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

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9780060195328: Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to Safety--4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat

At dawn on April 28, 1789, Captain William Bligh and eighteen men from HMS Bounty were herded onto a twenty-three-foot launch and abandoned in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Thus began their extraordinary journey to Java. Covering 4,162 miles, the small boat was battered by continuous storms, and the men on board suffered crippling illness, near starvation, and attacks by islanders. The journey was one of the greatest achievements in the history of European seafaring and a personal triumph for a man who has been misjudged by history.

Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare reveals Bligh's great mapmaking skills, used to particular effect while he was exploring with Captain Cook. We discover his guilt over Cool's death at Kealakekua Bay. We learn of the failure of the Bounty expedition and the myths that surround it, the trials and retributions that followed Bligh's return to England, his successes as a navigator and as a vice-admiral fighting next to Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen.

Combining extensive research with dazzling storytelling, John Toohey tells a gripping tale of seafaring, exploration, and mutiny on the high seas, while also dismissing the black legend of the cruel and foulmouthed Captain William Bligh and reinstating him not just as a man of his times but as a true 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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