Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bounty Mutiny Voyage Re-enactment

Today is April 28 in Australia, but it's only April 27 in Tonga, which is the other side of the International date line. So the Talisker Bounty Boat (TBB) is about to set sail for Timor, re-enacting the perilous voyage of William Bligh, captain of HMS (His Majesty's Ship) Bounty, after his crew had mutinied and set him adrift in an open boat. He travelled all the way to Timor, a feat which is thought to be the greatest navigational achivement in maritime history.

Bligh sailed a 45-foot (14 metre) open boat with 18 men from Tonga to West Timor in 48 days, surviving partly by catching fish and seabirds and drinking rain water.

His feat — achieved without charts or compass — has been portrayed in novels, poems and in several "Mutiny on the Bounty" films starring British actor Charles Laughton and Hollywood stars Clark Gable and Marlon Brando.

The new expedition is sailing in a 25-foot (7-metre) open deck boat, the Talisker Bounty, which has two small sails. The team expects to take seven weeks to cover the distance.

"It is going to be really an adventure," , the expedition leader, Australian Don McIntyre, told a reporter. "Our boat is half the size of Bligh's boat, so the challenge is trying to survive on board. Our biggest fear is capsizing."

Wikipedia says "Fletcher Christian (25 September 1764 – 20 September 1793) was a Master's mate on board the Bounty during William Bligh's fateful voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit plants. It was Christian who seized command of the Bounty from Bligh on 28 April 1789."

McIntyre said they would carry the same food as Bligh had on board in 1789. It included 150 pounds (67 kilograms) of ship biscuits, 16 pounds (7 kilograms) of pork, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine and 28 gallons (106 litres) of water.

Like Bligh, the crew has no modern navigational equipment such as charts, compass or lights.

The team will film their re-enactment for a documentary.

The mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian, eventually settled in Pitcairn Island, where they burnt the Bounty, sinking its hull so they could not be found.

About 50 of their descendants still live on the remote island, Britain's last remaining territory in the Pacific. Others live on Pitcairn Island.

English actor Charles Laughton starred in a memorable film, Mutiny on the Bounty. American heart-throb Clark Gable was cast as Fletcher Christian. You can see brief extracts in a trailer posted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher_Christian. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1935.

A few days ago I asked Stuart Keane, an expedition member, how they coul claim their boat was a replica of the original, since it's only half the size. He replied:

The Talisker Bounty Boat is indeed smaller than the original BB. It is very similar to Shackleton's James Caid. All three were classed as whaling boats.

The TBB with a crew of four represents the same challenge that Bligh and his crew had, in as much that the TBB crew will only have the same square footage per man that Bligh and his men had and the same freeboard.

Don McIntyre considered building an exact replica but came to the conclusion that it would be a problem getting eighteenrew to volunteer, also the cost would be prohibitive building a larger one.

This was a wise decision in view of the fact of the problems with crew pulling out at the last minute and a tremendous overrun of the budget due to unforeseen problems like the trouble Don has had with his onboard communications satellite systems.

If anything it's a greater challenge with such a smaller boat on those huge seas which are forecast.

Incidentally I am meeting tomorrow with a professor of fine arts, David Cotterill from Sheffield University. He has created a computerised film of the view that the crew would have had from the original Bounty Boat.

He gathered his material from historic documents such as Bligh's log and weather reports of that time His film runs for ten hours and Don sees it as an ideal backdrop to the Talisker Bounty Boat when it returns and is displayed at museums throughout the world.

Stuart said that Fletcher Christian's brother was in the crowd farewelling the re-enactment boat. "Just after a photo was taken we had crowds asking all about the TBBE and the chap slipped away without us getting his details -- perhaps you would like to run an international quest to find him. It would be fun and create added interest to our quest"

Why is the re-enactment vessel called the Talisker Bounty Boat?

Stuart Keane explained "Talisker is the name of the main sponsor of the TBB expedition 2010. It is the name of a single mallt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye in Scotland since 1830."

The Duke of Devonshire wrote
Dear Don and all your intrepid crew. This comes with very best wishes from Stoker and Amanda Devonshire in England. We have been following your progress so far on your web site and we are confident that you will have an epic and extremely successful journey.

