Famous ship's cannon surfaces at remote Pacific island
ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., February 10, 1999Another 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
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.
Pitcairn Islands Study Center, 1 Angwin
Ave., Angwin, CA, USA. Herbert Ford, 707-965-6625, 707-965-2047, Fax: 707-965-6504,
Email: email@example.com, Website: http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn