrival, Edwards and his men had been greeted by the islanders with their characteristic generosity, with streams of gifts, food, feasts, dances and offers of their women.
"The English are allowed by the rest of the world...to be a generous, charitable people," observed Dr. Hamilton. "[B]ut the Otaheiteans could not help bestowing the most contemptuous word in their language upon us, which is, Peery, Peery, or Stingy."
Generous, loyal, sensual, uninhibitedthe handsome people of Tahiti had won over most who visited them. By now the Bounty men were no longer strangers, but had lived among them, taken wives, had children....
"Sure Friendship's there, & Gratitude, & Love," young Peter Heywood would later write, exhibiting a poetic bent:
Sure Friendship's there, & Gratitude, & Love,
Now, sitting shackled in the sweltering heat of Pandora's Box, Heywood and his shipmates had more than usual cause, and time, to contemplate this disparity of cultures.
Such as ne'er reigns in European Blood
In these degen'rate Days; tho' from above
We Precepts have, & know what's right and good...
On Saturday, the last fugitives began to trickle in. Henry Hilbrant, an able seaman from Hanover, Germany, and Thomas McIntosh, a young carpenter's mate from the north of England, were delivered on board; as predicted, they had been captured in the hill country above Papara. By the following evening, the roundup was complete. Able seamen Thomas Burkett, John Millward and John Sumner, and William Muspratt, the cook's assistant, were brought in, also from Papara.
As the "pirates" were led into Pandora's Box, ship activities bustled around them. Carpenters and sailmakers were busy making repairs for the next stage of their long voyage and routine disciplinary activities continued. On Sunday, the ship's company was assembled for the weekly reading of the Articles of War: "Article XIX: If any Person in or belonging to the Fleet shall make or endeavour to make any mutinous Assembly upon any Pretence whatsoever, every Person offending herein, and being convicted thereof by the Sentence of the Court-martial, shall suffer Death." After the reading, three seamen were punished with a dozen lashes each "for theft and drunkenness." It was a cloudy evening and had rained the day before. This was the last the Bounty men would see of Pacific skies for several months.
Fourteen men were now crowded into the eleven-by-eighteen-foot space that was their prison. Onshore, they had kept themselves in different factions and were by no means all on good terms with one another. Strikingly, both Thomas McIntosh and Charles Norman, who had been among those who fled from the Pandora's men, had been exonerated by Bligh. Perhaps family attachments on the island had made them think twice about leaving; or it may be, less trusting than Coleman who had so quickly surrendered, they did not believe that innocence would count for much in the Admiralty's eyes.
Within the box, the prisoners wallowed in their own sweat and vermin.
"What I have suffer'd I have not power to describe," wrote Heywood to his mother; he had characterized himself to her as one "long inured to the Frowns of Fortune" and now waxed philosophical about his situation.
"I am young in years, but old in what the World calls Adversity," he wrote; Peter Heywood was not quite nineteen. "It has made me acquainted with three Things, which are little known," he continued, doggedly. "[F]irst, the Villainy & Censoriousness of Mankindsecond, the Futility of all human Hopes,& third, the Enjoyment of being content in whatever station it pleases Providence to place me in."
Among the possessions confiscated from the mutineers were journals kept by Stewart and Heywood in their sea chests, and from these Edwards was able to piece together the history of the Bounty following the mutiny, up to her final return to Tahiti. Two days after Bligh and his loyalists had been left in the Pacific, Fletcher Christian and his men had cut up the ship's topsails to make jackets for the entire companythey were well aware of the impression made by a uniformed crew.
Soon all the breadfruit1,015 little pots and tubs of carefully nurtured seedlings, all, as Bligh had wistfully reported, "in the most flourishing state"were thrown overboard. More sails were cut up for uniform jackets, and the possessions of those who had been forced into the boat with Bligh were divided by lot among the ship company. But in a telling report made by James Morrison, the Bounty boatswain's mate and the mastermind behind the ambitious Resolution, "it always happend that Mr. Christians party were always better served than these who were thought to be disaffected."
Tensions among the men already threatened to undermine Christian's tenuous control. In this state of affairs, the Bounty made for Tubuai, an island lying some 350 miles south of Tahiti, and anchored there on May 24, nearly a month after the mutiny.
"Notwithstanding they met with some opposition from the Natives they intended to settle on this Island," Edwards wrote in his official report, gleaning the diaries of Heywood and Stewart. "[B]ut after some time they perceived they were in want of several things Necessary for a settlement & which was the cause of disagreements & quarrels amongst themselves." One of the things they most quarreled about was women.
Consequently, only a week after landing at Tubuai, the Bounty sailed back to Tahiti, where they had lived and loved for five memorable months while gathering Bligh's breadfruit. Here, as the men knew, their loyal friends would give them all they required. The story they prepared was that they had fallen in with the great Captain Cook (in reality long dead), who was planning to make settlement on the island of Whytootackee (Aitutaki), and that Bligh had remained with his old commander and delegated Christian to sail with the Bounty for supplies. The Tahitians, ever generous and overjoyed at the news that Cook, whom they regarded with worshipful esteem, would be so close to them, gave freely of hogs, goats, chickens, a variety of plants, cats and dogs. More important, nine women, eight men, seven boys and one young girl left with the Bounty when she returned to Tubuai.
For three months the mutineers struggled to make a settlement on the tiny island. Construction was begun on a defensive fort that measured some fifty yards square, surrounded by a kind of dry moat or ditch. A drawbridge was planned for the entrance facing the beach, while the walls were surmounted by the Bounty's four-pounder cannons and swivel guns. Patriotically, the mutineers had christened their for-tress Fort George, after their king.
Again, there were early signs that this would not be a successful experiment.
