Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Voyage of the Bounty, and the Trilobite

I'm desperately wading through waist deep freezing water in the claustrophic passagenway. The lights flicker. Waves barrel down the narrow hallway as gravity seems to be reverse itself, alternately gluing me to one wall, then I'm thrown at the other and so is the water, then I try to lunge forward as the hall hangs in zero gravity. The main lights go out leaving only the eerie red emergency lighting as I claw myself towards a companionway leading up to deck. As I emerge to the the screaming wind of deck I look up and see Adam Prokosh up the mast trying to cut away the mainsail, but as I watch he loses his grip and comes tumbling down, seeming to fly through the air in slow motion before hitting the deck, breaking his back.

Friday, September 27th - I wake up. It's just one month shy of seven years since the replica Bounty sank in hurricane Sandy. I was half the world away at the time, in subtropical Australia, but I didn't know which of friends were or were not no the ship. I watched the news all night, waiting for all the crew to be accounted for ... which never happened. 15 of 17 crewmembers were rescued from the sinking ship (Prokosh, the then-boyfriend now-husband of a former crewmate of mine did get off alive despite a broken back).
   When I think back to it now, my nerve-wracked all-night vigil is always interspersed with visions of the flooded belowdecks passageway, which was vividly described by survivors in the Coast Guard report, as well as Adam falling. Its been on my mind more lately because I've finally been "reading" about its namesake, the original Bounty. "Reading" with my ears as I drive anyway. I find listening to gripping audiobooks during drives weirdly imprints the key actions on the locations where I heard them. forever after now, the locations on the drive I undertook this weekend will be indelibly associated with locations in the story of the mutiny of the Bounty. Ah yes, Laver's Hill, where they set Bligh adrift in the longboat!

   Cook is quoted as saying, "Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go." and this weekend I vowed to follow in his footsteps by ambitiously driving west along the southern coastline of Australia until I reached the border with South Australia, which surely is as far as it's possible for man to go!


   We begin this modern voyage of discovery in my little weatherboard house in a small hamlet in the countryside. Birregurra, with a population of just around 800, on days like Friday morning rises like the island of avalon above a sea of fog in surrounding marshy lowlands, surmounted even with the imposing gothic spire of a church. Once I'd shaken off dreams of the Bounty I had my morning coffee in my adorably checkerboard-floored kitchen while thoughtfully looking at the fog out the window. Due to some big sports event it's a public holiday so I don't have to feel like I should be working. I messaged a friend who lives halfway to my destination to inquire if I could crash at his place this night, and if he had a coffee maker (many Australians, more savage than the cannibalistic "savages" described by Captain Cook, will serve you instant coffee with a straight face). He said I could and he did, but I packed my coffee and a french-press into my car with my other necessities because you can't be too careful.
   Next I went into my detached garage to get three cases each containing 20 500ml jars of honey and loaded them into my car. While in the garage I called out to Sancho, my resident possum, admonishing him not to have any parties while I was out, though he usually disregards such suggestions.

   My faithful vessel for this trip would be the USS Trilobite, a champagne colored honda civic that has severe neurological problems. The passenger side window doesn't work and 90% of the time none of the dashboard gauges work. A month after I had bought ole Trilobite, some uninsured maniacs had broadsided her in a parking lot, which, like the Permian Impact Event, threatened to extinct trilobites. The local mechanic declared her totaled, but through the American mafia I was able to get her repaired to a functional state. The original mechanic alleges there may be unknown damage to the engine due to the whole thing shifting during the impact, so on any long drive like this, in addition to flying blind as far as gauges are concerned, there's always a possibility of a sudden catastrophic failure or something. Good times.

