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HMS Pandora Encyclopedia

[Book Review] [HMS Pandora]

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.

AITUTAKI Aitutaki is the most north-western of the southern Cook Islands and lies at 18 degrees 52 minute South, 159 degrees 45 minutes West, 140 miles due north of Rarotonga and 680 miles west of Tahiti. It was discovered by Bligh on April 11, 1789, seventeen days before the mutiny.

In his voyage to bring the Bounty mutineers to justice Captain Edwards sailed to Aitutaki in the Pandora, arriving at the island on May 19, 1791.

ATAFU (Duke of York) ISLAND The smallest of the three large atolls in the Tokelau (Union) group, situated at 8 degrees 31 minutes South, 172 degrees 31 minutes West; discovered in 1765 by the British explorer John Bryon.

In order to put pursuers on the wrong trace, Christian ‘confided” to able seaman Henry Hillbrant, a mutineer who stayed on Tahiti, that he planned to settle on Atafu. The ruse worked: it sent Captain Edwards in HMS Pandora on a wild goose chase thousands of miles in the wrong direction.

BENTHAM, George Purser on the Pandora; a good choice, because he had visited Tahiti before on one of Cook’s voyages.

BROWN, John, alias BOUND, John A bloodthirsty scallawag who was marooned on Tahiti by Captain Cox of the Mercuty (Gustaf III) when she left the island on September 2, 1789. On the ship he had cut up another crew member’s face with a razor. . . .

When Captain Edwards arrived in the Pandora on March 23, 1791, he took an immediate liking to Brown – who must have been something of a “soul-mate” – and engaged him in betraying his former comrades-in-arms. Brown turned to the job with relish and, with the help of bribed natives, soon had everyone rounded up. Edwards then took the kindred spirit with him when he sailed on May 8.

Presumably Brown survived the wreck of the Pandora, but his subsequent fate is unknown to the writer of this sketch.

CORNER, Robert Second Lieutenant on the Pandora. He was a courageous, humane, and efficient officer who is often praised in surgeon Hamilton’s account of the voyage. He died in 1820.

Corner was in charge of all landings on the islands where the mutineers, or traces of them, were sought. Being third in command, there was not much Lieutenant Corner could do for the prisoners, but he did what he could. Morrison writes:

. . . when the roughness of the weather gave the ship any motion, we were not able to keep ourselves fast, to remedy which we were threatened to be stapled down by the Captain, but Mr. Corner [sic] gave us some short boards to check ourselves with, which he made the carpenters secure, and thereby prevented us from maiming each other and ourselves.

DODDS, James Quartermaster on the Pandora, sailed with master’s mate Oliver from Upolu in the Samoas to Rembang on Java in the schooner Resolution.

DOLPHIN BANK A reef off Point Venus on the northern coast of Tahiti, named after the ship Dolphin which carried the discoverer of Tahiti, Samuel Wallis, around the world.

Christian came close to running the Bounty aground on Dolphin Bank when he left Tubuai on June 16, 1789. He lost an anchor in the process (which was later retrieved by the Pandora). It is interesting to speculate about what would have happened if the Bounty had foundered or been disabled. Less than two months later the brig Mercury arrived in Tahiti and if Christian had still be there, his whereabouts would soon have become known. Moreover, the delay involved in repairing the Bounty or in building a new ship could have enabled Captain Edwards to capture him.

DUCIE ISLAND Atoll 290 miles east of Pitcairn (24 degrees 40 minutes South, 124 degrees 47 minutes West); uninhabited; discovered on March 16, 1791 by Captain Edward Edwards in the Pandora while searching for the mutineers. It was named after Baron Francis Ducie, a captain in the Royal Navy.

Christian and his fellow fugitives never knew how close they came to being discovered and returned to England for trial. If Edwards had continued his voyage on the same parallel he would have sighted Pitcairn and, since he made a point of investigating each island he passed, he would most probably have captured them. As it was, he turned northward and missed the island.