"On 5th July Some of the people began to be mutinous," according to an extract made by Edwards from Peter Heywood's journal. "& on 6th 2 of the Men were put in Irons by a Majority of Votes& drunkenness, fighting & threatening each other's life was so common that those abaft were obliged to arm themselves with Pistols." The following day, an attempt was made to heal the growing breach and "Articles were drawn up by Christian and Churchill specifying a mutual forgiveness of all past grievances which every Man was obliged to swear to & sign," according to an extract from Stewart's journal. "Mathew Thompson excepted who refused to comply." Despite this gesture, an inner circle evolved around Christian. When John Sumner and Matthew Quintal spent the night onshore without leave, declaring that they were now their own masters and would do as they pleased, Christian clapped the pistol he now always carried to the head of one, and had both placed in leg irons.
Violence also escalated without as well as within this fractious company, erupting as the Bounty men fought with the Tubuaians over property and women. In one particularly bloody encounter, Thomas Burkett was stabbed in the side by a spear and Christian wounded himself on his own bayonet. When the dust settled, sixty-six Tubuaians were dead, including six women, and the Bounty men were masters of the field. One of the gentle Tahitian youths who had journeyed to Tubuai with his English friends, according to James Morrison, "desired leave to cut out the jaw bones of the kill'd to hang round the quarters of the Ship as Trophies," and was much displeased when this request was denied.
In September, in recognition that the different factions could not coexist, a collective decision was made to return once more to Tahiti. Here, the ship's company would divide. Those who chose to remain on the island could do so; the rest would depart with Christian, taking to sea once again in the Bounty. Each man remaining onshore was given a musket, a pistol, a cutlass, a bayonet, a box of cartridges and seventeen pounds of powder from the ship's arms and lead for balleveryone save Michael Byrn, that is, who, as Morrison stated, "being blind and of a very troublesome disposition it was thought that arms put into his hands would be only helping him to do some mischief."
On anchoring for the third and final time in Matavai Bay, Christian and many of the eight men who had cast their lots with him did not even bother to go ashore. Arriving on September 21, 1789, they departed secretly the same night, quietly cutting the Bounty's anchor cable. Joseph Coleman, the most relentless loyalist, had been once again held against his will for his skills as an armorer; but as the ship slipped away, he dived overboard and swam to land. At dawn, the sixteen men deposited onshore saw their ship hovering off Point Venus; by midmorning she was gone.
When here with Bligh, each man had acquired a taio, or special protector and friend, and to these each now turned. Soon, the fugitives had settled down, either with their taios' families or, like Heywood and Stewart, in cottages of their own. They took wives and some had children, and so a year and a half had passed, until the day the Pandora loomed out of the early morning to drag them back to England.
Now captured and pinned inside Pandora's Box, the Bounty prisoners listened in anguish as their wives and friends wailed and grieved under the Pandora's stern. Standing in canoes around the ship, the women enacted their terrible rites of mourning, hammering at their heads with sharp shells until the blood ran. As the day of departure approached, more canoes came from across the island, filling the harbor around the ship. Men and women stripped their clothes and cut their heads in grief, and as the blood fell, cut again and cried aloud. Tynah came on board and, with tears streaming down his cheeks, begged to be remembered to his friend, the King of England.
"This I believe was the first time that an Englishman got up his anchor, at the remotest part of the globe, with a heavy heart, to go home to his own country," wrote Dr. Hamiltonan astonishing admission from a naval official who had come in search of deserting mutineers.
On May 8, 1791, under pleasant breezes, the Pandora, recaulked and overhauled, left Tahiti with the mutineers' schooner, Resolution, in tow. Edwards's commission was far from fulfilled. Still missing was His Majesty's stolen ship as well as the ringleader of the mutiny and his most hard-core followers.
"Christian had been frequently heard to declare that he would search for an unknown or an uninhabited Island in which there was no harbour for Shipping, would run the Ship ashore, and get from her such things as would be useful to him and settle there," Edwards recorded in his official report to the Admiralty, continuing with admirable understatement, "but this information was too vague to be follow'd in an immense Ocean strew'd with an almost innumerable number of known and unknown Islands." Specifically, the Pacific contains more than twenty thousand islands scattered over some 64 million square miles. Christian and the Bounty had departed Tahiti in September 1789a twenty-month head start, long enough to have taken the Bounty not only as far as North or South America, but, in theory, around the globe.
Edwards's instructions from the Admiralty offered some guidance: If no knowledge of the mutineers had been gained at Tahiti, he was to venture west to Whytootackee (Aitutaki), "calling, in your way, at Huaheine and Uliatea." If nothing was found here, he was to make a circuit of the neighboring islands. If nothing here, he was to continue west to the Friendly Islands (Tonga), "and, having succeeded, or failed," to return to England, through the Endeavour Strait (Torres Strait) separating New Guinea from New Holland (Australia). Be mindful of prevailing winds, the Admiralty admonished, "there being no dependence (of which we have any certain knowledge) of passing the Strait after the month of September...."
For roughly the next three months Edwards doggedly followed the Admiralty's prescribed itinerary in a desultory chase from island to island. At each landfall, a uniformed officer was disembarked and in the cloying heat tramped along the beach, offering presents and seeking information. Anchored offshore, the Pandora received the now customary canoe loads of eager visitors. Spears, clubs and other curios were collected, differences among the islanders, who appeared "ruder" and less civilized as the Pandora progressed, were duly noted, but no hint of the Bounty's whereabouts emerged.
A week out from Tahiti, Hilbrant, one of the mutineers, volunteered that Christian had spoken to him on the day before his departure of his intention to make for an uninhabited island that he knew from earlier accounts to be "situated to the Westward of the Islands of Danger." This description seemed to refer to Duke of York Island (Atafu) but was to prove to be another dead end. En route, however, Edwards stopped off at Palmerston Island (Avarau) and sent his boats ashore to search that isle's bays and inlets. Two of these returned in the late afternoon full of coconuts, and nothing more. But that night the tender arrived with hopeful news: it had discovered some spars and a yard marked "Bounty's Driver Yard" embossed with the Admiralty's broad arrow mark.
