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Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare

Jan 1, 2003

Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare4,162 miles across the Pacific in a rowing boatby John TooheyThe fastidious cartographer and right-hand man of Capt. James Cook fell in reputation from one of the highest positions in the Royal Navy to one of infamy. A slight by a sycophantic crewmember, in a posthumously published account of the voyage of Resolution, kept Bligh from the fame and wealth accorded many of those who had also sailed with Cook in lesser positions. He then went on to lose command of Bounty and spend many months adrift in an open boat before fetching Tahiti.

John Toohey's gripping account of the voyage is bolstered by the description of Bligh's characterhis foiled ambition, his rage at the slightbefore the mutiny, which makes the humiliating defeat and open-boat ordeal all the more painful. We see Capt. William Bligh as a fairly decent man with often terrible luck.

Harper Collins, New York; 212-207-7520; 211 pages; $24.