“If I survive I shall bear witness to these tribulations.  Before the Pandora, gouged open by The Labyrinth, roll’d and slithered, awash with ocean, I felt a strange calm believing our ordeal had reached its hectic end.  After Moulter, Pandora’s quartermaster’s mate, disobeying Capt’n Edwards’ orders, tossed us the key to our manacles, saving our souls, he slid the bolt and heaved the scuttle o’erboard.  Some of our mates, still shackled, drown’d in the devilish scramble for that key.  Edwards, the swine, swam clear with his own men not yet off the ship, ankle-deep in that swirling scourge, his caged prisoners, us, shrill with disbelief.  Freed from our verminous prison – Pandora’s Box, 18 feet by 11 – several, Peter Heywood, Burket, Coleman, and my self, clinging to flotsam, I kicked off my trowsers, binding my loins Otaheite-style before following Peter’s example, straddling a plank and paddling to a moonlit craft.

Banished, near naked, to the far end of this cay, a bare sand hump, day long heat bears down, flaying us after our dark confinement tho we bury our selves to our necks in sand.  Through the long nights we shiver, fires of New Holland natives carrying a pleasant gum tree scent flaring and guttering in the wind, seeming to beckon like lanthorns from the mainland.  Officers and crew shaded by sails, talking, I gleaned the French king is deposed.  Thirst tormenting, I counsel our harried group, knelt together, bodies racked.  We were cheered when a boat returned for the ship’s cat, a survivor grooming itself on the cross trees jutting from the surf.

Edwards aims to reach Timor, 1,000 miles defying the sea’s efforts to swallow us, no doubt inspired by Bligh; ninety-nine men and a cat crammed into four boats with little water and food, led by a capt’n imbecilic with rage, as threatened by my presence and faith – he wants me in his pinnace for extra punishment – as Bligh was by Mr Christian’s popularity, but whose desire to see us hanged will buttress his swollen hatred.  I think of the albatross killed off Patagonia on the voyage out, our wretched luck now, dreamt of skeletons curled on the sea’s carpet, yet in light.  This I shall set down, God willing.” — Lat. between 10 and 11 degrees South, Aug., 1791.  James Morrison.

— Ian C Smith’s work has been published in BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Ginosko Literary Journal, Griffith Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.

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