EDWARDS, Edward Captain of HMS Pandora. Edwards was one of the most ruthless commanders in the British Navy. Compared to him, Blich was a prissy Sunday school teacher. As a direct result of his inhumanity, Edwards had been the object of a mutiny aboard HMS Narcissus in 1782 and he never forgot the experience, in fact he used it as an excuse for his continued inhumanity. His very harshness probably accounted for why he was appointed (August 10, 1790) to search for the mutineers of the Bounty.

Edwards sailed from Jack-in-the-Basket, Portsmouth, on November 7, 1790. On March 16, 1791, on his way to Tahiti, he discovered Ducie Island. . . .

The Pandora anchored in Matavai Bay on March 23 and Edwards went about capturing both the mutineers and the loyalists who had remained on Tahiti when Christian left with the Bounty one and a half years earlier. Not only did he put them all in irons, but he had his men build an 18 by 11 foot “cell” on deck which had minimal ventilation and in which the fourteen men of the Bounty’s crew were to remain chained in the tropical head for four months while Edwards kept searching for the rest of the mutineers.

The Pandora sailed from Tahiti on May 8 in company of the Resolution, the small schooner which the loyalists had built and which Edwards had manned with nine men from his ship. He arrived at Palmerston Island on May 21, 1791, where he found some spars marked “Bounty” (they had drifted there from Tubuai). At Palmerston a sudden storm blew up and Edwards lost five of his men, including a midshipman, in the jolly-boat. They were never seen again.

On June 22, the Resolution became separated from the Pandora. Edwards looked for it for two days and then sailed on to Nomuka for another fruitless search for the mutineers.

Not only did Edwards miss out on capturing Christian and his fellow mutineers (if it had succeeded, Pitcairn would probably have remained uninhabited to this day), but he missed an opportunity to become one of the heroes of maritime history. On August 13, 1791, the Pandora was sailing close to the island of Vanikoro in the Solomons and sighted smoke signals, but Edwards was interested only in mutineers and knew the signals would not have come from them, so he sailed on. We know today with virtual certainty that those were distress signals from the La Perouse expedition which had not been heard from since it left Botany Bay in February 1788. The mystery of the mission expedition was not solved until thirty-six years later.

Edwards was not a skilled navigator, and the Pandora was wrecked on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on August 18 with the loss of thirty-one of her own crew and four from the Bounty. His cruelty is illustrated by the fact that, as the ship was sinking and the prisoners had managed to break their chains, he ordered them to be put back in irons. In the last moment one of his crew defied his orders and helped free the prisoners, but he did not have time to remove the irons from all.

In four boats Edwards and the rest of his crew with the remaining prisoners set out for Timor, much as Bligh had done two years earlier. On the way from there to Batavia they found the Resolution at Samarang. The survivors of the Pandora arrived at Spithead on June 19, 1792.

No competent commander loses thirty-five men when he has eleven hours to prepare for abandoning ship inside a reef. The author of this sketch sees no other reason for Edwards getting away with this miserable performance during his obligatory court-martial than that the judges, too, were callous when it came to the question of saving human lives.

Having achieved the rank of Rear Admiral, Edwards died at the age of seventy-three in 1815. It is a pity that newspapers of the time did not conduct interviews, because before his death he may well have heard of the rediscovery of Pitcairn and the story of Christian and the other missing mutineers. If so, we will never know how he felt about finding out how close he had come to capturing them.

FIJI ISLANDS The Fijis constitute the easternmost island group in Melanesia ranging from 15 degrees 40 minutes to 21 degrees 00 minutes South, and from 178 degrees 00 minutes West to 176 degrees 45 minutes East. The group comprises well over 300 islands, many of which are uninhabited. . . .

Master’s mate Oliver of the Pandora and his crew in the schooner Resolution were the first Europeans to anchor at and land on a Fijian island (Matuku) and have close contact with the natives (in 1791). . . .

HMS GORGON Captain Edwards, Lieutenant Larkin, and the ten accused mutineers who had survived the wreck of the Pandora sailed on this 44-gun frigate from Cape Town on April 6, 1792, and arrived at Spithead on June 19. The commander was Captain John Parker.