Over the next two days, all the ship's crafta cutter, two yawls and the mutineers' schoonerwere dispatched to examine the island as well as islets and even reefs in the vicinity. The belief that the mutineers might be at large nearby caused everyone to move with great circumspection. One party camping overnight on the island were woken abruptly when a coconut they had placed on their campfire exploded. "[E]xpecting muskets to be fired at them from every bush," Dr. Hamilton explained, "they all jumped up, seized their arms, and were some time before they could undeceive themselves, that they were really not attacked."
As the various small craft tacked to and fro around the island, Edwards remained with Pandora, cruising offshore and making the occasional coconut run. On the afternoon of May 24, one of the midshipmen, John Sival, returned in the yawl with several striking painted canoes; but after these were examined and admired, he was sent back to complete his orders. Shortly after he left, thick weather closed in, obscuring the little craft as she bobbed dutifully back to shore, and was followed by an ugly squall that did not lift for four days. When the weather cleared on the twenty-eighth, the yawl had disappeared. Neither she nor her company of five men was ever seen again.
"It may be difficult to surmise what has been the fate of these unfortunate men," Dr. Hamilton wrote, adding hopefully that they "had a piece of salt-beef thrown into the boat to them on leaving the ship; and it rained a good deal that night and the following day, which might satiate their thirst."
By now, too, it was realized that the tantalizing clues of the Bounty's presence were only flotsam.
"[T]he yard and these things lay upon the beach at high water Mark & were all eaten by the Sea Worm which is a strong presumption they were drifted there by the Waves," Edwards reported. It was concluded that they had drifted from Tubuai, where the mutineers had reported that the Bounty had lost most of her spars. These few odds and ends of worm-eaten wood were all that were ever found by Pandora of His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty.
The fruitless search apart, morale on board had been further lowered by the discovery, as Dr. Hamilton put it, "that the ladies of Otaheite had left us many warm tokens of their affection." The men confined within Pandora's Box were also far from well. Their irons chafed them badly, so much so that while they were still at Matavai Bay, Joseph Coleman's legs had swollen alarmingly and the arms of McIntosh and Ellison had become badly "galled." To the complaint that the irons were causing their wrists to swell, Lieutenant John Larkan had replied that "they were not intended to fit like Gloves!" Edwards had an obsessive fear that the mutineers might "taint" his crew and, under threat of severe punishment, had forbidden any communication between the parties whatsoever; but from rough memos he made, it seems he was unsuccessful. "Great difficulty created in keeping the Mutineers from conversing with the crew," Edwards had jotted down, elsewhere noting that one of his lieutenants suspected that the prisoners had "carried on a correspondence with some of our people by Letter."
From Duke of York Island down to the rest of the Union Islands (Tokelau), thence to the Samoas, the Pandora continued her futile search. To aid them in making rough landfalls, Lieutenants Corner and Hayward donned cork jackets and plunged boldly into the surf ahead of the landing boats. Parakeets were purchased on one island, splendid birds resembling peacocks on another, and on others still the use of the islands' women. Striking sights were enjoyedthe large skeleton of a whale, for example, and a deserted shrine with an altar piled with white shells. They had even discovered whole islands, whose newly bestowed names would form a satisfying addition to the report Edwards would eventually turn over to the Admiralty. In short, the Pandora had discovered a great dealbut nothing at all that pertained to the missing mutineers and the Bounty.
Thousands of miles from England, adrift in one of the most unknown regions of the earth, Hamilton, who seems to have enjoyed this meandering sojourn, mused tellingly on the strange peoples he had seen and their distance from civilized life: "[A]nd although that unfortunate man Christian has, in a rash unguarded moment, been tempted to swerve from his duty to his king and country, as he is in other respects of an amiable character, and respectable abilities, should he elude the hand of justice, it may be hoped he will employ his talents in humanizing the rude savages," he wrote, in an astonishing wave of sympathy for that elusive mutineer who had, after all, consigned his captain and eighteen shipmates to what he had thought was certain death.
"[S]o that, at some future period, a British Ilion may blaze forth in the south," Hamilton continued, working to a crescendo of sentiment, "with all the characteristic virtues of the English nation, and complete the great prophecy, by propagating the Christian knowledge amongst the infidels." Even here, at the early stage of the Bounty saga, the figure of Christian himself represented a powerful, charismatic force; already there is the striking simplistic tendency to blur the mutineer's nameChristianwith a christian cause.
In the third week of June, while in the Samoas, Edwards was forced to report yet another misfortune: "[B]etween 5 & 6 o'clock of the Evening of the 22nd of June lost sight of our Tender in a thick Shower of Rain," he noted tersely. Edwards had now lost two vessels, this one with nine men. Food and water that were meant to have been loaded onto the tender were still piled on the Pandora's deck. Anamooka (Nomuka), in the Friendly Islands, was the last designated point of rendezvous in the event of a separation, and here the Pandora now hastened.
"The people of Anamooka are the most daring set of robbers in the South Seas," Hamilton noted matter-of-factly. Onshore, parties who disembarked to wood and water the ship were harassed as they had not been elsewhere. Edwards's servant was stripped naked by an acquisitive crowd and forced to cover himself with his one remaining shoe. "[W]e soon discovered the great Irishman," Hamilton reported, "with his shoe full in one hand, and a bayonet in the other, naked and foaming mad." While overseeing parties foraging for wood and water, Lieutenant Corner was momentarily stunned on the back of his neck by a club-wielding islander, whom the officer, recovering, shot dead in the back.