The support that you are giving to the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease is hugely appreciated, and we look forward to seeing you on your return to congratulate you peronally. -- Ther Duke of Devonshire KCVO, CBE, DL

You can follow the journey by visiting the officil blog: http://www.bountyboat.blogspot.com/

FOOTNOTE: My sister Sylvia Oliver, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, says, "A challenging journey ... I hope they are successful. I don't know where mythical Hawaiki was, but there would be some Maori who would be sure their first canoes to reach NZ had a longer open boat journey in the 15th century."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bounty Boat Ready to Set Sail from Tonga

Last-minute new crew mambers have boarded the Bounty Boat which is due to sail from Tonga on April 28 to re-enact Lieutenant William Bligh's 3700-mile voyage from Tonga to Timor - the grestest open-boat navigation achievement in maritime history. Bligh had commanded HMS Bounty until most of the crew mutinied and set him adrift, with sailors who had refused to mutiny.

Australian adventurer Don McIntyre plans to set sail on April 28, in a replica of Bligh’s 25-foot-long, 5-foot-wide. boat built by Tongan craftsmen, following the journey across the Pacific from Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga to Timor. He hopes to begin his trip on the same day, at the same time and in the same place 221 years after Bligh's original voyage.

A few days ago, McIntyre wrote in his blog:
"Just to let you know how organised we are...it was in 1990 that I last had to use a sextant for real..that was when I sailed solo from Sydney to Tonga as my 2000 mile qualifying voyage before the BOC Challenge single handed around the world yacht race...I can still remember packing my sextant away when I dropped anchor just a few miles from here ..I have never used a sextant in earnest since..anyway I now have to learn how to do it again...I will be using an Octant.. Bligh had a head start but hey..I like a

Two days ago I sent this email to the expedition:

Hi Don. I've posted a story about your epic voyage in my blog http://lifebeginsat80.blogspot.com/

It has been published in the Pitcairn and Norfolk Island newspapers.

Do you know that the premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, is a great-great-great-great-great-grand-daughte of Bligh of the Bounty?

Good luck! Best wishes to you and your crew.

I received this reply from another crew member, Stuart Keane:

On behalf of the Sheffield Institute Foundation Patrons, thank you for posting the Talisker Bounty Boat Story so far. Pleases inform as many people as you can through your journalist skills and outlets,The more people who know about TBB and The SIF the more chance we have to get donations and help eradicate this most horrible of diseases.
Thanks a lot for your help.
Kindest regards

Stuart Keane,
To the Sheffield Institute Foundation,
for Research into Motor Neurone Disease,
& Other Neurological Disorders.
M 07737534918

The expedition has attracted great interest from the world's media, including the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/04/20/world/AP-AS-Tonga-Bounty-Voyage.html?_r=1

McIntyre has already given countless TV, radio and press interviews, and is sure to be asked for many more in the course of the voyage.

After making a donation to the Sheffield Instiuter Foundation in the UK, Jonathon, a keen suppoter of the re-enactment, , commented, "You are delightfully mad and a divine inspiration to us all! May your God go with you on this adventure."

The original Bligh of the Bounty later became governor of the Australian convict colony New South Wales,
which at that time included Queensland. He was a
bad-tempered, hard-swearing man who antagonised many of the citizenry, mostly military officers and wealthy settlers.

Eventually he was arrested. It was popularly believed that he had hidden under a bed in Government House to avoid arrest, but that story may be apocryphal.

He died in London on December 6,1817.

o You can follow the Bounty voyage by visiting the expedition's blog http://www.bountyboat.blogspot.com/. You can send them a message by adding a comment .

o Charles Laughton starred in a memorable film, Mutiny on the Bounty, in1937. A brief video is posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtmV2tpbnjA

o For more details about Bligh, see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bligh

P.S. I've just received another message from Stuart Keane. It reads:
The Crew are Don,McIntyre Skipper,
David Wilkinson,
David Pryce,(nick named Quilter)
and 18year old Chris Wylde
If you go on the Talisker Bounty Boat website and look under The Crew heading you can view the profile of each one.
Talsiker is the name of the main sponsor of the TBB expedition 2010,
It is the name of a single mallt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye in Scotland since 1830.
Cheers for now Stuart

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bligh of the Bounty voyage re-enactment

Will global warming affect Australian adventurer Don McIntyre's bid to re-enact Captain William Bligh's historic 3,700-mile voyage in an open boat, sailing from Tahiti all the way to Timor? The water will be warmer, and perhaps climate change will lead to perilous storms and huge waves.

