Rare Captain Bligh medals under the hammer in Australia

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Two "extremely rare" gold medals awarded to Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame will be auctioned in Melbourne this week in one of the most significant maritime history offerings in recent years.

"You'll never see the likes of the Bligh medals again. They're so historical," a spokesman for the auction house told AFP.

"He's one of the most famous sea captains in history and I doubt there would be many other gold medals around from that period."

Bligh, an British Royal Navy officer, was best known for a notorious mutiny during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789, when he and a group of his men were set adrift in a small launch.

They survived 47 days at sea without maps or navigational aids and eventually reached Timor. Fifteen years later Bligh was appointed governor of New South Wales in Australia.

The first medal was awarded in 1794 by The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce founded in 1754 for his work transplanting breadfruit elsewhere from Tahiti, where westerners had first seen it.

The other, the Naval Gold Medal 1795, was given to Bligh for his actions during the successful 1797 Battle of Camperdown against the Dutch, in which the British fleet captured 11 Dutch vessels without losing any of their own.

Handed down through Bligh's family, they are conservatively expected to fetch in excess of Aus$250,000 (US$270,000).

Also on the bill during the July 26-28 auction is Australia's first World War II Victoria Cross, estimated to be worth at least Aus$900,000.

Won by Ted Kenna, it was one of only 20 awarded to Australian soldiers during the war, and was earned in May 1945 for an attack on a Japanese position in New Guinea.

© 2011 AFP

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