   As I headed out of my village through a steady drizzle on the very familiar road west, I began Peter FitzSimmons' telling of the Bounty Mutiny. He begins, actually, aboard the HMS Resolution at Hawaii in 1779. The Resolution has been forced to return to Hawaii shortly after a departure, having broken a foremast. It is evident that they've already overstayed their welcome, and things are tense. A longboat is stolen, several boats are put out to look for it, and Captain Cook goes ashore to bring the paramount chief back to the Resolution. Cook intends to hold him until such time as the longboat is returned. I am intrigued, I know where this is going. I've heard references to the seminal event in the history of Pacific exploration in so many books but never a detailed account of it. I've read some of Peter FitzSimmons other books and have been impressed with his ability to bring thorough research together into a gripping story. One of the longboats commanded by one William Bligh, chief navigational officer aboard the Resolution, fires muskets at a native outrigger they are trying to stop, killing an important chief. This news is conveyed quickly across the island coast as Hawaiians call out the news and runners make for where they have seen a British landing party coming to their paramount chief. Cook is leading a willing Chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu by the hand towards the beach when the news reaches them and the chief refuses to go another step. As Cook tries to convince him to come an ever larger crowd of angry native Hawaiians gathers around them.

   Meanwhile, I pass through the nearby town of Colac. Colac is the larger town Birregurra orbits like a habitable moon around a gas giant. Like many Australian towns the shopfronts along mainstreet all have big facades like a historic town of the American West, but there never seem to be any redeeming cultural events in Colac or reasons to go there other than for groceries. One mystery about Colac that has always perplexed me is it's actually on a lakefront but makes no usage of it at all. There's no restaurants, bars, or anything fronting on the lake, it's just, a back street and there's the lake.
   On this occasion I only get gas in Colac, filling up because I simply don't know how much gas I currently have. Then I continue. The main highway becomes Colac's main street but in the center of town I turn left to head south to the coast. Soon I'm out of town driving a road that slowly curves through towering messmate stringybark trees, a kind of eucalypt whose bark hangs off it in long fibrous hairy looking ribbons. For a few miles south of Colac the trunks are blackened from a recent fire and I always feel a tinge of guilt when I notice this, because I remember seeing the call out for that fire on the fire brigade pager but I was busy at the time. I glance guiltily at the yellow firefighting gear in my back seat.

   Meanwhile Captain Cook has realized the situation is worsening quickly and decided they need to make a calm dignified withdrawal to the boats. It's unclear what exactly happened next but it appears Captain Cook pushed or shoved a prominent noble who was getting in his face, the noble shoved Cook back, and he fell to his knees in the shallow surf, and the noble's attendant than stabbed him through the back with a dagger they had, ironically, gotten in trade from Cook's expedition. A general hand-to-hand melee ensued between Cook's companions and the natives. Most of his companions made it away in the boats but four royal marines were left bobbing in the red surf alongside the famous navigator. In the melee and from musket-fire from other longboats just offshore dozens of natives were also killed.

   About half an hour out from Colac I come to the small town of Gellibrand, named after an early explorer who disappeared in the area. I pull up in front of the General Store and go in. This cute little store is noted for the beautiful wisteria that hangs in cascades from its eaves, and delicious homemade meat pies. "Hi, I'm the Great Ocean Road Honey Company, we've supplied you with honey in the past, I was wondering if you'd like more?" I ask the man behind the counter. Yes they would like ten jars. Excellent. I unload half a case.
   The sun has briefly come out when I emerge. I continue winding south through the misty forests. As to Captain Cook's fateful voyage, it was of course but a prologue and we leave it now. Though it's noted that he was practically the only officer not to be promoted when the expedition returns to England, leading one to wonder if his irascible personality, while not making it into official record books at the time, had already been noted by his colleagues. The audiobook now moves forward eight years to 1787, and we hear about the beginnings of the voyage, and begin to meet and get to know the crew. Interestingly Bligh has a favorite, one Fletcher Christian, who he himself promotes to acting Lieutenant and second-in-command. The expedition to get breadfruit from Tahiti heads south through the Atlantics and spends two months trying unsuccessfully to round Cape Horn against the prevailing winds. In this Bligh shows himself to be a hard driving stubborn captain, but relents when he sees the crew is at a breaking point and the instead head east, puts in at Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa for repairs, and then continues eastward to Tahiti.

