Friday, January 10, 2003

Mutiny on the Globe: The Fatal Voyage of Samuel Comstock - Thomas Farel Heffernan

"I am the bloody man; I have the bloody hand; I will have revenge!"

Thus spake Samual Comstock, the estwhile leader of the one of the most gruesome mutinies in U.S. history, the mutiny on the Nantucket whaling ship, The Globe, in 1823. Killing the captain and officers, Comstock then led his party of mutineers (and a number of unwilling sailors in fear of their lives) to Mili Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, where Comstock proposed building his own South Seas island kingdom. Within days, his dreams of glory dissolved in murder and chaos.

Mutiny on the Globe is a good and gripping nautical read, with enough well-researched, well-defined background information to make readers appreciate Comstock's upbringing in the icy discipline of Nantucket, the circumstances that drove him to sea in a whaler (one of the harshest professions of a harsh age), and the psychological horrors that lurked behind his eyes. Heffernan, as the expression goes, is a writer that "paints in the corners", with the mutiny providing only the first half of this harrowing tale. The remainder of the book is devoted to the fate of mutineers (and the innocents) on Mili Atoll, and their various fates (which I will not outline here - read the book!).

Interestingly enough, this is the second book on the Globe mutiny published recently. Also available is Demon of the Waters by Gregory Gibson, which I have not yet read, but I understand is based in part on a newly discovered account of an officer from the U.S. Dolphin, the schooner that eventual rescued the few survivors from Mili Atoll.

The most famous mutiny in history was, of course, the mutiny on the Bounty, where Captain William Bligh was unceremoniously bundled into a longboat with his loyal followers and set adrift. Bligh ended up committing one of the great acts of seamanship, bringing his remaining crew back to civilization in an epic voyage 3600 miles across the South Pacific, while the Bounty mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian, ended up on the remote Pitcairn Island, where their descendents still live today.

Check out Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection by Leonard F. Gutterridge for more fearful tales of mutinious crews throughout history.

Wondering what the word Mutiny means? Wonder no longer, you can check it out here, along with a number of other words you've probably been puzzling over....

No comments: