Friday, March 29, 2013

Duty and Mutiny on the High Seas

There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea.
---Joseph Conrad

Life on a ship is a world in miniature.   Everything you know is there populated by a crew, officers and captain.  To survive the storms, privation and wartime, the crew must follow the structure of a strictly controlled environment.  This can either degenerate into mutiny or great success.   Here's a short list of books that show both sides of the coin.

1.   The Mutiny On Board the H.M. Bounty, William Bligh (Signet Classic, 1961).  First published in 1972, Captain Bligh's account is the most well known of mutinies.  He uses the ship's log to present an objective account leaving the reader to judge what type of captain he really was.  If nothing else, Bligh and his small crew of loyalists demonstrated an amazing account of seamanship to survive a 3,600 mile south Pacific voyage in the Bounty's long boat.   Made even more popular by several Hollywood movies commanding the likes of Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.  Bought used somewhere.

2.  The Mutiny on the Globe, Edwin P. Hoyt (1975).  From 1824, an extraordinary story of a American whaling ship that sailed from Martha's Vineyard to Hawaii, Japan and the South Pacific.  A bizarre set of circumstances leads the mutineers to establish a "kingdom" on a south pacific island, which later degenerates into infighting and  a bloody war with the natives.  The mutiny evolves to an unexpected ending.  Discarded from the West Hempstead, NY Public Library. 

3.  At Twelve Mr. Byng was Shot, Dudley Pope (1962).  A Captain can be a tyrant or a scapegoat.  Pope tells the story of one of the English Navy's darkest hours--described as the "most cold-blooded and cynical acts of judicial murder in British history."  Admiral John Byng was made a scapegoat for the stupidity of his superiors in a battle against the French.  Bought at a Norwalk, Ohio used book store.

4.  Every Man Will Do his Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts from the Age of Nelson, 1793-1815, Dean King (1997).  The title takes its inspiration from Lord Nelson's famous quote that "England expects every man will do his duty."  Accounts are taken from British and American fighting ships during the French and English wars, the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic wars.  More amazing that the stories of C.S. Forester or Patrick O'Brien because they are the real thing.  Bought used in an Amherst, MA second-hand book store.

No comments:

Post a Comment