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News Release

Famous ship's cannon surfaces at remote Pacific island

ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., February 10, 1999—Another artifact, this one a 1,764 pound cannon, has been recovered from the underwater remains of H.M.S. Bounty, the ship of the world-famed "mutiny on the Bounty," according to a report made to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center at Pacific Union College here.

The leader of an Australian team of marine archaeologists, and four Pitcairn island men recovered the cannon in shallow but treacherous water just off the shore of remote Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific Ocean, where it had rested for 209 years.

In 1790, nine sailors who mutinied on the Bounty against Captain William Bligh in 1789, and a group of Tahitians, ran the ship in close to tiny Pitcairn, stripped and then burned her to the waterline to escape detection by passers-by.

According to Thomas Christian, Pitcairn's radio officer, the cannon was recovered from water that is only about 10 feet deep, using an air powered jackhammer and crow bars to break it loose from its encrusted location on the sea bed.

"The shallowness of the water is what made it difficult to raise," said Christian. "The waves kept crashing in over the site. Only after waiting weeks, until the seas calmed, were the divers able to break the cannon loose from its solid encrustation."

The cannon recovery was one of the goals of an expedition team from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, designed to shed fresh light on one of history's most enduring seafaring sagas, the Bounty mutiny and its aftermath. The team leader was Dr. Nigel Erskine.

Location of the recovered cannon has been known since 1956, but the turbulence of the sea over it, compounded by its deep encrustation, has made earlier recovery impossible. It is the third cannon to be recovered from the site.

In 1853, a cannon recovered from the ship resulted in the death of Matthew McCoy when it exploded as three Pitcairners attempted to fire it in a salute to H.M.S. Virago as it was leaving the island. That cannon was spiked, its present whereabouts unknown. A second cannon is on the island in the yard of Pitcairner Len Brown.

According to Christian, the recovered cannon is now resting on a bed of rubber tires near the Pitcairn jetty. It is scheduled to be taken to Australia for reclamation. Erskine says it will take five years to restore it, and it will then be put on display.

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Pitcairn Islands Study Center, 1 Angwin Ave., Angwin, CA, USA. Herbert Ford, 707-965-6625, 707-965-2047, Fax: 707-965-6504, Email: hford@puc.edu, Website: http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn


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