HAMILTON, George Surgeon on the Pandora. The best description of Hamilton is by Sir Basil Thomson who reprinted Hamilton’s A Voyage Round the World in H. M. Frigate Pandora (1793):

Fortunately for us, the Pandora carried a certain rollicking, irresponsible person as surgeon. George Hamilton has been called “a coarse, vulgar, and illiterate man, more disposed to relate licentious scenes and adventures, in which he and his companions were engaged, then to give any information of proceedings and occurrences connected with the main object of the voyage.” From this puritanical criticism most readers will dissent. Hamilton was bred in Northumberland, and was at this time past forty.

[He was] a man of middle-age, with clever, well-cut features, and a large, humorous, and rather sensual mouth. His book, with all its faults of scandalous plain speech, is one that few naval surgeons of that day could have written. The style, though flippant, is remarkable for a cynical but always good-natured humour, and on the rare occasions when he thought it professionally incumbent on him to be serious, as is his discussion of the best dietary for long voyages, and the physical effects of privations, his remarks display observation and good sense. It must be admitted, I fear, that he relates certain of his own and his shipmates’ adventures ashore with shameless gusto, but he wrote in an age that loved plain speech, and that did not care to veil its appetite for licence. Like Edwards, he tells us little of the prisoners after they were consigned to “Pandora’s Box.” His narrative is valuable as a commentary on Edwards’ somewhat meagre report, and for the sidelight which it throws upon the manners of naval officers of those days.

In his account, Hamilton tries to whitewash the cruel treatment of the prisoners, probably because the truth would reflect negatively on himself who did not, or could not, do more to intervene in their behalf. He does not comment on the harshness of Edwards and he avoids any mention of the sadistic Larkin.

KAO Kao is a vast, conically shaped rock only two miles north-east of Tofua. It is the most north-western of the Tonga islands.

Kao was one of the islands on which Lieutenant Robert Corner of the Pandora landed in order to investigate possible clues as to the whereabouts of the Bounty mutineers.

LARKIN (Larkan), John First lieutenant on the Pandora. Not much is known about Larkin, because the surgeon on board, George Hamilton, who wrote an account of the voyage, avoids mentioning him. The little we know about Larkin comes primarily from Morrison’s narrative.

He seems to have been a true sadist who enjoyed torturing the Bounty men who were imprisoned in “Pandora’s Box.” Morrison gives us an example of how Larkin treated the prisoners:

. . . Mr. Larkan the First Lieut. in trying the Handcuffs took the method of setting his foot against our breasts and hauling the Handcuffs over our heads with all his Might, some of which took the Skin off with them, and all that could be hauld off by this Means were reduced, and fitted so close, that there was no possibility of turning the Hand in them, and when our wrists began to swell he told us that “they were not intended to fit like gloves.”

Larkin appears in Nordhoff’s and Hall’s Mutiny on the Bounty as Lieutenant Parkin.

MARUTEA (Lord Hood’s Island) A large atoll almost 100 miles north-northwest of Mangareva at 21 degrees 30 minutes South, 135 degrees 30 minutes West. It consists of a cluster of inlets on which brushwood and some coconut palms grow. There is no entrance into the lagoon. Marutea is inhabited and is periodically visited by Mangarevans for pearl fishing.

Marueta was discovered by Captain Edwards in HMS Pandora on March 17, 1791; he named it Lord Hood’s Island.

MATUKU Matuku is an island in the Lau group in the Fijis, situated about 290 nautical miles almost due west of Tofua at 19 degrees 09 minutes South, 179 degrees 44 minutes East. It is four and a half miles long, north to south, and three and a half miles wide. Its summit, Ngilligilli, rises to 1,262 feet.

Having been separated from her mother ship the Pandora, the Resolution, William Oliver commanding, sighted Matuku in July 1791. The men of the Resolution spent five weeks at this beautiful island, recuperating after been savagely attacked by the natives of Tofua, recuperating and getting ready for the long voyage ahead to Endeavour Straites (Torres Straits).

MOULTER, William The heroic boatswain’s mate of the Pandora who risked his life to save the chained men of the Bounty when the ship foundered on the Great Barrier Reef.

HMS NARCISSUS Captain Edwards was the object of a mutiny on this ship in 1782. The mutiny was quelled, six mutineers were hanged, one received 500 lashes and another 200.

