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Thursday, August 23, 2018

I have an interest in Bounty relics.  Many of these items pop up every so often (usually in the form of copper, nails, or cannonballs), while some have pretty much “been around” openly for quite a while (the anchor, cannons, swivels, ballasts, manuscripts...I wish).  Then you have relics that are not from the Bounty or are suspect in origin, and I will discuss one of each of those in this week’s article.  Please note that when I talk of the “dubious” item (the bell), it is my opinion brought about by what I know.


Bounty had a few anchors of varying sizes, and as we all know, one of the bowers was raised in the 1950’s, preserved and mounted in the main square in Adamstown where it sits today.  What of the rest?  Well of the other large bowers, they were cut when the Bounty departed Tahiti under the mutineers (both times).  Now one of these was believed to have been found in the 1930’s and raised.  It remained in Tahiti for a short time before it found its way into the Auckland War Memorial Museum where it remained until the 1990’s when it was indefinitely loaned to the Auckland Maritime Museum where it stands today (I’m quite sure it’s still there, but it’s been a while since I’ve been inside).  Around the year 2000 I worked for a few months there as a volunteer and had access to the anchor.  My initial excitement fell flat when I saw it was different from the one on Pitcairn.  Comparing it to measurements and pictures I had of the Pitcairn one, I came to the conclusion that it couldn’t be off the Bounty.  Some years later I asked Dr. Nigel Erskine and he confirmed it, stating that the design came from the early 1800’s.  I did pass this on to the museum, but when I was last there (about ten years ago), they still had a sign stating that it was the Bounty’s.  Verdict:  Not a genuine Bounty artefact.


This next artefact I’ve written about before elsewhere (I really need to go through and see what topics I’ve covered for “Norfolk Online” and make sure I don’t double-up).  On Pitcairn, in a private collection there is a rather large bell that is missing its crown.  It must have been quite impressive in its prime, but as a child I remember seeing it inverted and used as a flower pot.  And yes, some said it was from the Bounty.  Of course, even as a kid this always had me excited...the bell of the Bounty...its voice!  But there was one dampener, and that was what some in my family said of its history.  They said it was a gift from a navy ship in the late 1800’s!  Though still unsure, I measured it and took extensive photos in 2003.  A source who reviewed this information was of the opinion that it was probably of Spanish/South American make.  Eventually I found something in the archives which tipped my opinion in favour of the non-Bounty stance.  What follows is my pieced-together history of the bell:  In April, 1881 the HMS Thetis visited Pitcairn, and her commander, Captain Stevens gifted a bell he had obtained in Coquimbo, Chile.  The gift was appreciated and was mounted in the square and used for many years.  It was said to be very loud and could be heard anywhere on the island.  In the 20th century sometime, one of the island men who saw a ship on the horizon “he go down un club ha bell!  He da rough he brekk off ha top un ma-owloo et, senden ha bell to hell” (those were the words of my grandmother)  In other words, he rang it so hard it broke off the top.  It remained as a gradually forgotten ornament until the current owners took it and made it into a pot plant and is now on display at their house.  Verdict:  In all seriousness it is a fascinating artefact in and of itself, but in my opinion the evidence weights against it being from the Bounty.  Perhaps the real one exists somewhere on the island, buried and forgotten...or maybe it lies buried in the growth in Bounty Bay.


Well, that is it for this week.  For some reason I feel like building a model of the Bounty...

PHOTO 01:  The genuine Bounty anchor on Pitcairn today.

PHOTO 02:  The dubious Bounty Bell.

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