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THE OPEN-BOAT NAVIGATION
*The boat is lower'd with all the haste of hate,
With its slight plank between thee and thy fato ;
CHRISTIAN had intended to send away his captain and associates in the cutter, and ordered that it should be hoisted out for that purpose, which was done-a small wretched boat, that could hold but eight or ten men at the most, with a very small additional weight; and, what was still worse, she was so worm-eaten and decayed, especially in the bottom planks, that the probability was, she would have gone down before she had proceeded a mile from the ship. In this “rotten carcass of a boat," not unlike that into which Prospero and his lovely daughter were “hoist,"
did Christian intend to cast adrift his late commander and his eighteen innocent companions, or as many of them as she would stow, to find, as they inevi. tably must have found, a watery grave. But the remonstrances of the master, boatswain, and carpenter prevailed on him to let those unfortunate men have the launch, into which nineteen persons were thrust, whose weight, together with that of the few articles they were permitted to take, brought down the boat so near to the water as to endanger her sinking with but a moderate swell of the sea-and to all human appearance, in no state to survive the length of voyage they were destined to perform over the wide ocean, but which they did most miraculously survive.
The first consideration of Lieutenant Bligh and his eighteen unfortunate companions, on being cast adrift in their open boat, was to examine the state of their resources. The quantity of provisions which they found to have been thrown into the boat by some few kind-hearted messmates amounted to one hundred and fifty pounds of bread, sixteen pieces of pork, each weighing two pounds, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine, with twenty-eight gallous of water, and four empty barricoes. Being so nea) to the island of Tofoa, it was resolved to seek there a supply of bread-fruit and water, to preserve if possible the above-mentioned stock entire; but after rowing along the coast, they discovered only some cocoanut-trees on the top of high precipices, from which, with much danger, owing to the surf, and great difficulty in climbing the cliffs, they succeeded in obtaining about twenty nuts. The second day they made excursions into the island, but without success. They met, however, with a few natives, who came down with them to the cove where the boat was lying; and others presently followed. They made inquiries after the ship, and Bligh unfor. tunately advised they should say that the ship had
overset and sunk, and that they only were saved. The story might be innocent, but it was certainly indis. creet to put the people in possession of their defenceless situation; however, they brought in small quantities of bread-fruit, plantains, and cocoanuts, but little or no water could be procured. These supplies, scanty as they were, served to keep up the spirits of the men : “ They no longer,” says Bligh, “ regarded me with those anxious looks which had constantly been directed towards me since we lost sight of the ship: every countenance appeared to have a degree of cheerfulness, and they all seemed determined to do their best."
The numbers of the natives having so much increased as to line the whole beach, they began knocking stones together, which was known to be the preparatory signal for an attack. With some difficulty, on account of the surf, our seamen succeeded in getting the things that were on shore into the boat, together with all the men, except John Norton, quarter-master, who was casting off the stern-fast. The natives immediately rushed upon his poor man, and actually stoned him to death. A rolley of stones was also discharged at the boat, and every one in it was more or less hurt. This induced the people to push out to sea with all the speed they were able to give to the launch, but to their surprise and alarm, several canoes filled with stones followed close after them and renewed the attack; against which, the only return the unfortunate men in the boat could make, was with the stones of the assailants that lodged in her, a species of warfare in which they were very inferior tù the Indians. Tho only expedient left was to tempt the enemy to desist from the pursuit, by throwing overboard some clothes, which fortunately induced the canoes to stop and pick them up; and night coming on they returned to the shore, leaving the party in the boat to reflect on their unhappy situation.
The men now entreated their commander to take them towards home; and on being told that no hope of relief could be entertained till they reached Timor, a distance of full twelve hundred leagues, they all readily agreed to be content with an allowance, which, on calculation of their resources, the commander informed them would not exceed one ounce of bread and a quarter of a pint of water per day. Recommending them, therefore, in the most solemn manner, not to depart from their promise in this respect, “we bore away,” says Bligh, across a sea where the navigation is but little known, in a small boat, twenty-three feet long from stem to stern, deeply laden with eighteen men. I was happy, however, to see that every one seemed better satisfied with our situation than myself. It was about eight o'clock at night on the 2d May when we bore away under a reefed lug-foresail; and having divided the people into watches, and got the boat into a little order, we returned thanks to God for our miraculous preservation, and in full confidence of his gracious support, I found my mind more at ease than it had been for some time past."
At daybreak on the 3d, the forlorn and almost hopeless navigators saw with alarm the sun to rise fiery and red,-a sure indication of a severe gale of wind; and accordingly, at eight o'clock it blew a violent storm, and the sea ran so very high, that the sail was becalmed when between the seas, and too much to have set when on the top of the sea; yet it is stated that they could not venture to take it in, as they were in very imminent danger and distress, the sea curling over the stern of the boat, and obliging them to bale with all their might.“ A situa. tion," observes the commander, more distressing has perhaps, seldom been experienced.”
The bread, being in bags, was in the greatest danger of being spoiled by the wet, the consequence of which, if not prevented, must have been fatal, as the
whole party would inevitably be starved to death, if they should fortunately escape the fury of the
It was determined, therefore, that all superduous clothes, with some rope and spare sails, should be thrown overboard, by which the boat was considerably lightened. The carpenter's tool-chest was cleared, and the tools stowed in the bottom of the boat, and the bread secured in the chest. All the people being thoroughly wet and cold, a teaspoonful of rum was served out to each person, with a quarter of a bread-fruit, which is stated to have been scarcely eatable, for dinner, Bligh having determined to preserve sacredly, and at the peril of his life, the engagement they entered into, and to make their small stock of provisions last eight weeks, let the daily proportion be ever so small.
The sea continuing to run even higher than in the morning, the fatigue of bailing became very great ; the boat was necessarily kept before the sea. The men were constantly wet, the night very cold, and at daylight their limbs were so benumbed that they could scarcely find the use of them. At this time a tea-spoonful of rum served out to each person was found of great benefit to all. Five small cocoanuts were distributed for dinner, and every one was satisfied; and in the evening a few broken pieces of bread-fruit were served for supper, after which prayers were performed.
On the night of the 4th and morning of the 5th the gale had abated; the first step to be taken was to examine the state of the bread, a great part of which was found to be damaged and rotten-but even this was carefully preserved for use. The boat was now running among some islands, but after their reception at Tofoa, they did not venture to land. On the oth they still continued to see islands at a distance; and this day, for the first time, they hooked a fish, to their great joy; " but,” says the commander,
we were miserably disappointed by its being lost in