Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Captain Bligh's Chronometer
PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:55 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 11:06 am
Posts: 2820
Location: mid-Wales
The Times had an interesting piece this morning about letters held by Cambridge University which reveal Captain Bligh's desperate attempt to retain the ship's chronometer during the mutiny. The Times has a paywall, so here is the Daily Mail's account.

It is astounding to think that Bligh, nevertheless, navigated his small band several thousand miles to safety.


 Post subject: Re: Captain Bligh's Chronometer
PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 8:12 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:11 am
Posts: 1376
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Thanks for that interesting post. The replies underneath also highlight just how much the newspapers seem to enjoy hyping and sensationalising such reports from the past, when the bare facts are really much more exciting and to the point.

Of course Bligh wanted the chronometer. Not only could he use it use it to navigate during the boat voyage (although as he was to demonstrate he hardly needed it, he being a supreme navigator) but it was also very valuable. Not only that, but I think Bligh, who was most fastidious and punctilious, had promised to return the instrument to the Board of Longitude, and he felt that by 'losing' it he was not keeping his promise. There was also the fact, I believe I am right in saying, that the compact watch was the first chronometer to be tested on a voyage, rather using than Harrison's earlier and bulkier instruments.

Thus there were several reasons why Bligh wished to take the instrument with him in the boat, not only the obvious one. The mutineers very likely didn't think, or know of, the others (not that they would have acted any differently if they had.) It seems to have been by pure luck that the instrument was returned to England.

Bligh must surely be one of the most unfairly maligned characters of the period, and it is a great pity that his superb navigational skills and seamanship weren't matched by a more human rapore with his men.


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