There was no sign of the tender.
Leaving a letter for the missing boat in the event that it turned up, Edwards pressed on to Tofua, the one island on which Bligh, Thomas Hayward and the loyalists in the open launch had briefly landed. One of Bligh's party had been stoned to death here, and some of the men responsible for this were disconcerted to recognize Hayward.
From Tofua, the Pandora continued her cruising before returning to Anamooka, where there was still no word of the missing tender.
It was now early August. Edwards's laconic report reveals nothing of his state of mind, but with two boats and fourteen men lost, uncowed mutineers on board and a recent physical attack on the most able of his crew, it is safe to hazard that he was anxious to return home. His own cabin had been broken into and books and other possessions taken as improbable prizes (James Morrison, with discernible satisfaction, had earlier reported that "a new Uniform Jacket belonging to Mr. Hayward" had been taken and, as a parting insult, donned by the thief in his canoe while in sight of the ship). Now, "thinking it time to return to England," Edwards struck north to Wallis Island, then west for the long run to the Endeavour Strait, the route laid down by the Admiralty out of the Pacifichomeward bound.
The Pandora reached the Great Barrier Reef toward the end of August, and from this point on Edwards's report is closely concerned with putting on record his persistent and conscientious depth soundings and vigilant lookout for reefs, bars and shoals. The Pandora was now outside the straits, the uncharted, shoal-strewn divide between Papua New Guinea and the northeastern tip of Australia. From the masthead of the Pandora, no route through the Barrier Reef could be seen, and Edwards turned aside to patrol its southern fringe, seeking an entrance.
After two days had been spent in this survey, a promising channel was at last spotted, and Lieutenant Corner was dispatched in the yawl to investigate. It was approaching dusk when he signaled that his reconnaissance was successful and started to return to the ship. Despite the reports of a number of eyewitnesses, it is difficult to determine exactly how subsequent events unfolded; a remark made by Dr. Hamilton suggests that Edwards may have been incautiously sailing in the dark. Previous depth soundings had failed to find bottom at 110 fathoms but now, as the ship prepared to lay to, the soundings abruptly showed 50 fathoms; and then, even before sails could be trimmed, 3 fathoms on the starboard side.
"On the evening of the 29th August the Pandora went on a Reef," Morrison wrote bluntly, adding meaningfully, "I might say how, but it would be to no purpose"; Morrison had prefaced his report with a classical flourish, "Vidi et Scio"I saw and I know. In short, despite soundings, despite advance reconnaissance, despite both his fear and his precautions, Edwards had run his ship aground.
"[T]he ship struck so violently on the Reef that the carpenters reported that she made 18 Inches of water in 5 Minutes," the captain was compelled to write in his Admiralty report. "[I]n 5 minutes after there was 4 feet of water in the hold." Still chained fast in the darkness of Pandora's Box, the fourteen prisoners could only listen as sounds of imminent disaster broke around themcries, running feet, the heavy, confused splash of a sail warped under the broken hull in an attempt to hold the leak, the ineffectual working of the pumps and more cries that spread the news that there was now nine feet of water in the hold. Coleman, McIntosh and Normanthree of the men Bligh had singled out as being innocentwere summarily released from the prison to help work the pumps, while at the same time the ship boats were readied.
In the darkness of their box, the remaining prisoners followed the sounds with growing horror; seasoned sailors, they knew the implication of each command and each failed outcome. The release of the exonerated men added to their sense that ultimate disaster was imminent, and in the strength of their terror they managed to break free of their irons. Crying through the scuttle to be released, the prisoners only drew attention to their broken bonds; and when Edwards was informed, he ordered the irons to be replaced. As the armorer left, the mutineers watched in incredulity as the scuttle was bolted shut behind him. Sentinels were placed over the box, with the instructions to shoot if there were any stirring within.
"In this miserable situation, with an expected Death before our Eyes, without the least Hope of relief & in the most trying state of suspense, we spent the Night," Peter Heywood wrote to his mother. The water had now risen to the coamings, or hatch borders, while feet tramped overhead across the prison roof.
"I'll be damned if they shall go without us," someone on deck was heard to say, speaking, as it seemed to the prisoners, of the officers who were heading to the boats. The ship booms were being cut loose to make a raft, and a topmast thundered onto the deck, killing a man. High broken surf around the ship hampered all movement, and compelled the lifeboats in the black water to stay well clear.
The confusion continued until dawn, when the prisoners were able to observe through the scuttle armed officers making their way across the top of their prison to the stern ladders, where the boats now awaited. Perhaps drawn at last by the prisoners' cries, the armorer's mate, Joseph Hodges, suddenly appeared at the prison entrance to remove their fetters. Once down in the box, Hodges freed Muspratt and Skinner, who immediately scrambled out through the scuttle, along with Byrn who had not been in irons; in his haste to break out, Skinner left with his handcuffs still on.
From above, some unseen hand suddenly closed and barred the scuttle again. Trapped with the prisoners, Hodges continued to work, striking off the irons in rapid succession, while the confined men renewed their pleas for mercy.
"I beg'd of the Master at Arms to leave the Scuttle open," Morrison wrote; "he answered 'Never fear my boys we'll all go to Hell together.'"
As he spoke, the Pandora made a fatal sally, rolling to port and spilling the master-at-arms and the sentinels into the water. The boats had already left, and Morrison claims he could see Edwards swimming toward his pinnace. Nowhere in his long report of the wreck and abandonment of his ship does Edwards make any mention of the prisoners.
With the ship under water as far as the mainmast, Pandora's Box began to fill. Hen coops, spars, boomsanything that would float had been cut loose and flung overboard as a possible lifesaver. Passing over the top of the prison roof on his way into the water, William Moulter, the boatswain's mate, heard the trapped men's cries, and his last action before he went overboard was to draw the bolt and hurl the scuttle away.
