File Size: 1334 KB
Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Endeavour Press (March 20, 2017)
Publication Date: March 20, 2017
Hough, a veteran naval vem som st?r of the “salt drinking water in the veins” institution, is well-suited to the task of stripping away the encrusted layers of myth which may have gathered, barnacle-like, about the Bounty tale. As a sailor themselves, he “sailed the Hat Horn waters the location where the Resources took such a conquering, watched the skyline of Rarotonga loom out of the early morning maze as Christian ~ now the lonely mutineer – had seen it, made my choppy way into Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island…Matavai Bay, and frequented in a launch little bigger than Bligh’s a number of the islands inside the Fantastic Barrier Reef in Queensland” (p. 282). The reality that Hough has sailed the same waters that Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian and other Resources officers and crew sailed gives this book an additional degree of authority.
Portion of the condition that Hough faced on paper " Typically the Bounty" is that the story of the Bounty mutiny includes so many archetypal, even mythic, storytelling elements ~ a long sea trip; a fabled and mysterious island that creates a veritable earthly paradise; a separate love story; an epic discord between two forceful personalities – that it all but invites embellishment.
And much embellishment has indeed occurred down the years. After all, the text that many readers would assume is the defined recounting of the Resources saga -- " Mutiny on the Bounty" (1932), by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall ~ is not a historical past, but rather a historical novel, the one that invents figures and telescopes events as the novelists’ needs influence. It is a fine and exciting novel; but to assume that it provides an accurate documentary-style recounting of the Bounty mutiny seems to me rather like looking to Cervantes’ " Don Quixote" for the factual low-down on Spanish knighthood.
All the more fortunate, consequently , that Hough's non-fiction book, written 40 years after the Nordhoff-Hall novel, eschews fantasy and adheres strictly to the known facts of the Bounty mutiny. Hough offers a sensible and rational setting-forth of how a series of judgements by many people -- including, although not restricted to, Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian -- led, almost inevitably, to the mutiny.
One of those key judgements related to the Bounty’s anomalous mission: to retrieve breadfruit plants from Tahiti and transport them to Jamaica, in order to see if breadfruit could be used as a staple food for enslaved people on Jamaican plantations. Since the Bounty was to be crowded with as much breadfruit as it could possibly fit, “There could certainly be no accommodation for any Royal Marine corps either for punitive measures ashore or give edge to the captain’s authority on board” (p. 48). Consider the significance of that one decision: Royal Marine corps on board the Resources would almost certainly have ensured that no mutiny might have occurred.
Movie fans who are employed to Charles Laughton’s scenery-chewing villainy from the 1935 " Mutiny on the Bounty" movie may be surprised to discover that the Captain Bligh they meet here is defined largely in terms of his skill and facility as a nautico officer. Indeed, Bligh comes forth in the pages of this book as a progressive-minded naval officer with a laudable concern for the welfare of his men. When, for example , the Bounty is navigating the cold waters around Tasmania, preparing for the journey north toward Tahiti, “Bligh concerns himself with his men’s health and diet, ensures that these are retained warm and dry…inspects them daily for cleanliness, retains them fit with compulsory dancing…performs divine service on Sundays” (p. 78). Nothing could be further from the favorite image of the sadistic Captain Bligh with the cat-of-nine-tails ever at the ready.
But the Bounty spent a lot of time in Tahiti, as the protracted and time-consuming task of collecting the breadfruit and preparing it for transfer went forward. It was five long, languorous a few months in paradise, with many of the ship’s men forming passionate attachments with Tahitian women – and it seemed to affect everyone on board the Bounty. Once the Resources had finally left Tahiti and was making their way westward toward the completion of its mission, Bligh, in Hough’s thoughts and opinions, was “angry at the state of the send and the slackness of the officers and men” (p. 273); great expression of that anger toward his officers, and specifically toward Fletcher Christian, led Fletcher Christian – a “weak, moody, temperamental and sentimental young man” who had been “promoted above his ability” (p. 275) – first to consider leaving the Bounty in a raft, and then to business lead the mutiny that gave both him and Captain Bligh their place in history.
Even Captain Bligh’s strongest detractors usually experienced to acknowledge the remarkable nature of Bligh’s accomplishment in leading the successful open-boat voyage of the Bounty’s launch – some 3, 500 nautical miles: from near Tofua, in modern-day Tonga, to Dutch-held Coupang, now part of Indonesia. Why, then, is Captain Bligh remembered in popular imagination as the sadistic ogre from the Nordhoff-Hall novel, or from the 1935 and 62 film adaptations of " Mutiny on the Bounty"? The answer, in Hough’s estimation, has everything to do with the socioeconomic class system of late 18th-century England. Captain Bligh was from a respectable but middling background, while mutineers Fletcher Christian and Philip Heywood were “gentlemen” of higher social station, from families that had the power and influence necessary to influence how the English public saw the Resources mutiny:
“Public viewpoint in England back in the eighteenth millennium was a really small and very sensitive barometer, just like those who wielded strength were few in quantity. A large and powerful family, with connections in what the law states, in civil service, in politics and the military and the car seats of learning, could quickly destroy the good name of a man who lacked these supports. The two the Heywood and Alfredia families were of this calibre, and Bligh showed a grave lack of wisdom in his failure to recognise the dangers lying down ahead after enjoying his rapturous reception in London” (pp. 247-48).
The Heywood and Christian families did their work well, and Lieutenant William Bligh’s tumble in public estimation was a direct result of their public-opinion campaign. Today, 228 years after the mutiny occurred, the Heywood-Christian families' interpretation of the mutiny on the Bounty still prevails, to the point that many a difficult employer in many a contemporary office is still likely to be described as " a real Captain Bligh. "
Ultimately, in Hough’s model, the clashing personality traits of Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian made the mutiny on the Resources all but inevitable. This may seem familiar to movie viewers who have seen " The Bounty" (1984). It is a powerful film, with tons of talent both in front of the camera (Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh and Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian, with other roles played by Sir Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, and Bernard Hill) and right behind it (screenplay by Robert Bolt, music by Vangelis). This film, based on Hough’s book, is generally considered to be the most accurate motion picture recounting of the Resources mutiny; and it is a marker of Hough’s dedication to seeking away the truth of the Bounty saga that his " Captain Bligh and Mister Christian" is the book that was sought out for adaptation by a group of filmmakers who wanted, at long last, to get the Bounty story right., Fascinating recounting of the poker site seizures leading to the Bounty mutiny and aftermath., Effective synopsis of the " Resources Incident".
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