Sunday, April 22, 2012
Classic Sea Adventure
"The Bounty was a little ship of about two hundred tons burthen, stoutly rigged and built strongly of English oak. Her sails were patched and weather-beaten, her copper sheathing grown over with trailing weed, and the paint on her sides, once a smart black, was now a scaling, rusty brown. She was on the starboard tack, with the light southwesterly wind abaft the beam. Only nine mutineers were now on board, including Fletcher Christian and Midshipmen Edward Young. With the six Polynesian men and twelve women whom they had persuaded to accompany them, they were searching for a permanent refuge…"
At daybreak, on the twenty-eighth of November 1789, His Majesty’s the H.M.S. Bounty set sail and began to journey across the Pacific Ocean. Her mission was a simple one: To set anchor at the island of Tahiti and acquire upwards of one thousand breadfruit trees; then, to return to England for transplant.
In the first volume, "Mutiny on the Bounty", the crew consisted of forty-five men of varying ages and walks of life. In command was Lieutenant William Bligh, while Fletcher Christian, masters mate - his second in command, was a respectable sailor and a man of honor. The relationship between these two men deteriorates rapidly as the journey progresses and the seeds of mutiny are planted. Even in the best of times Bligh’s stern, tyrannical control weighs heavily on the crew and inevitably leads to its breakup. Shortly after daybreak one morning during the return voyage from Tahiti the narrator of book one, Roger Byam, is awakened to the realization that Lieutenant Bligh has been taken prisoner by the hand of Mr. Christian.
“Our company was divided, and, though linked together by a common disaster, we were not to share a common fate. I doubt whether a ship has ever sailed from England whose numbers, during the course of her voyage, were to be so widely scattered over the face of the earth, and whose individual members were to meet ends so strange and, in many cases, so tragic.”- (R. Byam)
After some deliberation, Christian decides to return to Tahiti and allow Byam and some others to remain there while the Bounty departs for shores unknown. The remaining two books tell the story of Lieutenant Bligh and the company of the Bounty's launch in "Men Against the Sea", and the mutineers with Fletcher Christian in the final book, "Pitcairn's Island".
The Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy is a deeply engrossing adventure story. Both a tale of human achievement and one of survival against all odds, it is deserving of the popularity it has achieved. It is among the best adventure books I have read.
The Bounty Trilogy by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Little< Brown and Company, 1951.