NIUAFO’OU (Proby’s Island, Good Hope Island, Tin Can Island) A volcanic island, the most northern of the Tongas, at 15 degrees 35 minutes South, 175 degrees 38 minutes West. Although the island is inhabited (about 700 inhabitants), volcanic eruptions occur, the most recent one in 1946. Because it has no harbor and only poor anchorage, Niuafo’ou for many years received its mail in kerosene cans thrown from ships to waiting swimmers; hence the name Tin Can Island.

Captain Edwards, while searching for the missing mutineers of the Bounty, sighted Niuafo’ou on August 5, 1791, and named it Proby’s Island, thinking that he had discovered it. In fact, the island had first been seen on May 14, 1616, by Willem Cornelisz van Schouten (during his voyage around the world 1615-1617 in the ship Eendracht) who had named it Good Hope Island.

NUKUNONO (Nukunonu, Duke of Clarence Island) Nukunono is the largest of the three atolls in the Tokelau (Union) group; it is situated at 9 degrees 06 minutes South, 171 degrees 50 minutes West. It is about eight miles long, north to south, and six miles wide. Landing is dangerous.

Nukunono was discovered by Captain Edwards of the Pandora on June 12, 1791; he named it Duke of Clarence Island.

Today there are close to 400 inhabitants on Nukunono. They are a mixed race of Polynesians and Micronesians and they are all Catholics.

OLIVER, William Master’s mate on the Pandora. Captain Edwards put Oliver in command of the little schooner Resolution which the Bounty men had built in Tahiti. With him were midshipman David Thomas Renouard, quartermaster James Dodds, and six seamen from the Pandora.

PALMERSTON ISLAND (Avarau) The most northern island (atoll) in the Southern Cook group, situated at 18 degrees 04 minutes south, 163 degrees 10 minutes West, 270 miles north-west of Rarotonga; discovered by Cook in 1774 on his second voyage.

Sailing westward from Tahiti on his search for the mutineers Captain Edwards found, on the shores of Palmerston, a yard marked “Bounty’s Driver Yard” and some spars with “Bounty” written on them. We know today with virtual certainty that they had drifted there from Tubuai, because (1) Christian had jettisoned several spars there in order to lighten the ship; (2) the prevailing winds and currents would have carried them in that direction; and (3) the spars were worm-eaten and had obviously been in the water for a very long time.

PAONIHO Tahitian word (pao means to strike or lacerate the head; niho means tooth) for a short stick of polished wood, used by women for ceremonial gashing of the head, usually to convey deep sorrow, but sometimes as an expression of extreme joy, such as at weddings or the return of a loved one after a long absence.

When the mutineers and loyalists who had stayed on Tahiti when Christian left were taken prisoners on board the Pandora, the women who had become their consorts (and, in some cases, borne them children) would paddle out to the ship and wail and lacerate their heads.

PARKIN, Lieutenant The pseudonym used by Nordhoff and Hall for First Lieutenant John Larkin of the Pandora.

PASSMORE, George Sailing master of the Pandora. Of Passmore we do not know anything more than that he was a competent surveyor and navigator.

“PEGGY” The name by which midshipman George Steward of the Bounty called his Tahitian wife who was the daughter of chief Tepahu. She bore Stewart a daughter shortly before the Pandora arrived to put an end to their happiness. Peggy died “of a broken heart” a few months after the Pandora sailed from Tahiti (In May 1791) with her husband chained like an animal in “Pandora’s Box.”

The little girl was taken care of by her grandfather, Tepahu. Bligh saw her in April 1792 on his second breadfruit expedition and describes her as follows:

A fine child about twelve months old was brought to me to-day – the daughter of George Stewart, midshipman of the ‘Bounty’; it was a very pretty creature, but had been so exposed to the sun as to be little fairer than an Otaheitan.

When the missionaries arrived in 1797, they insisted on raising the girl.

PIRIPIRI Tahitian word, the literal meaning of which is “sticking or clinging to something,” and which is therefore used to mean stingy, one of the worst attributes a person could have, as far as a Tahitian is concerned.

