Scrutiny On the Bounty: Captain Bligh's Secret Logbook

"No monster on the high seas has equaled the infamous ship captain William Bligh. And no movie fan can forget the scene in which Charles Laughton, the definitive Bligh in the 1935 film, instructs his crew to keep flogging a man. That he's dead makes no difference to Bligh, lips curled with unfettered malignancy.
"Everything you think you know about Bligh is utterly wrong, says best-selling writer Caroline Alexander ..." —USA Today

February 2, 1789. Position 18º52'3" S, 129º27'45" W. Winds light, W by WSW. Seas 2-4 feet. Am much vexed on account of Mr. Christian. His mood-compass vacillates sharply between Hysterical Agitation and Sullen Lethargy. I had so wanted this Voyage to be special for him.

Last night upon seeing him brooding, I told him I would stand his Watch and to go below and curl up in his bunke with a saucy book and a tot of grog. Whereupon he expostulated at me with such Violence that all I could do was mutter, "I keenly regret that you should feel so, dear man," and retreat to my own cabin.

Calmed myself by re-drawing the Admiralty charts of the North and South Atlantick, which I found to be rife with Errors.

Febr. 10. Upon examining the Log, I found that Fletcher, who of late hath taken to addressing me as "Captain Bilge," had put us on a course not for Otaheite but for the Greate Barrier Reefe—named by myself on my Voyage with the late Captain Cook, God rest his fine soul.

Not wanting to embarrass him in front of the other Officers, I quietly ordered the helm up 2 1/2 points. Whereupon he appeared on the quarterdeck, wearing no Breeches but only a nightshirt and a most fierce look in his eyes, and proceeded to accost me in a manner alarming and disrespectful, calling me Names which Decency prevents me from here enumerating.

I could only reply abashedly, "But your course, good man, though indubitably well intentioned, would have set us upon Sharke Rocke!"

But he would hear none of it, and called me the sharke.

"Fletcher, Fletcher, Fletcher," I said to him with a soothing aspect, "pray lie down, and I shall send Surgeon to bleed you of this unbecoming Humour."

Thereat he threw his grog cup at my feet and stormed off, beating an angry quadrille with his boot-heels upon the deck.

To the men looking on this unfortunate incident I said, "Mr. Christian is not himself, but he is a fine officer and will be well soon. Now look lively, lads, and spruce the t'uppergallants! Lively, now! Strike the foresnocker and slack the trice-halyards! Look sharp, my chickens! We shall have a tasty surprise at supper—I have ordered a well-drenched rumcake, and after, we shall dance a jig or two!"

March 3. Otaheite. At anchor. The putting aboard of the Bread-fruit proceeds. It is good to see the men so happy. The Native girls are exceeding generous with their charms.

March 15. Otaheite. Cross with myself over incident last night. Returned to the ship after surveying the island for the Admiralty, to find Fletcher in mine own berth making exceeding merry with three Native Dollies, one of whom, a girl not twelve years of age, is the daughter of the High Priest Mahoota-ete, upon whose Good Will the success of our mission very much depends.

This rude surprise, coupled with an fierce Migraine, the result of a Malaria contracted whilst ashore harvesting Bread-fruit, the men being too occupied with fornicating to assist me, put me in no good temper, which I thereupon proceeded to lose.

I abused Fletcher most severely, calling him a "randy ram" and "disgraceful" and "unprofessional." It is with Mortification that I recall my speech. Fortunately, my expostulations went unheard, as he had passed out, either from Surfeit of Eros or my (rather good) '78 Madeira.

At anchor. This morning's muster attended only by the cabin boy, Tom, three men of the larboard watch, two of the starboard, the carpenter, and the ship's Parrot, Algernon, the rest of the crew being still ashore in pursuit of Venery.

Have resolved to sail upon the morning tide and commence our historick voyage to His Majesty's slave plantations in Guyana with our cargoe of nutritious high-fiber Bread-fruit. (Reminder to self upon return to England to mount a Campaign for the Abolition of Slavery, a most unnatural and abhorrent practice.)

The sooner we are under the discipline of the sea, the better.

April 21. At sea—finally! Men very sullen at having left their Toffee-darlings behind and glower at me if I so much as suggest—for I no longer bother ordering them—that they might attend to the sails.

At 7 bells espied a dark Squall approaching from SW. "Up, lads!" I called out. "Up my darlings, briskly, and douse the midforemizzen and furl the afterwanker, or we shall lose them!"

Presented by

Christopher Buckley

Christoper Buckley is an author, satirist, and novelist. His books include Thank You for Smoking and Supreme Courtship. Buckley was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush.

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