McIntyre plans to set sail on April 28, in a replica of Bligh’s 25-foot-long, 5-foot-wide. boat built by Tongan craftsmen, following the journey across the Pacific from Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga to Timor. He will begin his trip on the same day, at the same time and in the same place 221 years after Bligh's epic original mutiny journey.

McIntyre has had to make last-minute changes to his crew, because a key member of his fellow adventurers dropped out at the last minute. He has been replaced by a London university student with no sailing experience but with a burning ambition to join the expedition.

A few days ago, McIntyre said ”This trip has been a long time in the making. Flying into the Kingdom of Tonga and looking at the blue ocean, I realised it is really all happening now. We were then given the friendliest welcome that you could ever imagine. We knew certainly that we are among friends when we got here.”

McIntyre then joked that “a couple of weeks ago I had my own mutiny and lost two of my crew”, referring to the fact that two of the Talisker crew members pulled out last week citing medical reasons. Mike Perham, who holds the record as the world's Youngest Solo Circumnavigator, pulled out after having his appendix removed. Perham was replaced last week by 18 year old Christopher Wilde, of Warwick in the UK, who has no boating or sailing experience at all but simply blind passion.

It was in April 1789 that the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ occurred just off the waters of the islands of Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga. The story goes that, whilst in the Pacific, the Bounty crew were attracted to the idyllic life and were angered by the (alleged) cruelty of their commanding officer William Bligh. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian and some of his followers and they tried to get Bligh to sail the Bounty back to Tahiti because they terribly missed their Tahitian mistresses. Bligh did not agree with the mutineers and he insisted they continue sailing to Australia. McIntyre added here that “someone stole the Captain’s coconuts and that cause the Mutiny”.

Fletcher Christian and his followers then cast commanding officer William Bligh and Bligh’s loyal crew adrift in a boat near Tofua Island in Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga. Whilst Fletcher and the mutineers sailed to Pitcairn Island and settled there, Bligh and his men sailed for 48 days and over an epic 4000 nautical miles from Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga to Kupang in Timor in an overloaded boat (traditionally used to lift an anchor) with little food or water and no charts.

McIntyre and the Talisker Bounty Boat crew face the same deprivations as the original crew that were cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific. Using their replica 18th century traditional open timber whale boat, they will relive Bligh’s nightmare by attempting to sail the same voyage under similar conditions with the same amount of food and water. Bligh and his crew only had 150lb of ships biscuits, 16 two pound pieces of Pork, 6 quarts of Rum, 6 Bottles of wine and 28 gallons of water.

The crew told the Tonga Visitors Bureau that they will carry 70g muesli bar, 210g baked beans, 90g ship biscuit, 2 liter water, 100g nuts, 75g raisins, 170g beef, 90g ship biscuit per person for 25 days only. They hope to catch fish, gather a supply of fruit, vegetable and coconuts in Tonga (rather than catch and eat birds) and supplement their 28 gallons of water with rain water.

A thin Wilde, who is on a mission to eat as much as possible in the next week in order to bulk up for the mission, is certainly in the right country for that. Not only are Tongans known for their inimitable sense of hospitality and musical talent, they are also known for their girth and love of feasting. McIntyre himself noted he’s purposely put on weight but expects to “loose 16kg by the end of the voyage”, adding “we will look pretty different by the end of it”. McIntyre explained that during their voyage, the crew will monitor their health by “taking blood samples every week and undergoing psych tests”. The latter causing laugher amongst the crew who will need to deal with emotions like fears and anger and use “
"self awareness and communication to create a stronger team and support each other throughout the difficult times, of which their certainly will be many”.
Will they survive on of the greatest open boat journeys in Maritime History? Their odds are far higher than if they were sufferers of a motor neurone disease. The Talisker Bounty Boat 2010 Expedition are making their journey to raise funds for the Sheffield Institute for Motor Neurone Disease.
McIntyre told the Tonga Visitors Bureau (Ministry of Tourism) that his crew plan to set up their a 25ft long, 7ft wide, open wooden vessel at Royal Sunset Resort (offshore from Tongatapu). They hope to have the boat, and their satellite blog that will record their positions automatically onto Google Earth every two hours and replicate Bligh’s meticulous Log, up and running as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Stuart Kershaw, the crew's expedition cameraman, will be steadfastly working on recording as much about Tonga and its people as possible for a 4-6 part documentary on the Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition. McIntyre expects the first episode to be about when preparations and one episode to start with his arrival in Tonga and finish as he sails away from the Island of Tofua, about five days after the Mutiny took place.