Bounty's ghosts boost bids for old naval logbook

Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:57am EST
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By Alexander Clare

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Bidders for a naval logbook detailing the first contact with a surviving mutineer from the HMS Bounty on his Pitcairn Island hideaway, drove the price up to 40 times its estimated value at an auction this week.

The logbook sold for 40,000 pounds ($65,520) by Cheffin's Auction House features illustrations and voyage data compiled by 18-year-old Midshipman John Bolton Woodthorp aboard the HMS Briton 25 years after the Bounty mutiny.

The crew of the Bounty, led by acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian mutinied against Captain William Bligh in 1789 and set him adrift in an open boat along with 18 others 24 days after setting sail from a long stay in Tahiti. Bligh survived by navigating to Timor.

In an entry dated Saturday September 17 1814, Woodthorp records the first sightings of the Bounty's descendants.

"Several canoes came onboard," Woodthorp writes in curling script. "Found the island inhabited by the descendants of Mr F Christian...Nine Englishmen, 11 Tahitian women and some men first settled here, burned the Bounty. They speak good English, likewise Tahitian language, at present are 48 inhabitants."

The navy had unsuccessfully scoured the seas searching for the mutineers and the mutiny remains a popular part of history that has been portrayed in films and television shows, including a 1984 film "The Bounty," which starred Mel Gibson as Christian.

By the time of the Briton's arrival, the only surviving mutineer was John Adams, who was spared arrest.

A spokesman for Cheffin's in Cambridge, England said that a family had accidentally stumbled across the logbook in their home, but it was a mystery as to how they had acquired it.   Continued...