Scrambling inside the box, the men fought their way toward the light and air. Peter Heywood was one of the last to get out, and when he emerged in the sea he could see nothing above the water but the Pandora's crosstrees. All around him, men floundered and called for help, lurching to take hold of anything afloat. A gangway floated up with Muspratt riding on one end. Coleman, Burkett and Lieutenant Corner were perched on top of the old prison. Heywood, stripped stark naked, had grasped a floating plank.
"The cries of the men drowning in the water was at first awful in the extreme," Hamilton wrote, "but as they sunk, and became faint, it died away by degrees."
Slowly the lifeboats circled the wreckage, gathering up distressed men as they found them. After an hour and a half in the water, Morrison was picked up by the master's mate, and found Peter Heywood already on board. One by one, the boats made their way to a sandy key, some three miles distant, and here when a muster was held it was discovered that eighty-nine of the ship's company and ten prisoners were accounted for; thirty-one of the company and four prisoners had drownedbut, as Morrison pointedly noted, "all the Officers were Saved." Of the prisoners, Richard Skinner had gone down while still in handcuffs, along with John Sumner and Peter's closest friend, George Stewart, both of whom had been struck and killed by a falling gangway; Henry Hilbrant, also still in irons, had never made it out of Pandora's Box.
On the day following the disaster, a boat was sent back to what remained of the Pandora, to see what could be salvaged. Nothing much was gained, and the boat returned with the head of the topgallant mast, some rigging, the chain of the lightning conductorand the ship's cat, who had made his way to the crosstrees.
As the blazing Pacific sun rose over the sandy key, Edwards took a survey of his new situation. An assessment was made of the supplies that had been saved, which were now spread out along the sand to dry. Somehow, with the whole of the night to prepare for certain disaster, no orders seem to have been given for the salvaging of provisions.
"Providentially a small barrel of water, a cag [keg] of wine, some biscuit, and a few muskets and cartouch boxes, had been thrown into the boat," Hamilton wrote, suggesting that what little supplies there were had been saved by chance. A daily ration was determined of three ounces of bread, two small glasses of water and one of wine, with the occasional addition of an ounce of portable soup, or cakes of dried soup, and half an ounce of essence of malt. Edwards's plan was to sail for the Dutch East Indies settlement of Coupang, in Timor, the same port that had received Bligh and his company at the end of their ordeal in the Bounty's launch. The irony that the Pandora's boats were to replicate part of Bligh's famous voyage is unlikely to have escaped anyoneleast of all poor Thomas Hayward, who had been with Bligh and was thus about to embark on his second Pacific open-boat journey in a little more than two years. A voyage of some eleven hundred miles lay ahead.
On August 31, the third day after the Pandora had struck the reef, the little squadron set sail, with Captain Edwards leading the way in his pinnace, followed by the red and blue yawls and the launch. The prisoners had been carefully apportioned among the vessels. Peter Heywood, in the launch under the sympathetic Lieutenant Corner, had drawn what was probably the happiest boat, while James Morrison, as he reported, "had the good or evil fortune, call it which you please to go in the Pinnace with Capt. Edwards."
Proceeding northwest, the little squadron now at last passed through the reef by way of a channel that, as Edwards reported to the Admiralty, was "better than any hitherto known"a discovery that had come rather late in the day. In the morning of the following day, they came to the desolate, treeless coast of New Holland. Here, the parched men had the rare good fortune to find a spring rushing onto the beach. The prisoners in particular were tortured by the sun; their skin, pale and tender after five months of confinement, had quickly burned and blistered. Peter wrote, "[W]e appeared as if dipped in large tubs of boiling water."
The company passed the night off a small island, where they were awakened by the howling of dingoes, which they mistook for wolves. On the afternoon of September 2, they passed a series of distinctive islands that were recognized from Bligh's account and a chart made during his boat voyage. By the evening, the boats were in sight of Cape York, the northernmost tip of New Holland, and the end of the strait. Ahead was the Indian Ocean and a one-thousand-mile run to Timor.
"It is unnecessary to relate our particular sufferings in the Boats during our run to Timor," wrote Edwards, with his usual literary sangfroid, "and is sufficient to observe that we suffered more from heat & thirst than from hunger." The weather, at least, was good and the overloaded boats made satisfying progress. At dawn on the sixteenth the Dutch fort at Coupang, Timor, was at last hailed. Edwards had lost no men on this leg of the journey, although they had been reduced to drinking the blood of captured birds and their own urine.
Backed by gentle, verdant, wooded hills, the small settlement of Coupang was built at the head of a deep natural harbor. It consisted of little more than a fort and a handful of houses, a church, a hospital and company stores serving a population of Dutch officials, Chinese merchants and Malay slaves. A European ship at anchor amid other small craft offered a comfortingly familiar sight. The Pandora's four boats hailed the fort, and the men were welcomed ashore.
While the Pandora's officers and men were dispersed in different houses around the settlement, the prisoners were taken to the fort itself and put in stocks. Again, Edwards's report makes no mention of the prisoners at all during this sojourn, but Morrison's account is graphic: "Immediately on our landing Provisions were procured which now began to move our bodys and we were forced to ease Nature where we lay." Most of the men had not moved their bowels for the duration of the journey, and some were now administered enemas through a syringe.
"[T]he Surgeon of the Place who visited us could not enter the place till it had been washed by Slaves," Morrison continued. "[W]e had laid 6 Days in this situation...." A compassionate Dutch officer of the fort, clearly appalled at the prisoners' treatment, arranged to have the men released from the stocks and placed in leg irons, manacled two by two, but otherwise at liberty to walk about. The prisoners were still almost naked, but with "some of the leaves of the Brab Tree...set to work to make hats," a skill undoubtedly learned in those faraway days in Tahiti. These hats the enterprising prisoners then sold and with the little money earned bought tobacco.