   Meanwhile I arrive at my next stop, which looks like a giant corrugated metal shed by itself in the open near where this road T junctions into another east-west road. This is the Otway NouriShed, and despite it's odd outward appearance, it's actually cozy inside, with a fire burning in a cast iron stove surrounded by comfy armchairs as well as tables. The proprietor takes a case of honey jars and then asks me sincerely how things are going. We have a short chat and then I'm on my way, headed West now.

   The Bounty expedition continues Eastward across the southern seas to the wild coast of Tasmania for some replenishment and then on to Tahiti. There's a few recorded moments of friction between the querulous captain and his officers, but it doesn't appear beyond what the men can be expected to bear in a Royal Navy known to have some severe hard-horse captains.

   I arrive in the tiny cluster of stores and houses known as Laver's Hill. I join the Great Ocean Road here though the ocean is not in sight from Laver's Hill, as the road comes inland here. The several shops here cater exclusively to the many tourists that travel the "GOR." I first pop into Yatzie's the biggest shop there, simply to inquire about an unpaid invoice, but am told the proprietor has been on vacation. Ah okay. I am optimistic for a good resolution to this, they're actually one of my best customers.
   Next I go across the highway to a newly opened restaurant, "The Aussie Stop." It has a shop too but is mainly a restaurant. Everyone dining here appears to be Chinese, and as I make my way across the dining area to talk to the owner, a diner assumes as a caucasion I must be staff and asks me for the chili sauce. I politely bring them chili sauce without correcting their misapprehension and then talk to the owner. When I'd come by earlier while it was still winter he hadn't been prepared to take on another product, but now Spring has sprung! And he'll take ten units!

   Continuing west, I finally approach the sea in a beautiful place where the tiny cluster of structures that is "Princetown" sits atop a small hill surrounded by marshy wetlands. I reflect that though this is a tiny place really far from the nearest town of any size, I still think I'd like to live there. I'm not a big fan of city life. The structures of Princetown consist entirely of (1) a closed post office; (2) a closed general store; (3) a sleepy roadhouse that has previously declined to buy honey; (4) a backpacker hostel; and (5) a bed and breakfast. I continue on past it on this occasion.

   This next section of coast the GOR is just beside the coast on top of the cliffs, though one can't see the coast itself since unlike mnay roads its not actually on the edge of the cliff but a few hundred meters inland. The most popular sights on the Great Ocean Road are in this section, such as the "12 Apostles" are a series of picturesque columns of limestone just off the beach in the crashing surf. The joke is that there's now only "7 and a Half Apostles" because they keep falling down. Another fun fact I like to note is that the columns were originally known as "the sow and piglets" but they changed it to "12 Apostles" to encourage tourism. On this occasion I zipped past all apostles, sows, and piglets in the area since I'd already seen them.

   The next place of habitation would mark the furthest westward point I've previously been on the coast, the small town of Port Campbell. This is a town big enough to have a grocery store. Sadly it is also a town with Timboon Honey on shelves retailing for my wholesale price ::shakes fist:: so it marks the extent of my business domain on the coast. Timboon is a town inland of Port Campbell and I've encountered them on my furthest Westward inland extent as well. Port Campbell is noteworthy for having a narrow little bay with a beach on which heavy waves always seem to be breaking. I'm surprised to learn just now its only got a population of 600, I would have thought it's bigger than my home village, but I guess it just seems that way because it's always teaming with tourists. Being the biggest town on the coast for many many miles there are many hotels there and its always teaming with big coach buses and hordes of tourists.

   As I prepared to continue on into the unknown, Captain Bligh and the Bounty arrived at Tahiti. Bligh and a few of the men had been there before with Captain Cook so they knew a bit about what to expect. Beautiful island maidens paddled out to their ship immediately and proved extremely willing to climb into the men's hammocks, much to the delight of the occupants. The islanders had revered Captain Cook as a god, and Bligh tried to assure them that Cook was still alive and well, not wanting them to see that their god could be killed by island people not very unlike them. This proved a bit awkward as after Bligh had said Cook was alive and well the islanders explained that another vessel had already passed through and explained to them the story of Cook's death. Next Bligh tried to say he was the son of Cook, which, aside from them thinking it was a bit odd this was never mentioned when last they were both here, the natives actually have a painting of Cook that was left with them and with it as a reference one can readily see that Bligh and Cook look nothing alike. Awkward. Despite these awkward beginnings Bligh ends up getting along seemingly very well with the paramount chiefs.

