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Cotton bales aboard HMS Bounty?


Captain Al
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Several of us builders are using the Artesiana Latina kit.  There are instructions and materials provided to make simulated cotton bales.  I've seen a few completed models that have used these bales in the hold (note the model is open on starboard side) and which look pretty good.  Aside from the scale dimensions the kit suggests (my guess -- way too large), my real question is whether or not and why the Bounty would be carrying cotton bales.  McKay's book makes no mention of the ship's cargo.  Does anyone have any knowledge of this?  The space it takes up could be put to more authentic use.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought she was loaded up with breadfruit on her mutiny voyage, and the space that had to be made over to the plants was one of the causes of dissatisfaction on board.

 

(Along with Bligh's personality - although a relatively humanitarian captain and a superior seaman, he seems to have very few people skills. Some years later, when the governor of New South Wales, he suffered another mutiny, known as the Rum Rebellion, this time by the New South Wales Corps, who were supposed to keep order in the colony but had let power go to their heads).

 

Steven 

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Well yes, the breadfruit plants were the primary, maybe even the sole reason for the voyage that ended in mutiny.  The A.L. kit provides ample space for those plants and yes, they took up so much space in the 'garden' that even the Captains quarters were located amidships.  I am one of the few builders of Bounty who chose not to put green plants in my pots.  My rationale was that these plants were only on board Bounty for a short period of time -- from when they were obtained in Tahiti to when they were tossed overboard by F. Christian and his men.  The long voyage from England to Tahiti had no breadfruit plants.  So my model represents Bounty on its outbound leg.

 

This all does not answer the question though about cotton bales.  Were they put into the kit by A.L. just to fill space down below or was there some historic context to it? 

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Believe that cotton was imported into England, not exported. Common sense would lead one to think that the manufacture of the model that they would make good fillers in their model, maybe had to many on hand from another model and unlikely anyone would ever question the cotton bale filler. Those who are bothered by this, put ships stores in their place and move on. Those that are not bothered, also move on and use them, tell anyone who asks, that it’s there so the native women will have, for the first time, material that they can weave into comfortable bras. A PR gesture.  :P

jud

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I like your thinking. 

 

The 'bales' are not really supplied by AL, they just tell you to cut up some pieces of wood and cover them with the material provided (which in my case was not provided).

 

I'm not really hung up on this and haven't decided on what I'll do with the space.  Its just one of those quirky things that come around on occasion.  When we were growing up there was this game that went: "what's wrong with this picture?" and there would be one little obscure detail that just did not make sense.  Such is cotton bales on Bounty.  And you're right; England was an importer of cotton and that's why they were Confederate sympathizers in the great War of Northern Aggression (as southerners like to still call it).  Judging by your name, you may be among them.  And as Seinfeld would say, "not that there's anything wrong with that." :D

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Captain Al

 

Thanks for the explanation.

Shiloh is my wife’s login name. My computer went bonkers and I could not log in. Don’t know what hit my machine but the computer whiz cleared the disk and reloaded the operating system, it stayed up about 3 weeks and again went down. Early on I asked my wife to join so I could use her login to see everything a guest can’t and I was soon posting. My login name is, jud, hers is Shiloh. The name of a horse I gave her the day he was conceived, had to put him down a few years ago on my wife’s birthday of all things. Don’t know why she chose the name and I never questioned her about it, other than asking what she would name the colt. Both Northwest nativies.

jud

Edited by shiloh
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Glancing through Bligh’s log, I can find no reference to cotton bales being on board the Bounty and have never of heard this before. I am practically certain AL are incorrect here (they should have done their homework) and you would therefore be justified in leaving them out. Bounty was quite a small ship and I'm sure nothing was taken which wasn't needed.

 

Their inclusion doesn’t make any sense anyway. Cotton was not grown in England, probably because the climate is too cold and wet and it was imported from America, India and other countries. In any case, why would they then transport them to Tahiti? Bligh had been there before with Cook, so knew that the natives made cloth from coconut fibres etc., ie., from what was grown on the island. They wouldn’t have needed anything else.

 

There was no great trading scheme in place and, so far as I can gather, the items that were exchanged for the breadfruit were fairly simple things, such as mirrors, beads jewellery, some items of food, a few iron tools, etc., which seemed to satisfy the natives – at least at first. Bligh was later to find that other objects were ‘purloined’ by the natives and he had to lay down the law.  Conversely, the natives were mystified – and somewhat amused – as to why Bligh wanted breadfruit, which to them was cheap, plentiful and not worth anything!

Edited by Stockholm tar
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Thank you so much Stockholm for definitively settling the question of cotton or no cotton.  For all the reasons you stated it made no sense to me but I had no real documentation.  As to why England wanted breadfruit in the first place, maybe you can recall.  I believe it had something to do with thinking they could make a staple out of it and feed the peasants.  More like to feed the pheasants.

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Captain Al, John,

 

The reason behind the Bounty voyage was to collect the breadfruit and transport it, not to England itself, but to her sugar plantations in the West Indies – as cheap food for the slaves. I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it may have been Joseph Banks who was on Cook's voyage in 1768 in the Endeavour. Whoever it was, obviously noticed that the Tahitians ate it as part of their diet and took the idea from there. So, the voyage was really an experiment – which failed dramatically on several counts.

 

The Bounty of course was really too small, a converted merchant ship and, as has been pointed out, it was found that rather more space was needed for the breadfruit plants on the return journey than was expected – encroaching into living space and even Bligh's great cabin. Plants of course need water, so there had also to be space for additional water casks. One thing they had thought of was to send a gardener from Kew Gardens to tend the plants and I believe the voyage was specifically timed so that the young plants would be picked at the right time.

 

Two other points that have been made were that the crew, apart from some of the officers, weren't hand picked which might perhaps have been the case on this particular voyage. This would have weeded out some of the troublemakers and prevented the subsequent horrific events, but it seems as though the men were drawn from the usual sources as for any other ship. Thus many of them didn't really understand or care about the purpose of voyage – to them it was just another ship. Perhaps one other glaring error was that the Bounty didn't carry any Marines, part of whose duties was to prevent mutiny and protect the officers. However, nothing can be guaranteed one hundred percent!

 

Incidentally, a few years later Bligh did undertake a second breadfruit voyage which was successful and about which a book was written a few years ago. I can't remember its title, but I believe the ship was called the Providence. I think breadfruit, descendants of the original plants, still grows in the West Indies but have heard that the slaves refused to eat it. I'm not sure how true that is.

 

 

 

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I was referring to the connection to slavery in my comment.  This voyage was a possible solution to the question of how to spend even less feeding slaves.  But history is filled with practical solutions to bad ideas, and the Bounty is an amazing story.  (No less amazing is the fate of the 1960 Bounty reproduction.  Sunk by Hurricane Sandy, with some of the most dramatic rescue photos that can be believed.)

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