National Geographic : 1962 Apr
KDUACHROMEI) NATIONAL GEOG Baggywrinkle, a garland of frayed rope, keei from chafing sails. Richard Newcomb applies the the standing rigging where the sails may rub against it. You make it by cutting old rope into six-inch lengths, separating the strands, and then twisting them into a doubled length of marline (above). One day one of the messboys who had been furiously twisting suddenly stopped work. I asked him why, and he said: "I just found out what it's really for!" His messmates had told him that he was helping to make "grass" skirts that could be traded for almost anything in Tahiti. Most of the crew, knowing I had been in Tahiti before, asked me at one time or an other, "What are the girls like there?" The girls of Tahiti have been celebrated for their good looks and their kindness to sea-weary sailormen since Capt. Samuel Wallis first put 452 the island on the map in 1767. George Robertson, master of Wallis's ship, wrote in his jour nal: "... when our boats re turned to the ship all the sailors swore they neaver saw hand somer made women in their lives ... this piece of news made all our men madly fond of the shore, even the sick which hade been on the Doctors list... said a Young Girl would make an Excelent Nurse, and they were Certain of recovering faster under a Young Girls care nor all the Doctor would do for them... ." At noon I used to shoot the sun under the critical eye of First Mate McKay, a black mustached young man of quick positive movements, who lived navigation. The object was to measure the height of the sun above the horizon. To do it, you squint through the sextant's telescope, and by moving a mirror, bring the image of the sun down to the horizon. The sun's disk swooped wildly when Bounty rolled and pitched. Down in the chartroom I would compute the position, using the nautical almanac RAPHIC SOCIETY Si and tables the astronomers )w rigging have compiled to speed calcula tion and to aid mathematically semi-literates like myself. I kept trying to come out exactly on the first mate's fix. One Sunday my position worked out just one mile north of the mate's. Consolingly he said: "Well, we could have seen each other, anyway." Bligh a Skilled Navigator Finding the longitude was the great prob lem in Bligh's day. You see the difficulty in old maps, on which north-south distances are accurately drawn but east-west ones are wild ly distorted. Because the earth spins west-to east, to get longitude from the sun you had to know the exact time of day -and accurate chronometers were then rare. Bligh was a brilliant navigator. As a mark of favor, one of the best timekeepers of his day was entrusted to Bligh by the Admiralty.