Analysis of the men lost from the Pandora

As a result of the wreck and sinking of the Pandora, a total of 35 people lost their lives. The discoveries in 1986 and 1995-8 of human skeletal remains from within the wreck was unexpected since historical accounts had generally lead to the belief that all the men lost drowned in open water and were washed away.

Eighty-nine of the ship's crew and ten of the mutineers survived the wreck. Thirty-one of the ship's company and Bounty mutineers Hildebrant, Stewart, Sumner and Skinner were lost with the ship. Unfortunately, very little descriptive detail of the 35 lost men is available. The primary sources of information includes Bligh's descriptive list of the Bounty mutineers (Admiralty Records ML ZS1/43) and some scant detail gathered from the Muster Lists of Pandora (PRO ADM 36/11136). Both sources provide limited information. Since it is highly unlikely that any mutineers were trapped within the confines of the ship when it sank we are left with even less information, as Bligh's descriptive list of the mutineers verges on irrelevance. The Muster Lists themselves give us no information that might assist in forensic identification of the individuals other than occupation, and physical punishment (floggings) in the months immediately prior to their deaths. It is unlikely that any form of physical punishment would have left any marks on the skeletal remains that might suggest the identity of an individual. No surgeon's journal or a 'sick and hurt' list has been located and may not exist. We are therefore left with no record of any sickness or injuries prior or subsequent to their joining Pandora which could be linked to an osteological examination. Similarly, we do not know if the men came from rural or urban backgrounds (which could be associated with manual labour or an early dietary deficiency) or what, if any, their former occupations may have been. Some of the crew were known to have come from other vessels prior to joining Pandora. A search of the Muster Lists from these vessels could possibly provide some additional information.

We have to deal with generalisations which may, at best, have only a loose connection with evidence attained from forensic examination of the remains. By careful study of the extant records describing the wrecking event, we may, through the process of elimination, reduce or at least prioritise the list of possible individuals represented. Additionally, several scenarios are compiled which may provide a plausible account of why a particular individual was below decks at the time of the sinking. Here, primary concern is with those who did not survive the wreck.


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Last updated: Thu Mar 28 2002