I dimly remember having read about this years ago.
I read about this again a week or so ago, in The Guardian (January 29th).
According to the article, a new book by CH Layman, a retired admiral and naval historian, includes a letter which heretofore now had not been published from the ships’s acting captain, David Cheap.
I have to confess I haven’t read the book yet (The Wager Disaster, at Amazon). Nor is it clear in the article what new-found information there is contained in Captain Cheap’s letter.
Be that all as it may. The Wager ran aground off the west coast of Chilean Patagonia, on an island now known as Wager Island.
From the article in The Guardian:
“Wager was driven on to rocks by hurricanes near an uninhabited island. There were 140 survivors, many of whom later died from starvation, drowning, hypothermia and violent ends. Only 36 people made it back home.”
Later, on the island:
“Then 62 men mutinied, abandoning Cheap and those loyal to him, and taking the best boats to sail, they hoped, to Brazil, without charts. He recalled that they “bound” his hands, and held him under guard.
Cheap and 18 men, including Byron [the poet’s grandfather], eventually set sail in two small and hardly seaworthy boats. During an appalling voyage Cheap faced new mutinies. He, Byron and one other survived helped by friendly strangers though eventually they were held by the Spanish, and returned to England five years after leaving Portsmouth.
The mutineers, too, suffered dreadfully – from starvation, accidents, murder, abduction. Most died. The 30 survivors endured a 107-day, 2,500 nautical mile voyage. Getting back to England in 1743, some months before Cheap, they found their name blackened and facing an Admiralty inquiry. Probably to save Admiralty faces no mutiny charge was laid, and one officer was reprimanded for Wager’s loss. Byron had a distinguished naval career and emerged as one of Wager’s few heroes.”
Mind you, this took place 50 years before the infamous Bounty incident, which was far more famous, thanks to the books by Nordhoff & Hall and subsequent movie. From the above, we learned that the Wager mutineers embarked on a 2,500 nm voyage to safety. Captain Bligh of the Bounty of course brought his crew to Timor in a small boat after rowing and sailing for 3,600 miles.
Has anyone read Admiral Layman’s book yet? If so, what can you tell us?
The Guardian, January 29: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/29/unpublished-letter-mutiny-hms-wager-royal-navy
What do you think: Are you interested in these sorts of accounts?