   West of Port Campbell I continue down the road just a bit until I come to signs for "The Arch" and pull off to the parking area to go have a look at a notable stone arch the sea has formed attached to the cliffs. I take some photos and hurry on my way. Only minutes further down the road I see signs for "London Bridge" and pull in to walk to the viewing platform to see what formerly was a sort of long peninsula of land with several giant arches underneath it ... except one of the spans has collapsed leaving only the outer portion disconnected from the land.
   I get back in my car and continue another few minutes until I see signs for "the Grotto." I haven't actually heard of this one but pull off to admire this grotto.

   Continuing up the coast I stop at the Bay of Martyrs and then the Bay of Islands. By now the sun is nearing sunset but cloud cover prevents a beautiful sunset and instead there's just cloud-glare that ruins photos.

   Arriving in Warnambool just before dark, it seems like a nice town. Someone had once told me "oh it's nothing special, it's like Colac," which seems like a gross libel to me. I didn't get to explore the town much but downtown consisted of several blocks of nice looking restaurants. It's three times as big as Colac at 33,000. I picked up pizza for both me and my friend Jib from a place he recommended and headed over to his place. We ate pizza and watched Disenchantment, the new Simpsonsesque Netflix series. I really quite like it.

Saturday, September 28th - My friend Trent is studying for some certificate in tourism and had had to plan a tourist itinerary out this way so I had asked him what's West of Warnambool. "Cows and paddocks" he replied. Well Okay. I asked Jib. He hadn't been out that way much at all either but he recommended some blowholes, a seal colony and a petrified forest all by the town of Portland. I had previously identified a national park right by the border that I wanted to check out and in particular there was a cave there. In the mean time, nearest at hand I saw what looked like a nature reserve in volcanic crater that looked interesting.

   Arriving at Tower Hill nature reserve, from the highway overlook one is looking down at what looks like a series of small forested hills surrounded by a lake and then crater walls. One drives down into the crater and then across the lake as if one is crossing a moat, then the one lane road winds among the hills with a number of little parking spots at trailheads until one gets to the visitor center area in the middle with ample parking in what feels like a forest glen. Despite there being lots of families (the tourists here were for once almost all Australian) it was really pretty. Ostrich sized emus wandered unworried among the families. Then I saw one with a dozen adorable chicks following it, chicks bigger than normal chickens!! Nearby people were snapping photos of a koala in a tree. I had a lot of ground I planned to cover this day but I decided to go on one hiking loop, the "lava tongue boardwalk" sounded like the ticket, and it was very lovely.
   Later I asked Trent about this place and he said his teacher hates it and thinks its really boring and tells them not to include it on itineraries. Wow uh okay tourism teacher. Iii think it was the coolest place on the whole coast but, sure, keep directing people to go to "Cheese World" just outside of Warnambool, which apparently does make the cut.