George Hamilton, the surgeon of the Pandora, wrote:

The English are allowed by the rest of the world, and I believe with some degree of justice, to be generous, charitable people; but the Otaheitans could not help bestowing the most contemptuous word in their language upon us, which is Peery, Perry, or Stingy.

REMBANG The Dutch East Indiaman in which Captain Edwards and the other survivors of the Pandora, including the ten men of the Bounty, sailed from Coupang to Batavia. The Rembang left Coupang on October 6, 1791. She was dismasted in a cyclone and almost lost, but managed to reach Samarang on October 30; there she found the Resolution anchored in the harbor. Accompanied by the Resolution she arrived at Batavia on November 7.

RENOUARD, David Thomas Midshipman on the Pandora; sailed with master’s mate Oliver from Upolu in the Samoas to Samarang on Java in the schooner Resolution. Renouard wrote a brief account of the voyage which was published by W. H. Smyth in 1842 and by Henry E. Maude in 1964.

HMS RESOLUTION (schooner) Two-masted schooner, 30 feet long with a beam of 9 feet 6 inches, built on Tahiti by the loyalists and some of the mutineers who had stayed on the island when Christian sailed away on the Bounty.

The Resolution (named after Cook’s flagship on his second and third voyages) was the brainchild of James Morrison, boatswain’s mate on the Bounty. By April 30, 1790, it had been fully planked and caulked with the gum of the breadfruit tree. On August 5 it was launched with the blessings of the tahu’as (native priests). Unfortunately for its builders it could not be sailed long distances, because there was no European sailcloth available and the native matting simply did not hold up for long.

When Captain Edwards left Tahiti on May 8, 1791, he took the Resolution along, fitted out with European sails and with a crew of nine men from the Pandora, under the command of master’s mate William Oliver. On June 22 the two ships became separated and the Resolution continued alone to Java where she reached Samarang long before the survivors of the Pandora (which had foundered on the Great Barrier Reef) arrived in October.

The subsequent fate of the Resolution is not known. It was a well-built, beautiful, fast little vessel and a tribute to the ingenuity and skill of British seamen.

In his excellent history of Tahiti, Island of Love (1968), Robert Langdon tells us about one possible fate of the Resolution, based on John Marshall’s Royal Naval Biogaphy (1825); Marshall evidently got the story from Peter Heywood.

According to this version, Captain William R. Broughton, after visiting Tahiti in Bligh’s old ship Providence, sailed to the cost of Asia where

he put into Canton for a refit and there bought Morrison’s schooner Resolution, which Captain Edwards had sold in Samarang in 1791. The Resolution had been employed in the meantime in the sea otter trade, and was reported to have made one of the vastest voyages ever known between China and Hawaii. That was not her final claim to fame. After Broughton had used her for several months as a tender, the little schooner became the means of saving the lives of 112 officers and men in the Providence when that vessel was wrecked off the coast of Formosa on May 16, 1797. The Resolution then served as Broughton’s survey vessel for another twelve months before being sold again in Trincomalee. Her subsequent fate does not appear to have been recorded.

Langdon cautions us, however, that “the known details of the mutineers’ schooner do not tally with those recorded by Broughton.” It is a romantic tale, nonetheless.

ROTUMA (Grenville Island) Rotuma is an island in the Fiji group approximately 320 miles north-north-west-to-north of Vita Levu at 12 degrees 30 minutes South, 177 degrees 05 minutes East. It was discovered by Captain Edwards in the Pandora on August 9, 1791. He named it Grenville Island after the current Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

There are approximately 2,800 inhabitants on the island today, a mixture of Polynesians and Micronesians.

SAMARANG (Semarang) Harbor on the north coast of Java, Indonesia, 255 miles east of Djakarta (formerly Batavia), the administrative capital of Central Java. Samarang had been a Dutch settlement since 1748 when Bligh and his loyalist crew stopped there in September 1789 on the way from Coupang to Batavia in the schooner Resource. Some time in the late summer of 1791 the schooner Resolution which had been separated from the Pandora arrived with nine members of the latter ship’s crew. In October of the same year the survivors of the Pandora arrived on their way to Batavia.