As it turned out, the Pandora's company were not the only distressed British sailors at Coupang. Some months earlier, seven men, a woman and two children had arrived at the fort in a small six-oared cutter with the story that they were part of the crew and passengers of a wrecked brig called Neptune. They too had been treated with great compassion by the Dutch authorities. And when Edwards and his men came ashore, the kind Dutchmen had hastened to their guests to bring them the good news that their captain had arrived.
"What Captain! dam'me, we have no Captain," Hamilton reports one of them had unwisely exclaimed. The small party, it turned out, had not been shipwrecked, but were convicts who had made a daring escape from Botany Bay ("they were discovered to be Cheats," as Morrison noted self-righteously).
On October 6, having recovered strength, Edwards led his entire company to sea again, this time as passengers on a Dutch East Indiaman, the Rembang. Their destination was the Dutch settlement of Batavia, on Java, from where Edwards expected to get passages to Cape Town. Here, there would be other company ships bound for Europe.
This short passage from Timor to Batavia proved to be as eventful as any in the men's now protracted travels. On the sixth day out, while they were off the coast of Flores, a tremendous storm erupted. According to Dr. Hamilton, within a few minutes "every sail of the ship was shivered to pieces....This storm was attended with the most dreadful thunder and lightning we had ever experienced."
At the height of this crisis, when the ship was in imminent danger of being driven onto the lee shore, the Dutch seamen, Hamilton reported, "went below; and the ship was preserved from destruction by the manly exertion of our English tars, whose souls seemed to catch redoubled ardour from the tempest's rage." This appears to have been no exaggeration. Morrison himself, hardly one to volunteer praise for his captors, stated matter-of-factly that the ship was "badly found and Worse Managed and if Captain Edwards had not taken the Command and set his Men to work she would never have reached Batavia."
On October 30, the Rembang limped into Semarang, on the north coast of Java. The prisoners had been let out of irons during the battle with the storm to take turns at the pumps but had discovered they no longer had strength for this routine duty. But the spirits of the whole company were raised by an entirely unexpected and welcome surprise: the Pandora's little schooner, Resolution, awaited them, safely anchored in the harbor. After having lost sight of Pandora in the gale four months earlier, the Resolution's men set out from the Samoas to the Friendly Islands, skirted the southernmost of the Fiji group, made northwest for the Endeavour Strait, struck out for the Indonesian islands and came, through the Strait of Bali to Surabaya, on the north coast of Java. Their navigational equipment had consisted of two quadrants, a volume of Robertson's Elements of Navigation and an edition of Guthrie's Geographical Grammar, but no charts.
At Surabaya, the vessel's young commander, Master's Mate William Oliver, had presented himself to the Dutch authorities. All Dutch settlements, however, had been alerted to the fate of the Bounty; and as David Renouard, one of the Pandora's midshipmen, said, it was "a singular coincidence that the mutineers who quitted Otaheite in the Bounty corresponded with ourselves both in rank and numbers." The Resolution, built in fact by mutineers, was moreover hand-hewn from Otaheitan wood. Distrustful of Oliver's story, the Dutch authorities politely detained the small company for a month. At length, Oliver persuaded them to let him make for Batavia, by way of Semarang, where by another uncanny coincidence the Resolution had arrived on October 29, the day before the Rembang. Between Bounty, Pandora, Resolution and the boat from Botany Bay, four epic voyages had been accomplished within a two-and-a-half- year period; the Dutch authorities, ever picking up the wreckage, must have wondered if the British had a penchant for this kind of business.
The Rembang and the Resolution proceeded together to Batavia, the principal port of the Dutch East Indies. Founded in 1618, it was now a spacious town set at the head of a deep bay half a mile from the sea, its streets cut, Dutch style, by tree-lined connecting canals. Picturesque from afar, it was also reckoned to be one of the most fever-ridden and pestilential places on earth. Out of the surrounding swamp and stagnant canals, malarial mosquitoes spread like miasma. A "painted sepulchre, this golgotha of Europe," Dr. Hamilton described the city. Dead bodies floating into the sea from the canals had struck their ship on arrival, which, as Hamilton noted, "had a very disagreeable effect on the minds of our brave fellows." Two years earlier, four of Bligh's men had died of fever here, after successfully weathering their great boat journey, and Bligh himself had fallen gravely ill.
On arrival, Edwards arranged for his men to be housed on board a Dutch East India Company ship then in the road, or anchorage outside the harbor. Thirty of his sick were borne to a hospitala number of these were men from the Resolution who had suffered badly in the course of their impromptu journey.
In the nearly seven weeks they were detained at Batavia, the majority of the prisoners were allowed on deck only twice, although once again Coleman, Norman and McIntosh enjoyed more freedom. But it may be that the confinement afforded the men some protection from the mosquitoes. "[H]ere we enjoyed our Health," Morrison stated, noting with satisfaction that "the Pandora's people fell sick and died apace."
Edwards had negotiated an arrangement with the Dutch authorities to divide the Pandora's complement among four ships bound for Holland by way of the Cape, "at no expense to Government further than for the Officers and Prisoners," as he somewhat nervously informed the Admiralty. A disaster such as the loss of a ship did not allow a captain of His Majesty's Navy carte blanche in extricating himself from the disaster. All accounts for the £724 8s. 0d. in expenses incurred between Coupang and Batavia would have to be meticulously itemized and justified on return.
