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HMS PANDORA

Voyage in search of the Bounty

In early August 1790, 5 months after learning of the mutiny on HMS Bounty, the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, decided to dispatch Pandora to recover the Bounty and capture the mutineers for trial. She was refitted with four more 18-pounder carronades.

Pandora was commanded by Captain Edward Edwards and manned by a crew of 134 men. Among the crew were Thomas Hayward, who had been on the Bounty at the time of the mutiny, and left with Bligh in the open boat, and John Brown, who had been left on Tahiti by an English merchant ship.

Unbeknown to Edwards, twelve of the mutineers, along with four sailors who had stayed loyal to Bligh, had by then already elected to return to Tahiti. They were living in Tahiti as 'beachcombers', many of them having fathered children with local women. Fletcher Christian's group of mutineers and their Polynesian followers had sailed off and eventually established their settlement on then uncharted Pitcairn Island. By the time of Pandora's arrival, fourteen of the former Bounty men remained on Tahiti.

The Pandora reached Tahiti on 23 March 1791 via Cape Horn.  All fourteen men either surrendered or captured.  They were locked up in a makeshift prison cell, measuring eleven-by-eighteen feet, on the Pandora's quarter-deck, which they called "Pandora's Box".

On 8 May 1791 the Pandora left Tahiti and subsequently spent three months visiting islands in the South-West Pacific in search of the Bounty and the remaining mutineers, without finding any traces of the pirated vessel.  During this part of the voyage fourteen crew went missing in two of the ship's boats.  In the meantime the Pandora visited Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and Rotumah. They also passed Vanikoro Island, which Edwards named Pitt's Island; but they did not stop to explore the island and investigate obvious signs of habitation.   If they had done so, they would very probably have discovered early evidence of the fate of the French Pacific explorer La Perouse's expedition which had disappeared in 1788.  From later accounts about their fate it is evident that a substantial number of crew survived the cyclone that wrecked their ships Astrolabe and Boussole on Vanikoro's fringing reef.
 

 
     
 

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This Pandora model is made of Swiss Pear and Ebony wood.  It is constructed for a private collector and and not for sale.

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