Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to Safety -- 4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat

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9780756753153: Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to Safety -- 4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat
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It is dawn, April 28, 1789. Captain William Bligh, commander of the HMS Bounty, and his eighteen men are herded by mutineers onto a twenty-three-foot launch and abandoned in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Covering 4,162 miles on the way to Java, the small boat and its men are subject to storms, illness, starvation, and attacks by islanders. Still, the journey stands as one of the greatest achievements in European seafaring history -- and a personal triumph for the historically misjudged Bligh. Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare reveals, in vivid and breathtaking detail, Bligh's astounding mapmaking skills, explores his guilt over Captain Cooks' death, and discusses the failure of the Bounty expedition. Combining extensive research with gripping storytelling, Toohey tells a compelling tale of exploration, mutiny, and survival -- while reinstating Captain William Bligh as a legendary hero.

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Review:

Ignore the silly title; this book is a gem. Subtitled "From the Bounty to safety--4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat," it tells the little-known story of what happened to Captain Bligh after the Bounty mutineers herded him and those 18 other crewmen who refused to go along with the mutiny into a 23-foot-long boat and set them adrift in open ocean. And it is a continually amazing tale. John Toohey writes vividly but unpretentiously, bringing to life Bligh's youthful service with Captain Cook, an experience of mapping the South Seas that served him well when he eventually came to be marooned, as well as his Bounty experience. Navigating by the stars, bailing frantically as storms filled the tiny vessel with water, and eating the foulest stuff imaginable (when a booby was foolish enough to perch on the edge of the boat, they carved it up, discovering "to their joy" half-digested flying fish and squid in its stomach that they also ate "greedily"). You end up agreeing with Toohey that crossing the Pacific in a small boat under these incredible conditions constitutes "one of the greatest achievements in the history of European seafaring," and that Bligh himself--poor, maligned "sadist" Bligh--was actually a thoroughly decent and even heroic figure. It is a book out of the Longitude school, but a superior example of the type. Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare could just resurrect the man as a neglected hero. --Adam Roberts, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

John Toohey is a historian, photographer, documentary maker, and journalist. he has previously been shortlisted for the prestigious Vogel prize and lives in Perth, Australia.

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