Edwards also used the sojourn at Batavia to write up his report to the Admiralty relating all that had transpired subsequent to January 6, 1791, the date of his last dispatch from Rio. Edwards's report, in his own hand, filled thirty-two large, closely written pages and ranged over all his adventuresthe capture of the mutineers, the fruitless search for Christian and the Bounty, the wreck of the Pandora, and the voyage to Timor. The events are narrated in strict chronological order, like a story, with discursive material about the customs and country of the islands visited and anecdotal asides ("I took this opportunity to show the Chief what Execution the Canon and Carronades would do by firing a six pound shot on shore..."), so that their lordships of the Admiralty would have had no clue until page twenty-six that the Pandora had in fact been lost. Boldly noting that he was enclosing "Latitudes & Longitudes of several Islands, & ca discovered during our Voyage," with his report, Edwards then offered a tentative conclusion:
"Although I have not had the good fortune fully to accomplish the Object of my Voyage," he ventured, "...I hope it will be thought...that of my Orders which I have been able to fulfil, with the discoveries that have been made will be some compensation for the disappointment & misfortunes that have attended us"; and, with a last rally of optimism:
[S]hould their Lordships upon the whole think that the Voyage will be profitable to our Country it will be a great consolation to,
Your most obedient humble servant,
Also before leaving Batavia, Edwards presented the mutineers' schooner, Resolution, to the governor of Timor as a gift of gratitude for his kindness. Morrison watched this transaction closely. He had been the architect of the plan to build the schooner and although she was the handiwork of many, he had placed the greatest stake in her. Her timbers had been hewn from Tahitian hibiscus, and both her planking and the bark gum used as pitch had come from that versatile and fateful tree, the breadfruit.
On Christmas Day 1791, the Dutch Indiaman Gorgon, Captain Christiaan, weighed anchor and sailed out of the straits at the harbor's entrance carrying a cargo of coffee beans, rice and arrack, a liquor distilled from coconut milk. On board as passengers were Captain Edwards, twenty-seven officers and men of the Pandora, twenty-six Chinese and the ten mutineers. The remainder of the Pandora's company, including the Botany Bay prisoners, were divided among two other ships. Lieutenant Larkan and a party of twenty had departed a month earlier on the Zwan. Edwards had also taken on board a distressed English seaman from the Supply. In turn, he had been forced to leave in the deadly hospital one of his own men, who was too ill to be moved. All in all, Edwards lost fifteen men to the Batavian fever, one being young William Oliver, the twenty-year-old master's mate who had commanded the Resolution with such leadership and skill on her unexpected voyage.
A few days from the Cape of Good Hope, nearly three months out on what had been a slow passage, the mutineers were released from their irons and allowed to walk the deck. Here, testing the wind, Morrison noted that the men "now found the weather Sharp and Cutting." The balmy Pacific lay far behind.
On March 18, the Gorgon anchored in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope. Close by the harbor was the fortress that safeguarded the Dutch East India Company stores, and indeed the whole town had been established solely to serve the Company. Here ships could break the long journey between Europe and the East Indies, restock and refit and, if coming from Batavia, offload their sick at the Cape Hospital.
The Gorgon joined other sail at anchor, including to the universal joy of the Pandora's company, a British man-of-war, the Gorgon, Captain John Parker. This 44-gun frigate had arrived from Port Jackson in New South Wales, where she had dropped off much anticipated and desperately needed supplies, including livestock and thirty new convicts. Seeing an opportunity to return directly to England, instead of by way of Holland where the Dutch Indiamen were bound, Edwards arranged passages for part of his mixed company on the Gorgon.
Thus, two days after arrival, Edwards added himself, the Botany Bay convicts and the Bounty mutineers to the Gorgon's company, joining other passengers that included a detachment of marine privates and their families leaving Port Jackson, and fifteen distressed British seamen picked up at the Cape. Among the mixed cargo, boxes of dispatches for the colonial office were probably the most important. More burdensome were the sixty tubs and boxes of plants destined for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, under the direction of the great naturalist and president of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks. Specimens of New South Wales lumber cramming the main and quarter decks were for the Navy Board, while a dingo was a gift for the Prince of Wales. Similarly, two kangaroos and opossums were also gifts for Joseph Banks, whose tentacles of influence stretched to the remotest corner of all parts of the globe; it was Banks who had been the driving force behind the Bounty's breadfruit venture.
The arrival of the mutineers was noted offhandedly in the Gorgon's log, along with the more important additions: "Recd Wine fresh Meat; Bread for Ships Company; also Water. Caulkers Caulking within and without board. Carpenters as necessary. Armourer at his forge; Sent to Sick quarters 1 Supernumerary Marine. Came on board from the Dutch Ship Vreedenburgh 10 Pirates belonging to His Majesty's Ship Bounty...."
At four in the afternoon of April 5, 1792, the Gorgon at last set sail for England, exchanging salutes with the fort as she passed. Blessed with fine weather and "a charming Breeze," as one of the marines, Lieutenant Ralph Clark, noted in his private journal, the Gorgon passed the island of St. Helena in under two weeks. Five days later they anchored at Ascension Island, primarily to refresh their food stock with local turtles. Although each passing mile brought the prisoners closer to their day of reckoning, they enjoyed the return to familiar British naval routine. Their confinement had been made less rigorous than under Edwards, and as Morrison noted, they had begun to regain their health and strength.
May 1 brought an extraordinary diversion: two sharks were caught and in the belly of one was found a prayer book, "[q]uite fresh," according to Lieutenant Clark, "not a leaf of it defaced." The book was inscribed "Francis Carthy, cast for death in the Year 1786 and Repreaved the Same day at four oClock in the afternoon." The book was subsequently confirmed as having belonged to a convict who had sailed to Botany Bay in 1788 with the first fleet of prisoners consigned to transportation.
