vrijdag 17 juli 2015

The Rashomon Case

This is what Ben Speth told me, to put it in a Carverish way.
In 1790, twelve mutineers arrived with twenty or so Tahitian men and about a dozen women often described as ‘wives’. After about five years the Tahitian men grew tired of their enslavement – Meralda sez they were invited to venture forth with the Mutineers under false pretenses. So the Tahitian men revolt and all are killed, along with two or three white fellas. It is important to note that the Tahitian women were very much on the side of the white fellas and are said to have taken an active role in the killing.
Then somebody in this nascent utopia learns how to make liquor; more violence ensues. 
It is about this time that several men decide to leave Pitcairn and Mathew Quintal, fearing that this defection will compromise their security, burns the ship, stranding everybody. When the British do finally find them – 1820 – the founders of the worlds tiniest nation total 1 man, 6 women and 23 children.
Ben had just returned from Pitcairn, an Island in the Pacific.(1) He met some of the people that live on Pitcairn these days, hung around for a couple of days or weeks, and it was Merelda Murray, Mavis' daughter, who told him what she knew about the Bounty and what had happened to it. The so-called official version of what had happened is well-known. The Donaldson movie from 1984, The Bounty, with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins, based on the book of Richard Hough, is derived from it. At least two other movies, Mutiny on the Bounty from 1935, by Frank Lloyd, with Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian, and the 1962 remake with Marlon Brando, which Judith Schalansky - author of Atlas of Remote Islands (2009) - takes as final blueprint for her story on the island, offer an identical scenario:
1790. Captain Bligh and some loyals are put on a bark after mutineers took command of the Bounty. Fletcher Christian, probably head of the mutineers, as he was one of the officers aboard, and his company of twelve men, himself included, twelve Tahitian women and twenty...
Yet at this point, even before they reach the foxy cliffs of Pitcairn, spurious versions emerge as may be noted when one scrapes what the English version of Wikipedia tells on what may have happened. That nine of the mutineers. Nine. Along with six native Tahitian males. Six. Along with eleven women. Eleven. Or wives, notes Ben: about a dozen of women often described as 'wives'.(2)
Eleven or a dozen doesn't make that much of a difference. Six Tahitian males, at least for a total population that isn't particularly abundant, aspects of it may have been overwhelming though, is far from the twenty Miss Murray mentions.
But first go for the remaining part of a rather intriguing Rashomon Case, as this English version of Wikipedia not only mentions nine and six and eleven, but summons a somehow clear rapport on what happened next. The Pitcairn islanders, it seems, reported that it was not until 27 December 1795, five years after they got to their goddamn hide-out, that a first ship since the Bounty was seen from the island. All this is on Wikipedia. The ship didn't approach the island and no sign could be seen of its nationality.
If the story of Merelda Murray makes sense, in one way or another, the Bounty, as the ship hadn't been put to fire before that date, she points that a fellow named Matthew Quintal sets fire to the Bounty, after serious trouble with what had remained of the mutineer crew, the Bounty still may have been located at Bounty Bay, and noticed as such, in 1795.
A second ship appeared in 1801, a third came soon after, sufficiently near to see the house they had made, but both apparently made no attempt at all to approach the island. In 1808 Topaz, an American ship, seems to have been the first to send a crew ashore. This was not known to Thomas Staines, from the Royal Navy, when he got ashore in 1814.
A similar divergence may be noted with the sex assault on the island early 21st century. On Wikipedia they mention charges laid against seven men living on the island and six living abroad. Merelda Murray, quite close on the trial, mentions 25 males on a total of 28. Apart from three godfearing individuals everyone did it.

A, the official version, as found on Wikipedia, makes the Bounty set to fire in 1790.
B, Miss Murray's version, makes it 1795.

A, the official version, as found on Wikipedia, charges no less than thirteen males, seven living on the island, six abroad.
B, Miss Murray's version, makes it 25 on a total of 28.

Wikipedia mentions a certain John Adams as the one and only mutineer that survived the mutiny.(3) He and a certain Ned Young. Ned and John focused on the book, using the ship's Bible as their guide. If set to fire the Bounty wouldn't have left much of anything, no spoons and shipmates but a bible maybe.
Ned Young died and John Adams was granted amnesty for his part in the trouble.

(1) The Pitcairn Islands, officially named the Pitcairn Group of Islands, are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. See Wikipedia.
(2) From the note Ben Speth send me on July 17, 2015.
(3) Found on Wikipedia:
Although the settlers survived by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among them. Alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men.

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