Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/202

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The tale of the Bounty and of the tragic fate which overtook these rash and childlike wanderers in search of Elysium had been familiar to later generations, but the wonderful voyage of Lieutenant Bligh and his exiles in the open boat has been forgotten and unsung. Even to this day it deserves to be called one of the prodigious adventures of seafaring history. A man disgraced and humiliated beyond expression by the ridiculously easy manner in which his ship had been taken from him, Bligh superbly redeemed himself and wiped the stain from his record by keeping his open boat afloat and his men alive through a voyage and an experience unequaled before or since.

The boat was a small, undecked ship's yawl only twenty-three feet long, such as one may see hanging from a schooner's davits. Eighteen men were crowded upon the thwarts, and their weight sank her almost to the gunwale. They were adrift in an unknown ocean which teemed with uncharted reefs and perils, there was only a few days' supply of food and water, and four cutlasses were the weapons against hostile attack. In the boat, besides Commander Bligh, were the master, the acting surgeon, botanist, gunner, boatswain, carpenter, three mates, two quartermasters, the sail-maker, two cooks, the ship's clerk, the butcher, and a boy.