One can only wonder what the governor of Samarang must have thought of this steady stream of emaciated and destitute British sailors passing through his domain. It was a sleepy little town then; today Semarang (modern spelling) has over 800,000 inhabitants.

SAMOA ISLANDS (Navigator Islands) The Samoas stretch from 13 degrees 25 minutes South to 14 degrees 30 minutes South and from 168 degrees 08 minutes West to 172 degrees 46 minutes West. They are composed of the following islands: in American Samoa – Tutuila, Aunuu, Ofu, Olosega, Tau, Rose, Swains (geographically one of the Tokelau islands); in Western Samoa – Upolu, Savaii, Manono, Nuutele, Nuulua, Apolima.

Captain Edwards searched for the Bounty mutineers in this group. It was here, off the coast of Upolu, that he lost contact with his tender Resolution which was attacked by a large fleet of war canoes.

SIVAL, John The midshipman of the Pandora who, together with four crewmen in the ship’s cutter, was lost in a squall at Palmerston atoll on May 24, 1791.

SKINNER, Richard Able-bodied seaman and barber on the Bounty; mutineer; stayed on Tahiti; drowned when the Pandora sank. Skinner was born in Tunbridge Wells and was twenty-one when he mustered on the Bounty. Among his other duties on board he seems to have been Fryer’s servant.

STEWART, George Midshipman on the Bounty, promoted to acting master’s mate when Christian was made acting lieutenant; loyalist; kept on board against his will; drowned when the Pandora foundered.

SUMNER, John Able-bodied seaman on the Bounty; mutineer; stayed on Tahiti; drowned when the Pandora foundered. Sumner was born in Liverpool and was twenty-two years old when he signed on the Bounty.

TAHAA (ancient name: Uporu) One of the Leeward Islands in the Society group, situated at 16 degrees 38 minutes South, 151 degrees 28 minutes West, only two miles north or Raiatea and sharing the same barrier reef. Tahaa is about half the size of Raiatea, almost round, with a five-mile diameter. Its highest peak, Mount Ohiri, rises to 1,936 feet. The principal village, Vaitoare, is on the southeast coast.

Tahaa was one of the islands where Captain Edwards searched for the Bounty mutineers in May 1791.

TOKELAU (Union) ISLANDS The Tokelau group consists of three large atolls: Fakaofo, Nukunono, and Atafu. They are situated approximately 300 miles north-north-west of the Samoas (the word “tokelau” – in Tahitian to’erau – means north-north-west) and are a dependency of New Zealand. Geographically, Swains Island (Olohenga), which lies about 125 miles south of Fakaofo, is often counted as one of the Tokelaus, but is politically part of American Samoa.

Captain Edwards in the Pandora searched for the Bounty mutineers in this group during the month of June 1791 at which time he discovered Nukunono (June 12), naming it Duke of Clarence Island.

UPOLU The principal island of Western Samoa; the capital, Apia, is located on the north shore at 13 degrees 50 minutes South, 171 degrees 55 minutes West.

At the foot of Mount Vaea, a short distance south of Apia, is Vailima, the beautiful residence which Robert Louis Stevenson built when he came to Samoa to stay (in 1889). Close to the summit of Mount Vaea is Stevenson’s tomb on which is inscribed:

Under the wide and starry day
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Near this Samoan island, on the evening of June 22, 1791, the Pandora lost contact with her tender Resolution in a squall and did not see her again. The fate of the Resolution remained unknown until four months later when the survivors of the Pandora arrived at Samarang and saw the tender anchored in the harbor. The Resolution has been attacked by the natives of Upolu and had a narrow escape.

UVEA (Uea, Wallis Island) Uvea is the main island in the group referred to as Wallis and Futuna Islands, a French overseas territory. Uvea and Futuna lie about 400 miles north-east of Fiji and 200 miles west of Samoa.

On his search for the nine missing mutineers of the Bounty, Captain Edwards stopped at Uvea and exchanged some presents with the natives.

VREEDEMBERG The Dutch East Indiaman in which Captain Edwards and ten men of the Bounty captured on Tahiti traveled from Batavia to Cape Town where they arrived on January 15, 1792.

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.

[Book Review] [HMS Pandora]


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