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Surprise packet Bligh Museum Bruny Island time capsule of great Pacific navigators

May 10, 2010
Surprise packet Bligh Museum Bruny Island time capsule of great Pacific navigators

Chris Martyn of Captain Cook Memorial Caravan Park, South Bruny Island blew GoSee away with the almost casual comment that he thought the logs of William Bligh of the Bounty could be seen just up Adventure Bay Road.

He was right the Bligh Museum at Adventure Bay not only has Bligh's logs but the small church like brick museum is a time capsule of early Pacific explorers.

It houses direct links to the landings and visits to Adventure Bay, Tasmania of some of the greatest explorer seamen ever to tread a deck.

Dutchman Abel Janzsoon Tasman, the yacht Heemskerck and the Fluyt Zeehaen in 1642, got blown out into Storm Bay. Tobias Furneaux, arrived in the barque HMS Adventure in 1773. Furneaux named Adventure Bay. Cook came in the 33.7m, 462 tons sloop HMS Resolution with 22-year-old Bligh aboard as sailing master in 1777, Bligh became a 'regular' with visits in 1788, 1792 and 1809.

Frenchman Rear Admiral Bruni d'Entrecasteax, frigates Le Recherche and Le Esperance 1792 and 1793, Matthew Flinders, the sloop Norfolk, 1798 and Nicolas Baudin, corvettes Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste in 1802.

Bruny Island with an English y carries d'Entrecastreaux's name.

Tobias Furneauxwho accompanied Cook on a voyage of discovery in the 40m barque HMS Adventure of 340 tonslanded in Adventure Bay on March 9, 1773. He replenished his food and water supplies before sailing to New Zealand to meet Cook in HMS Resolution.

Furneaux was the first English navigator in Tasmanian waters.

HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure were the first European ships to cross the Antarctic Circle in July 1772.

Bligh revisited Adventure Bay in 1788. Botanist Nelson planted a number of fruit trees on the east side of the bay which he brought from the Cape of Good Hope.

When Bligh, promoted to captain, returned in 1792 in the 32.8m, 407 tons sloop Providence on his second breadfruit voyage to Tahiti and Kingston Jamaica he found that one apple tree was still growing.

He notes in his 1792 log - It was a particular satisfaction to me to find one of the apple trees I planted here in 1788 - only one remained, and this also alive and healthy.

The Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration was established in 1954 by the late Dr John Bruce Hamilton to display a collection of many historical maps, documents, paintings and other artefacts.

The Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration was built with 26,000 hand made bricks brought from the convict built kiln at Variety Bay, North Bruny.

The foundation stone was laid on 200th anniversary of Captain William Bligh's birth 9th September 1954.

Cooks Tree Bruny Island  Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration Adventure Bay South Bruny
Cooks Tree Bruny Island Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration Adventure Bay South Bruny

William Bligh was born at Tinten Manor St. Tudy on September 9th 1754 and first went to sea in 1762, at the age of nine as a Captains personal servant on board HMS Monmouth.

He became a Midshipman in 1771 serving on HMS Crescent and HMS Ranger. He was intelligent, well-versed in science and mathematics and was also a talented writer and illustrator. At the age of 22 he was appointed Sailing Master on the Resolution and visited Adventure Bay with Cook on January 26th 1777.

In 1787 aged 33, Lt. Bligh was given command of His Majestys Armed Vessel the Bounty (HMAV Bounty) with a commission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies and set sail on December 23rd 1787.

The small, full-rigged ship 27.6m long, 220 tons HMAV Bounty was originally a three masted cargo ship which the British Admiralty had bought and modified.

In April 1789, following a further visit to Adventure Bay, the famous mutiny on the Bounty took place, led by Lt. Blighs one-time friend, Fletcher Christian.

Bligh and 18 other crew members loyal to him were set adrift on April 28th in the Bountys two-masted launch, an open boat, 7m long and 1.8m wide.

Such an act meant almost certain death for the men aboard, but Bligh, a magnificent seaman sailed from Tofua to Timor, Java. The journey of 3618 nautical miles took 48 days and ranks as an epic of open boat handling.

