BLIGH, William (1754-1817). Autograph manuscript entitled "Remarks by Lieut Willm Bligh," concerning navigation in the West Indies, and with a MANUSCRIPT MAP, inscribed on inner front wrapper "To the Right Honble Lord Howe with a Plan of the Harbour of Lucca in Jamaica & view of part of Cuba," n.p., [ca. 1782]. 9 pages, 4to, sewn in wrappers with autograph title on front wrapper, some light wear at fore-edges.
"I HAVE EXPERIENCED SUCH VAST ASSISTANCE FROM IT IN CAPTAIN COOK'S LAST HAZARDOUS VOYAGE THAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO EVERY NAVIGATOR NEVER TO NEGLECT IT"
A VERY FINE RUTTER BY WILLIAM BLIGH, DESCRIBING THE PARTICULARITIES OF NAVIGATION IN THE WEST INDIES
Bligh's manuscript most likely dates to circa 1782, as this was the year that Sir Richard Howe was created a peer and the period in which Bligh sailed under him in relief of Gibraltar. Bligh's reputation as a navigator was made during Capt. James Cook's second voyage of circumnavigation aboard the Resolution in 1772-74. "Bread-fruit Bligh," as he was called after the discovery of the fruit in Otaheite (Tahiti), soon became a lieutenant in the royal navy and made several important hydrographic surveys.
Bligh's manuscript is divided into 5 sections: "Hyspaniola," "Lucca Harbour, Jamaica," "Grand Camana," "Isle of Pines" and "Gulph of Florida," the last of which receives the longest treatment. Bligh describes the topography, bearings and trade of the islands, and makes particular note of the navigational factors involved, such as rocks, current and water depth. Regarding Lucca Harbor in Jamaica, he notes that it is "valuable from its safety and capaciousness, as well as from the easy access to it." Facing his description of Lucca Harbor is a full-page manuscript map, showing details around 17o 34' N. Drawn are the Cap de la Beata, Isle de Beata, Les Frailles and Isle Aletevella, as well as the ship's track toward Jamaica. Bligh notes that Grand Cayman is "so low that it cannot be seen above 20 leagues from the deck of a small ship."
Bligh reserves his most extensive remarks for the Gulf of Florida, traveling there by way of Cuba: "keeping as far as the Havanna, and as soon as possible make the Cuba Land for if you have sight of it you cannot be led astray by the Current which runs at times to 16 miles an hour, and may carry you before you are aware of it among the Keys off Punta de Yeacos. It is therefore absolutely necessary if you fall in with the Cuba shore at night and are uncertain what part of it it is, to haul your wind and stand on off till daylight and not to run the risk of standing on to the eastward (should the wind allow) where you may be embarrassed among the Islands off Punta de Yeacos as I have mentioned, the Current setting strong between them, down the old Channel of Bahama." Bligh details his troubles the first time he went through the Gulf (in "thick weather") and provides an alternate plan to avoid his experience. His warning is summarized with a reference to his last great ship-master: "I may be particular in recommending so strenuously the Lead in going through the Gulph, but I have experienced such vast assistance from it in Captain Cook's last hazardous Voyage that I would recommend to every Navigator never to neglect it." Some five years after the composition of this manuscript, Bligh was given his own command aboard the Bounty.
Provenance: Marquess of Sligo, sold at the sale of the Howe papers, Christie's London, 6 October 1958.