   From here it was up the coast a bit before my next stop. Through the little town of Port Fairy, which seemed like a cute little fishing town of old Victorian houses just by a coast. Onward the countryside was mostly... cows and paddocks. Meanwhile in the audiobook the crew of the Bounty had spent a few months at Tihiti growing breadfruit saplings while crewmembers developed deepening romantic attachments with local women. Despite having heard of this famous story throughout my life, I didn't know exactly how the mutiny would actually come about. Would the men just flat out refuse to leave Tahiti? No, it turns out with heavy hearts they obeyed orders to weigh anchor and turn homeward. But as they head homeward Bligh is more disagreeable than ever before. He finds fault with everyone, needles his officers intentionally to annoy them, rubs salt in any wound he can find as deeply as possible, and I find myself wondering if something unrecorded had taken place between he and his former favorite Fletcher because now he makes Fletcher's life a constant hell, berating and publicly criticizing him literally constantly.
   I was surprised that the actual immediate cause of the mutiny was something a bit silly: Bligh accused someone of stealing some coconuts from a large pile he had, which seems especially silly since literally everyone had their own stock of coconuts. He calls the whole crew on deck to harangue them all and make all their lives a living hell until someone confesses. Fletcher than claims to have stolen one coconut just to spare the crew, and then Bligh of course explodes more directly at him, accusing him of taking half the coconuts, which is on its face preposterous, and calls him a scoundrel which apparently was a lot more insulting back then. I'm mildly curious why Fletcher couldn't then challenge him to a duel, which it is my understanding was done at the time when one's honor was challenged in precisely such a way, and because Bligh's official rank is actually only Lieutenant, same as Fletcher's it would seem Bligh couldn't claim to be too exalted to accept. Anyway what this does result in his Fletcher being set on leaving the ship that night with a raft he makes that night with the assistance of two other crewmembers but then crewmembers talk him into leading a mutiny instead...

   Just past the twon of Portland, which I never actually saw, I found a sign for a walk to the "enchanted forest" by the coast, which I thought was the petrified forest that had been recommended to me. It turned out not to be, but I enjoyed the walk along the lush vegetation right on the coast, with bent and curvy trees draped in vines.
   Starting to feel a bit panicked for time already, since I had to be back at Jib's at 19:00 to meet our other friends, I hurried from here to the Seal colony just on the other side of the point. Two hour hike from the trailhead to the rookery? No time for pinnipeds today!
   Next up was the blowhole just down the road. Waves crashed against the rock in a manner that blasted great gouts of water skyward, but I'm not sure I'd have called it worthwhile to drive all the way out here just for this. Next up, petrified forest, which it turns out is just a short walk from the same car park. This was actually really interesting, stone columns had been formed not from petrified forests as had been initially assumed upon the discovery of the upright stone tubes, but through a some mineralization process "solution pipes" had been formed in the limestone. The setting was very picturesque, with all these tubes glowing in the late afternoon sun, high above the crashing waves and expansive ocean, and with many gargantuan windmills slowly turning behind them.

   From here I had to really beat feet to make it to the South Australia border in time to turn around and get back to Warnambool on time. Beyond Portland the drive was mostly through thick pine plantations. With few stops to look at things it was me and the audiobook for awhile. The mutineers captured the arms chest and everyone they expected to be unwaveringly loyal was caught asleep. Bligh and his loyalists were put on the launch, though I was amused that neither Bligh nor Fletcher wanted the master (chief navigation officer), both arguing the other should take him. Over half the crew wanted to go with Captain Bligh since even if they had no love for him, to side with the mutineers would mean being an outlaw for the rest of your days. Since the launch couldn't hold all the loyalists some had to remain with the mutineers. The two vessels then parted ways.

   I had really hoped to at least drive into Glenelg national park on the border, since after accomplishing my goal of reaching the border I might never be out here gain, but sadly I rolled into the tiny border town of Nelson with only moments to spare. Crossed the bridge of the Glenelg River and a few miles down the road was the "Welcome to South Australia" sign! Pulled over just before the sign to take pictures, and then tured around to head back! It wasn't until a few miles later that I realized I should have stepped past the sign to say I set foot in South Australia but I never did!

   From here it was an uninterrupted drive all the way back to Warnambool. Good thing I had a gripping story going on. You'd think Bligh would have learned his lesson and been grateful and kinder to the loyalists in the boat with him but he's just as petty and unbearable to them, nearly having two more mutinies among the loyalists. By and by they make it to the Dutch port of Batavia, and then he gets passage for himself on to England leaving his loyalist crew to follow months later when they can finally finagle it. This gives Bligh no differing views to compete with when he arrives triumphant in England, and his bedraggled and disgruntled loyalists arrive to find him a national hero.
   Meanwhile the mutineers return to Tahiti, but because they know it's the first place the royal navy will come looking for them, they pick up their island wives and lovers and continue on to another island. There they arrive to find a less than friendly welcome from the natives who already live there...