Bligh at Adventure Bay with HMAV Bounty 1788
Bligh at Adventure Bay with HMAV Bounty 1788

Bligh had been allowed to take some navigational equipment and papers, and enough food to last for five days. The 19 castaways tried to supplement their rations with food from Tofua. All but one escaped with their lives following an attack by hostile Tofuans.

Bailing to keep their open boat afloat they battled the sea and near starvation four weeks before sighting Australia.

Bligh navigated past the Friendly Islands (Tonga), Fiji and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) before they landed on an island east of Cape Weymouth, Australia. Bligh named it Restoration Island. They found water, scavenged for food and collected clamshells which they boiled into a broth.

But after two days apparently hostile Aborigines prompted Bligh to sea again sailing from the Torres Strait into the Arafura Sea. Again they bailed constantly and Bligh rationed their meager food for the voyage to Timor. There was barely enough to survive on and when the survivors reached Timor after 48 days Bligh and his crew had lost about 20kg in body weight.

Back in England Bligh's career in the Navy continued unaffected by the mutiny. In 1790 he was posted Captain of the sloop HMS Falcon, followed by service on HMS Medea and HMS Providence. In 1792 he again visited Tahiti and successfully transported breadfruit to the West Indies.

After the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 he was commended for his bravery by Admiral Nelson and elected a fellow of the Royal Society, in consideration of his distinguished services in navigation and botany.

Bligh log of Providence
Bligh log of Providence

By 1805, Bligh was Governor of New South Wales but once again he is involved in an uprising in Sydney in 1808. Bligh tried to end the use of rum as a form of currency in the colony and triggered the Rum Rebellion.

The NSW Corp held a monopoly in trading in spirits which earned them the title the 'Rum Corp'. The officers held significant land holdings. They acted in their own interest, particularly disadvantaging the small farmers.

Among Bligh's arch rivals was John Macarthur, soldier, entrepreneur and pastoralist a leader of settlers in New South Wales. Macarthur, ' Australia's 'hero of the fleece' had a propensity for involving himself in public disturbances.

It was his wife Elizabeth who became an expert in fleeces and set up the infra-structure to export colonial wool. She was the first to breed the world-renowned Merino in Australiawhich became the foundation of Australia's wool industry - significantly increasing the yield of fine wool.

Macarthur had reached Port Jackson in 1790 with his family in the Second Fleet as a Lieutentant in the NSW Corp.

While John Macarthur's success in aligning the NSW Corps with him against Bligh may reflect his ability as a 'manipulator of men', it was facilitated by the governor's disregard for the feelings of the men of power.

In memory of Dr John Bruce Hamilton Bligh Museum founder
In memory of Dr John Bruce Hamilton Bligh Museum founder

Bligh tried to assert his rightful authority as Governor but the 'Rum Corp' mutinied and Bligh was forcibly deposed on January 26, 1808 by Major George Johnston of the 102nd foot and imprisoned for two years. It is Australia's only military coup.

In 1810 a new Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived sent by the British Government with his own 73rd Regiment and disbanded the NSW Corp.

On his release Bligh returned to England where he was cleared of all blame and Major Johnston was tried at Chelsea Hospital in 1811 and cashiered.

Bligh was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue and in 1814 became a Vice Admiral of the Blue.

( Editor's Note: This information has been gleaned frommany internet sources particularly a compilation by Sue Dibble May 2001)

The Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration is located at the southern end of Adventure Bay, on the main road close to the Captain Cook Creek. The museum has a comprehensive selection of artefacts and documents relating to Pacific exploration.

Memorial to Furneax and Cook at Adventure Bay
Memorial to Furneax and Cook at Adventure Bay

Also in the museum are a selection of articles and maps related to explorers. A famous artefact is a tree trunk on which was carved Cook 1777.

The museum also has a section related to native peoples of the Pacific area, including a famous first Australian of Bruny Island Trugannini.

The Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration building is built in the style of St Peters Church at Variety Bay. The Anglican Church served the Channel area.

Open daily 10am to 5pm through December to April and 10am to 4pm through May to November or by apointment excluding Christmas Day and Good Friday


Adults: $4.00

Students and Pensioners: $3.00

Children: $2.00

Family Group (Two adults and two or more children): $10.00


Editors Note: Also see:

Truganinis country Bruny Island
Truganini's country Bruny Island