Australian, British adventurers complete epic Bligh voyage

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Four adventurers landed in Indonesia on Tuesday at the end of a harrowing 47-day re-enactment of Lieutenant William Bligh's epic sea voyage from the mutiny on the HMS Bounty.

With no maps or navigational equipment, no torches or toilet paper, and little more than biscuits, water and rum to sustain them, the crew reached their destination just hours after Bligh had done 221 years before.

Australian captain Don McIntyre, 55, Australian Dave Pryce, 39, British student Chris Wilde, 18, and fellow Briton David Wilkinson, 49, were greeted by fishermen and excited children as they pulled ashore at Kupang, West Timor.

They capsized four times and survived close encounters with hidden reefs during their 6,500-kilometre (4,000-mile) journey in a replica 18th-century wooden boat, which began at the site of the mutiny near Tonga.

"The reception has been quite mind-blowing," McIntyre told AFP after making landfall.

"I just had two hamburgers and a whole plate of chips and I think I'm a bit hyperactive. After a month of ships biscuits it was pretty good."

Their clinker-style, two-mast vessel, the 25-foot (7.62-metre) Talisker Bounty Boat, carried equivalent supplies of food and drink as Bligh and his 18 loyalists had when they were cast adrift from The Bounty.

A group of mutineers led by Fletcher Christian seized control of The Bounty on April 28, 1789, near the Tongan island of Tofua. Bligh's voyage to safety is still considered one of history's great feats of seamanship.

McIntyre and his three crewmen set out on April 29 from the Tongan island of Kelefesia for Tofua -- where one of Bligh's men was killed by a Tongan as he looked for supplies -- before heading west towards Fiji.

They followed Bligh's route westwards, passing Fiji and the Vanuatu Island group heading for Cape York on the northeastern tip of Australia.

Like Bligh, they landed on Restoration Island for two days, then sailed north inside the treacherous Great Barrier Reef to Thursday Island, and then into the Torres Strait and on to Timor in eastern Indonesia.

The Talisker boat was equipped with satellite navigational equipment in case of emergency but McIntyre said it wasn't required. The crew also had life jackets, flares and positional beacons in case they were lost overboard.

Sporting a bushy grey beard as he posed for photos with the West Timor locals, McIntyre said that in addition to suffering from thirst and hunger, he had passed two kidney stones during the voyage.

"We had a few anxious moments. We nearly ran up on a reef and we were minutes away from total disaster. It was scary, but we'd trained for those moments," he told AFP.

"We were totally alone, just like Bligh. It was very raw and very honest, just four guys in a boat."

He said his crew -- including first-time sailor Wilde, 18 -- had gained a real insight into the technical aspects of Bligh's journey, as well as the mental state of the Bounty captain and his loyal shipmates.

"Having gone through 40 days at sea you know that in the storms, if they'd ever got wiped out, they would have been thinking, 'we can't die now because if we do, no one will know about the mutiny'," McIntyre said.

Looking at the Talisker Bounty Boat, Timorese fisherman Martinus, 32, said he was "impressed" with the crew's achievement.

"They're not only re-living history, they're creating history. They've done something really worthwhile," he said.

The voyage aimed to raise money for The Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease.

© 2010 AFP

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