Friday, 18 April 2008

Jenny and the Mutineers

Not Jenny really, but Teehuteatuaonoa. It's obvious the problems a British tongue is going to have with that name, so "Jenny" it was. Before we get all indignant of the British habit of doing this, the thing went both ways (as pointed out in this narrative - a name as simple to a anglophone as "Cook" was translated by many Islanders as "Tooti"). Names changed and indeed were swapped between friends from island to island. As time passed the various pidgins of the Pacific Islands developed as a boon to Europeans and Pacific Islanders of all cultures and languages. Helped get things done. And the people of the 19th century were very, very good at getting things done.
Peter Dillon, a trader with a keen sense of Pacific history and culture, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time, interviewed Teehuteatuaonoa and returned to Calcutta with this story.

By the time this story appeared in 1829, the mutiny of the Bounty had passed into folklore, and just about everybody involved, including Bligh; who had had a glittering naval career, were dead. It is valuable in that without this account, we wouldn't have all those lovely movies!

Poor old Bligh - Sailed with Cook (3rd voyage), fought with and was a close confidante of Nelson, friends with Joseph Banks, showed real concern for his crews (eg the three watch system and barely ever flogging anyone), an awesome navigator and draftsman, has been really hard done by - the victim of inexperienced sailing officers and monopolists soldiers in Sydney. Still, he lived a long and adventurous life, was recognised by those who mattered and made it to Vice Admiral of the Blue. And he's still famous. That's a lot better than his horny and selfish subordinates ever did (except Christian being famous). So he swore a lot - wouldn't you, having to deal with these dickheads?

Two sets of clippings again today Teehuteatuaonoa' story above, is taken from the United Service Journal and Military Magazine, 1829, part II. (Although I loathe most popular poetry after the romantics up until the modernists kick-started things again, I kind of like the sea bird poem. I once spent 15 days at sea on a 30 foot sailing yacht. Coincidentally we used a three watch system between the three of us crewing, which meant the only company was the birds. And they were there, day after day, every day).

The second clipping below is a reprint of Bligh's descriptions of the mutineers. Looks like in Tahiti they just hung out all day getting tattoos. I love his brevity, which at the same time creates a great picture of each man. The source for the transcription is from Paul Brunton (ed) "Awake bold Bligh! William Bligh's letters describing the mutiny on HMS Bounty". Allen and Unwin in partnership with the State Library of NSW. 1989. He wrote these descriptions as soon as he and his loyal crew made land after their epic journey in an open boat.

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