Monday, January 28, 2013
H.M.S. Bounty's Jolly Boat
The jolly boat was a type of ship's boat in use during the 18th and 19th centuries. The origins of the name is the subject of debate, but it was by the 18th century one of a number of ship's boats, and was used mainly to ferry personnel to and from the ship, or for other small scale activities. The design continued to evolve throughout its period in service.
The term 'jolly boat' has several potential origins. It may originate in the Dutch or Swedish jolle, a term meaning a small bark or boat. Other possibilities include the English term yawl, or the 'gelle-watte', the latter being a term in use in the 16th century to refer to the boat used by the captain for trips to and from shore. The term appears in Chamber's Encyclopedia between 1727 and 1741, and as 'jolly' in the works of Frederick Marryat, though it may have been in use considerably earlier, as the record of the voyages of Francis Drake and John Hawkins has 'That day the Pegasus jolly was going on shore for water, carying no guarde. The Spaniards perceiving it came downe upon them.
Jolly boats were usually the smallest type of boat carried on ships, and were generally between 16 and 18 feet long. They were clinker-built and propelled by four or six oars. When not in use the jolly boat normally hung from davits at the stern of a ship, and could be hoisted into and out of the water. Jolly boats were used for transporting people and goods to and from shore, for carrying out inspections of the ship, or other small tasks and duties that required only a small number of people, and did not need the use of the larger boats, such as the launch or cutter. Jolly boats were carried on practically all types of warships of the Royal Navy during the age of sail, from ships of the line down to sloops and brigs. Ships of the line would carry a barge, launch, pinnace, two cutters, all of various sizes, and a jolly boat, while the brigs might just carry a jolly boat and a cutter.
The application of the jolly boat was developed further during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, particularly by the frigate commander Sir George Collier. Collier, who was active in the close blockade of the Spanish coast during the Peninsular War, combined the features of a jolly boat with those of a whaleboat and found the result extremely seaworthy and particularly effective in carrying out shore landings. The design was particularly buoyant and was often described as a type of lifeboat. Several captains ordered these boats for their own ships, while the Admiralty considered the possibility of ordering a general replacement of old-style jolly boats with the new 'lifeboat' design on several occasions, but were deterred by the cost. By 1815 however the Stores Committee had authorised the replacement of the old-style jolly boats with the improved versions as and when it proved practical for a ship's commander to carry this out.
Some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) west of Tahiti, near Tonga, mutiny broke out on 28 April 1789. Despite strong words and threats heard on both sides, the ship was taken bloodlessly and apparently without struggle by any of the loyalists except Bligh himself. Of the 42 men on board aside from Bligh and Christian, 22 joined Christian in mutiny, two were passive, and 18 remained loyal to Bligh.
The mutineers ordered Bligh, two midshipmen, the surgeon's mate (Ledward), and the ship's clerk into the ship's boat. Several more men voluntarily joined Bligh rather than remain aboard. Bligh and his men sailed the open boat 30 nautical miles (56 km) to Tofua in search of supplies, but were forced to flee after attacks by hostile natives resulted in the death of one of the men. Bligh then undertook an arduous journey to the Dutch port of Coupang, located over 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km) from Tofua. He safely landed there 47 days later, having lost no men during the voyage except the one killed on Tofua.
The mutineers sailed for the island of Tubuai, where they tried to settle. After three months of being terrorized by the natives, however, they returned to Tahiti. Sixteen of the mutineers and the four loyalists who had been unable to accompany Bligh remained there, taking their chances that the Royal Navy would find them and bring them to justice.
Immediately after setting the sixteen men ashore in Tahiti in September 1789, Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 11 women, one with a baby, set sail in Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. According to a journal kept by one of Christian's followers, the Tahitians were actually kidnapped when Christian set sail without warning them, the purpose of this being to acquire the women. The mutineers passed through the Fiji and Cook Islands, but feared that they would be found there. Continuing their quest for a safe haven, on 15 January 1790 they rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been misplaced on the Royal Navy's charts. After the decision was made to settle on Pitcairn, livestock and other provisions were removed from Bounty. To prevent the ship's detection, and anyone's possible escape, the ship was burned on 23 January 1790 in what is now called Bounty Bay.
Thirty-five years later in 1825, HMS Blossom on a voyage of exploration under Captain Frederick William Beechey, arrived on Christmas Day off Pitcairn and spent 19 days there. Captain Beechey later recorded this in his 1831 published account of the voyage, as did one of his crew, John Bechervaise, in his 1839 Thirty-Six years of a Seafaring Life by an Old Quarter Master. Beechey wrote a detailed account of the mutiny as recounted to him by the last survivor, Adams. Bechervaise, who described the life of the islanders, says he found the remains of Bounty and took some pieces of wood from it which were turned into souvenirs such as snuff boxes.