Little Bits of History

Wreck of the Pandora

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 30, 2011

Lt.-Col. Batty's etching of Peter Heywood's painting of the foundering of HMS Pandora

August 30, 1791: The HMS Pandora sinks. The ship belonged to the British Royal Navy and was launched in May 1779. When first put to sea, she was stationed in the English Channel as Britain was threatened by the fleets of France and Spain. Later, during the American Revolutionary War, she was sent to the Americas. There she served as an escort between England and Quebec. As a single cruiser along the coast of America, she captured several rebel privateers. Finally, in 1783, she was retired from formal service.

On June 30, 1790, the HMS Pandora was brought back into service. It once again seemed that war might break out between England and Spain. But the Pandora’s orders were changed in August of that year. Five months after learning of the Mutiny on the Bounty, the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, ordered Pandora to go and recover the Bounty, capture the mutineers, and bring them back to England to stand trial. Her guns were refitted and she set sail from Portsmouth on November 7, 1790. She was captained by Edward Edwards and had a crew of 134 men.

Some of the mutineers had stayed loyal to Capt. Bligh and returned to Tahiti where they settled in with the natives, many having fathered children on the island. Fletcher Christian’s group sailed off and eventually landed and settled on Pitcairn Island. The Pandora reached Tahiti on March 23, 1791. Five of the men voluntarily boarded and nine more had to be hunted down. All fourteen were imprisoned. Edwards left Tahiti on May 8, 1791. He spent three months searching the South Pacific for the remaining mutineers.

Heading west, the ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on August 29. As she was sinking, the prisoners were released. As she slipped under the waters, 31 of the crew and 4 prisoners were killed. They settled on a small sand cay for two days and then set sail in four open boats and arrived in Kupang on September 16. Next they set sail for Jakarta and 16 more men died. Eventually 78 men were returned to England. Capt. Edwards was exonerated for the lost of the ship at a court martial. Four of the mutineers were found innocent, six were found guilty and of those, three were hanged. The descendants of the mutineers who made it to Pitcairn Island remain there to this day.

“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.” – George William Curtis

“The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind.” – William Falconer

“Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.” – H. P. Lovecraft

“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Also on this day:
Yesterdays and Todays – In 1909, the Burgess Shale site was discovered.
Thin Red Line – In 1963, a direct link between Washington, D.C. and Moscow was established.

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