May 12, 2012

AWRF 2012: Captain Bligh

Who better than Georgia Prince, Manager of Auckland Libraries' Sir George Grey Special Collections, Regional Heritage and Research, could we ask to tell us about "Bligh", one of this festival's hit events?
In this session Anne Salmond was talking to Paul Diamond about the most notorious of all the Pacific explorers, Captain William Bligh of ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty” fame. Bligh is the subject of her latest book, Bligh: William Bligh in the South Seas, the last in her trilogy of books on Pacific voyaging.

As she said, most people want to know why she picked Captain Bligh as her subject. First, she described the key moments in her research which gave her sympathy and insight into this complex man. One was reading his tender and affectionate letters to his wife Betsy, and the other was reading his vitriolic annotations in the margins of the official account of the last voyage of Captain Cook. He absolutely disagreed with this account of Cook’s death ( he was there) and objected strongly to the credit for the charts he had produced as Cook’s Master being given to his superior officer, Lieutenant King. As a librarian, I found hearing about the value of research moments like these both illuminating and satisfying.

In Bligh’s defence, she talked about the impossible situation Bligh was put into by the organiser of the Bounty voyage, Joseph Banks, and how it was “a mutiny waiting to happen”. Bligh had no way of enforcing his authority, apart from verbal abuse, and he never understood when to hold his tongue. But she also talked about his remarkable ability as an ethnographer and observer of Tahitian customs, as well as his amazing feat of navigating from Tonga to Batavia (Jakarta) in an over-filled open boat with little food, water or navigational instruments.

An amazing story which kept us all us fascinated and entertained. As Paul Diamond said in his concluding remarks, “None of these are dead stories”.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:00


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