In the early rainy hours of May 6 died Charlotte Bryant, the child of Mary Bryant, the escaped convict who had sailed so boldly into Coupang before the arrival of the Pandora. Amid the mixed humanity that the Gorgon carried, it was not the pirates of the Bounty who appear to have stood out, but the young widow from Cornwall, age twenty-seven, "height 5'4", grey eyes, brown hair, sallow complexion," as the register of Newgate Prison records, who had been sentenced to transportation for stealing a cloak. By coincidence, Marine Captain Watkin Tench, returning from Botany Bay, had gone out with Mary five years before, and recalled that she and her husband-to-be "had both of them been always distinguished for good behaviour." Now, he got from her the details of her extraordinary 3,254-mile voyage, coasting the shores of New Holland, harassed by the "Indians" when attempting to land, foraging for food and waterthis story, which surely circulated around the ship, was one every sailing man on board would appreciate.
On June 19, the Gorgon completed her long voyage and on an overcast day anchored at Spithead off Portsmouth alongside three of His Majesty's ships, the Duke, Brunswick and Edgar, three frigates and a sloop of war. Captain Parker immediately notified Sir Andrew Snape Hamond, the port's commander on duty, of his ship's arrival and awaited further instructions. Meanwhile, his crew busied themselves with the numerous tedious and chaotic duties that awaited the end of a long voyage. The officers and men of the Portsmouth and Plymouth Divisions were disembarked, and water and victuals were brought onboard. The carpenter made his customary report, noting that the ship's "works in general is very weak from carying large quantities of water and hay & tubs of Plants."
Captain Edwards, a passenger, had nothing to do with these transactions. Most of his men were still behind him, on the other Dutch ships, and the pirates and convicts would now be turned over to the proper authorities. Disembarking early at the Isle of Wight, he was safe in Portsmouth by the time the Gorgon came to anchor. At some point in their wanderings, most probably during the sultry, sickly sojourn at Batavia, an anonymous member of the Pandora's crew had immortalized their journey, and their captain, with a long doggerel poem:
Brave Edwards then with freindly Care
for men and boat began to fear...
by hard fatigue Our men were Spent,
the Ship keel'd Over and Down She went
An Equel Chance Our Captain Gave
to All Alike their Lives to Save...
Edwards's last semiofficial duty had been to accompany the captain's wife, Mary Ann Parker, to shore, a journey that, perhaps predictably, turned into a four-hour ordeal, as she noted, "rowing against the wind." Once onshore, nothing remained for Edwards but to await his own court-martial; like Bligh, he had returned without his ship.
On the day after the Gorgon's arrival, Captain Hamond informed Captain Parker that their lordships of the Admiralty had directed that "the ten Prisoners belonging to the Bounty" be sent to the security of one of the port guardships. The following day, a longboat, manned and armed, was sent from the Hector, Captain George Montagu, to collect the mutineers. Put over the side of the Gorgon in chains into the waiting boat, the prisoners were able to enjoy the sights of the busy, lively anchorage in the course of their short journey. The cloudy weather had briefly cleared and showed breezy and fairan English summer day. Their arrival on board was mentioned briefly in the Hector's log: "Post-noon received the above Prisoners, Wm Muspratt, James Morrison, Jn Milward, Peter Heywood, Thomas Ellison, Michl Burn, Thos Burkett, Josh Coleman, Thos. McIntosh & Charles Norman...and secured them in the Gun Room." A sergeant's guard of marines was sent over to provide additional security. For Thomas Burkett, at least, the Hector was familiar territory: he had served as an able seaman on this same ship, six years previously.
Peter Heywood had brought away a single possession from his long ordeal, a Book of Common Prayer, which he had carried in his teeth as he swam from the wreck of the Pandora. On the flyleaves, he had made some notations of events and dates important to him: "Sept. 22 1789, Mya TOOBOOAI mye; Mar. 25 1791, We ta Pahee Pandora...We tow te Vredenberg tea...Pahee HECTOR"the most striking thing about Peter's entries is that he had written them in Tahitian.
Back in Tahiti, the Bounty men who had cast their lot in with the islanders were remembered largely with affection. Less than eight months after the Pandora left Matavai Bay, Captain George Vancouver arrived with his two ships, Discovery and Chatham. Through conversations with the Tahitians, he and his men learned a great deal about the mutineers' lives on the island: they had built a schooner; they had each taken a wife and treated their women well; Stewart and Heywood had laid out gardens that were still in a flourishing state; these two had conformed to Tahitian manners to such an extent that they ceremonially uncovered their upper bodies when in the presence of King Tynah, as was local custom.
One day the Chatham's men were "surpized at seeing alongside in a double Canoe, three women all dress'd in White Linen Shirts, and having each a fine young child in their arms, perfectly white," as Edward Bell, a young clerk on the Chatham, reported in his journal. These were the women who had lived with the Bounty's mutineers, and their children.
"One call'd herself Peggy Stewart, after Mr. Stewart, one of the Bounty's midshipmen, and her child which was very beautiful was called Charlotte," wrote Bell. "[A]nother's name was Mary MacIntosh and the other's Mary Bocket [Burkett]."
Following this first meeting, Peggy Stewart frequently came to visit, often bringing small gifts and always inquiring after
her husband. At length, it was time for the ships to depart, and she came to make her affectionate and tearful farewell.
"Just before she went away, she came into my Cabbin," wrote Bell, "and ask'd me the same question she had often done, whether I thought Stewart would be hung." Deeply moved, he replied that he didn't knowperhaps not.
"She then said 'If he is alive when you return, tell him that you saw his Peggy and his little Charlotte, and that they were both well, and tell him to come to Otaheite, and live with them, or they will be unhappy.' She then burst into Tears and with the deepest regret forced herself into her Canoe and as long as we could see her she kept waving her hand." The next ship that came from Tahiti brought word that Peggy had pined away and died of a broken heart.