By Georgina Stewart
The National Maritime Museum has opened up an exhibit to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Captain Blyth’s death.
On the 28th of April 1789, mutineers aboard HMS The Bounty forced Cornishman, Captain Bligh, and 18 members of his crew, onto a longboat, then cast them adrift. The long boat had limited food (five-day rations for 19 men) and water and no maps and charts. It did however, have a quadrant, a compass, as well as navigational charts and a sextant that was broken, and naturally of no use.
Bligh famously managed to sail 3,618 nautical miles in the longboat; they arrived in Timor, in the South Pacific, on the 14th of June, where the governor warmly received them. The people who greeted them was surprised that they were practically skin and bone, and felt pity for them. Eventually, Captain Bligh returned to England. The Mutineers were either hanged, escaped, murdered (Fletcher Christian was in 1793), or went to colonize an island called Pitcairn, to escape wrath of the Navy.
The exhibit is very informative and very interesting. It covers all periods of Captain Bligh’s life. It also covers the question of whether Bligh was a hero or a villain, which I thought was very fascinating. The exhibit starts with a bit about his background. It goes on to explain how he joined the Navy. The famous seaman James Cook hired Bligh, when he was only 22. It also describes what the purpose of the journey was, and how he wasn’t given any marines or officers (something Bligh later complained about).
In history, Captain Bligh has been portrayed, as a villain and an oppressor. He’s been branded as a tyrannical Captain who got what he deserved, and that Fletcher Christian was a liberator. This isn’t necessarily true, the exhibit reflects this. Apparently, Captain Bligh almost never resorted to flogging (not as much as other captains did anyway), and instead preferred verbal put-downs. Eighteen of the crew remained loyal to him.
It covers what happened after as well, to both the mutineers, the loyalists, and the Captain. The whole thing is like being taken on a journey. This exhibit shows you fascinating artefacts from the period. Bligh wrote a letter to his wife, he was complaining about the mutiny. There is a speaker, where you can hear the letter being read by an actor.
The whole thing is incredibility well detailed and it captivates your attention. It was all well laid out, and ordered chronologically. If anyone were interested in this period then I would recommend it.
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