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Departure of the Bounty.-Voyage. —Arrival at Tahiti, and sailing from
thence to the West Indies.
The Bounty was commissioned and fitted out at Deptford. She was ship-rigged, and in these days would have appeared a quaint, unwieldy vessel, having been built for the merchant service, in which capacity for stowage is generally considered of more importance than sailing qualities. Her size, 215 tons, was by no means large for so distant a voyage, and as her internal fittings were prepared for the reception of young bread-fruit trees, there remained but indifferent accommodation for the officers and crew. This was, however, a minor consideration to young and buoyant spirits, full of ardor for the expedition, and eager to visit the beautiful islands recently discovered by Wallis,* and enthusiastically described by Cook.
But high-wrought expectations are seldom realized. Even before the Bounty was ready for sea, symptoms of discontent began to manifest themselves among the crew. Lieutenant Bligh was charged with the duties of purser, as well as those of commander of the ship; an arrangement which, although the rule of the naval service at that time, was attended with many disadvantages. Such a combination was especially unfortunate in the case of Lieutenant Bligh, who, besides being of an irritable and passionate disposition, was of a most suspicious turn of mind. The language he indulged in, both to officers and
* The Society Islands were first discovered by Captain Wallis, in 1767.
men, was so harsh and offensive as to be exceptional, even at a period when it was deemed that discipline could not be maintained without the use of opprobrious and profane epithets. During the fitting out, he often accused the men of purloining the ship's stores, thus occasioning resentful feelings in the minds of many, and rendering himself generally unpopular.
On a dull, cold morning (the 9th of October, 1787), the fitting out of the Bounty was completed, and, leaving the dock at Deptford, she dropped down our great water highway to Long Reach. She departed, as thousands of ships had before, and thousands have since, accompanied by the hearty English cheer of “God speed,” which gladdens the heart of the mariner; and followed, no doubt, by many a prayer for the safety and success of the outward bound. Who, among the assembled spectators, could have dreamed of the strange fate which awaited her, or of the perils and singular adventures even of those of her officers and crew who were destined to return to the shores of England !
At Long Reach the vessel remained a few days, and then left for Spithead, where she anchored on the 4th November. Before proceeding farther, it may be well to mention that among
papers relative to the Bounty which are in the possession of the authoress of this little volume, there is a journal kept by James Morrison, one of the petty officers of the Bounty. It appears from this diary that Morrison possessed literary attainments far beyond the generality of seamen of his time. As being the production of an eye-witness on board the vessel, and giving a fair general view of the proceedings, with some important remarks touching the relative positions of her officers and men, it is here adopted in the absence of all other information concerning her outward voyage to Tahiti. James Morrison thus commences his diary:
“1787.-After several ineffectual attempts to put to sea, in one of which some of our sails were carried away, we sailed on the 23d of December, with a strong easterly gale, which by the 27th soon increased to a heavy one, in which we sustained some damage; the vessel also shipped a sea which injured the boat, and tore all the planks from the large cutter's stern. Another sea stove in a part of the Bounty's stern between the dead-lights, but did little other damage, except breaking an azimuth compass, and wetting a few bags of bread in the cabin. The breach in the stern was soon secured, and the ship hove to the wind, as it had become dangerous to scud.
“ When the weather moderated, we made sail. The carpenter repaired the boat and other damages. We met with no other accident, or any thing material, till the 5th of January, 1788, when we made the Island of Teneriffe, and anchored in the roads of Santa Cruz on the 6th. Here we completed our water, and took on board some wine for the ship's use, and several casks for gentlemen in England and the West Indies, four quarters of miserable beef, a few pumpkins, and a goat and kid (which died soon after); these being all the supplies we received. As to the beef, it was for the most part thrown overboard by the men, who had not yet sufficient appetite to eat what they supposed to be the flesh of a donkey or mule.'
“ On the 14th of January we left Santa Cruz, and stood to the s.w. with a fine breeze and pleasant weather. The ship's company were now distributed in three watches, and Mr. F. Christian appointed to act as lieutenant, by order of Lieutenant Bligh, which order was read to the ship's company. Mr. Bligh then informed them that, as the length of the voyage was uncertain, and as it was doubtful whether we should be able to get round Cape Horn (the season being so far advanced), it became necessary to be careful of the provisions (particularly bread), that they might hold out. He therefore ordered the allowance of bread to be reduced to two-thirds, which was cheerfully