The Mutiny on the Bounty By Charles Nordhoff and James Hall Summary and Analysis Chapters 18-19

Summary

On its journey home, the Pandora strikes ground and instantly water rushes on board. The Pandora's crew makes haste to get rid of the water, while the prisoners beg to be freed of their irons to help bail, but Edwards refuses, increasing their guard two-fold. As the Pandora is sinking, a crewman jumps in the roundhouse and unshackles the prisoners. Some of the men of the Pandora reach safety in smaller boats, but many of them drown because they don't know how to swim.

The small boats come to rest on a sandbar, and of the prisoners, Stewart, Sumner, Hillbrandt, and Skinner are missing and presumed drowned. Tents are made from salvaged sails to shelter the crew, but Edwards refuses to allow the surviving prisoners any shelter under the tents.

Captain Edwards orders the Pandora's carpenters to repair the damage done to the small boats so that they can attempt to reach the island of Timor, where it is very likely that they will be picked up by an English ship. After the boats are repaired, the group sets out and reaches the Australian coastline after a day's journey. Only the crew of the Pandora is allowed to go ashore, where they find a spring to quench their frenzied thirst. The prisoners are forced to remain on the boats until Edwards decides to allow them to go ashore for water.

The boats set out the following day and find an island, but their attempt to land is abandoned after they encounter a hoard of unfriendly jet-black savages on the island's beach. The boats then head for another island and discover it to be uninhabited. Relevantly, Edwards sends Byam and Morrison in search of food because his own men can find nothing more than a few sea snails. The two men return to the camp loaded with lobsters, fish, and mussels. The group stays on the island, which Edwards names "Laforey's Island," for two days before embarking.

The lack of water affects the men greatly. One man offers all of his money to another man for one day's water allowance. Some of the men become so thirsty that they drink their own urine and die shortly thereafter.

After thirteen days at sea, the four boats reach the island of Timor, where the prisoners are taken to the fort in Coupang and put in stocks under Lieutenant Parkin's care.

After a very brief detainment in Timor, the prisoners are put aboard a ship bound for Batavia, and, upon reaching Batavia, they are transported to another ship, along with Captain Edwards and the crew of the Pandora, headed for the Cape of Good Hope. From the Cape of Good Hope, the ship Gorgon takes Byam and his fellow prisoners, as well as Edwards and his crew, to England, arriving on the nineteenth of June in Portsmouth Harbor. Four years and six months have passed since the departure of the Bounty, and during that time, Byam and the other prisoners have spent nearly fifteen months in chains.

Analysis

The cruelty of Captain Edwards is vividly evident in these chapters. However, we must remember that he has been charged with the duty of apprehending mutinous criminals and bringing them back to England to stand trial. To Edwards, these men are the basest felons imaginable — they revolted against their captain-and, as a captain himself, Edwards has a vested interest in seeing these men dutifully hanged in England as an example to any seaman who might consider mutiny. On the other hand, today's readers have difficulty fathoming his deliberate cruelty and comprehending why Edwards would leave the men locked in the sinking ship, as well as why he would leave the men totally exposed to the blistering sun-especially when there is an unused sail lying nearby which could have given them protection.

Chapter 19 contains the essence of the boring tedium during the long journey home, sparked by only a few unusual occasions. On one such occasion, the prisoners are responsible for literally saving the other sailors from starvation because they learned how to fish and survive in a primitive situation while they lived on Tahiti. Despite this generosity, however, they are still treated brutally. Likewise, the superb ship that several of the prisoners built is sold for a nice profit, but, again, the prisoners are without rights and receive no benefit from the sale. Significantly, the exhausted prisoners are treated decently by the Dutch captain — to the chagrin of Captain Edwards.

Glossary

three feet [of water] in the hold three feet of water in the cargo space between the lowermost deck and the bottom of the ship.

a small sandy key a reef, or low island; also spelled cay.

a gill of wine one-fourth pint.

pinnace a light sailing vessel, especially one used in attendance on a larger vessel.

lay-to to check the motion of a ship.

the blue yawl a small, two-masted boat, usually manned by four oarsmen.

latitude the angular distance north or south from the equator on the earth's surface.

longitude the angular distance east or west on the earth's surface.

booby a tropic seabird; two of the most common boobies are the red-footed booby and the blue-footed booby.

placed in stocks placed in a wooden framework with holes for securing the wrists and ankles in order to expose a person to public ridicule.

extenuating circumstances circumstances which make a fault seem less serious.

H.M.S. Gorgon His Majesty's Ship Gorgon.

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