   Ii was pretty sure I had enough gas but the gas gauge hadn't functioned in a long time so I became increasingly nervous and eventually got gas as I passed back through Port Fairy. Arrived at Jib's place right on time at 18:54. About five other friends had come over from Geelong since Jib had invited us all over to play D&D at his place for once and we're all nerds like that. I had created an elven character named Verizon Qualcomm Vodaphone for the occasion. Because I'm not a night-owl, despite drinking a lot of our invented drink of "V2 rockets" (a "jagerbomb" with "v energy drink" instead of red bull), I slunk off to sleep the very moment the game was concluded at around 1:30. Awoke at 9:00 in the tomb-like darkness the house had been enshrouded in through all the window curtains being tightly drawn, and people snoring loudly on all the couches. Sat outside reading until others woke up. Then everyone watched youtube videos on the tv until I left at noon. I tried to be sociable but I really can't get into inane videos.

Sunday, Today, September 29th - Headed first to a nearby waterfall Jib had recommended, Hopkins Falls. It was broad (I think the sign said widest in Australia?) though not tall. Water was very brown and kicked off a great deal of foam. Whereas often waterfalls are found in mountainous areas this was actually in the middle of farmland. It began to rain as I was there, so I quickly continued on my way.

   As I drove through the inland farmland the story continued to unfold, how the mutineers after attempting to settle on this other island eventually are forced to leave and return to Tahiti due to the hostility of their new neighbors. Arriving in Tahiti, many of the mutineers want to just stay there, despite that it's the obvious first place the royal navy will come looking for them. Though if Bligh and the loyalists had failed to make it back its conceivable the whole ship would be presumed lost and no one would come hunting for them. They agree to split ways, most of them desiring to stay here, while Fletcher Christian and eight other mutineers head off in search of some truly deserted unknown island. The latter is also accompanied by their island wives and a few local men. Meanwhile the Admiralty in England has wasted no time to dispatch a fast frigate, the HMS Pandora to hunt down and bring to justice the mutineers. Captain Bligh is also later dispatched on a second breadfruit expedition with a bigger ship than the first time and this time with ample marines to keep order.

   I arrived in the town of Camperdown, the furthest West I'd been on the inland route before. I attempted to pop in to another shop with an unpaid invoice to resolve but they weren't open, and the other shop I popped into to ask if they needed more inventory didn't, so I was on my way again! The route from here on out was a bit boring to me, but it's a bit of an unusual landscape worth describing, the area is known as the "volcanic rises" and a lot of it isnt' arable farmland because there's just too many volcanic rocks, so it's a rather rugged landscape dotted with ancient looking dilapidated little houses, and miles and miles or low walls built from piling up volcanic rocks.

   As I continued this way and eventually through Colac, the story continued. Fletcher Christian and his small band made it to the little known deserted island of Pitcairn and settled there. On Tahiti one of the mutineers starts itching to have a means of leaving and begins building a schooner. Despite having no modern tools nor any of them being an actual boat builder several of them work on this boat and over the months it comes together until they're finally able to launch it, and it floats! They decide to name it, after Cook's ship some of them had sailed in, the Resolution.
   In one of those stunning coincidences of history, barely had they launched the Resolution and sailed around to the other side of the island when the HMS Pandora arrived to exact justice on the mutineers. The loyalists who had been left with the mutineers eagerly paddle their canoes out to the Pandora and are surprised to be immediately clapped in chains. Two of the Pandora's launches sail around the island to where they're told the Resolution is. Expecting to easily catch this homemade craft, they're quite flummoxed when it leads them on a long pursuit in which it eventually disappears over the horizon.

   And then, I arrived home! How will it end? Well there's parts I know and parts I don't know, but there's still several hours left of the book so I think I need to go on another driveabout!

Tags: lj idol entry, travel, travelogues

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