The thirty-one Pandora crew lost

The lives of six Petty Officers, fifteen Able Bodies (ABs), eight Ordinary Seamen (ORDs), and two Landsmen were lost when Pandora sank. Enough information is known to make reasonably solid extrapolations about the mutineers' fate, but very little is known about the thirty-one Pandora crewmen lost. From historical records we cannot establish with any certainty who was below decks when the ship sank. The surviving accounts of the wreck make virtually no mention of the activities of common seamen and certainly never identify them by name. Considering there were over 100 men plus the few released prisoners helping on deck during a somewhat chaotic time, it is little wonder that some were not accounted for.

The Petty Officers

First let us examine the likelihood of any of the six Petty Officers being below decks when Pandora sank, just after sunrise. It would still have been completely dark below decks, crowded with more-than-usual stores and equipment which shifted each time the ship heeled and pitched in the rough seas. Below, flooded parts of the ship would have been filled with sloshing water and floating debris.

John Andrews was one of the four Quartermasters on board the ship. There were also four Quartermaster's Mates (Pandora muster lists, Admiralty Records PRO ADM 36/11136). The Quartermaster assisted the Master and his mates in their several duties such as stowing the hold, coiling the cables, attending the binnacle and steerage (helmsman), keeping time by the watch-glasses, assisting in hoisting the signals, and keeping an eye on general quarterdeck movements (Coleman pers, comm.). None of these duties were being attended to as the ship was sinking. Andrews had no apparent reason to be below decks while the ship went down. He is an unlikely candidate to fit any of the skeletal remains recovered from the wreck.

The Purser's Steward, Robert Bowler was also one of the Petty Officers lost with Pandora. He stood no watches but worked by day and slept by night. The Steward oversaw and noted the exact quantity and type of provisions issued to respective messes both the officers and men (Coleman pers. comm.). Bowler could have been sent below decks at the last possible moment to retrieve any one of a number of items, perhaps the Purser's Account Books.

Robert Brown was one of the Carpenter's Crew. This consisted of one Carpenter, one Carpenter's Mate, and two Carpenter's Crew on board Pandora (Pandora muster lists, Admiralty Records PRO ADM 36/11136). The Carpenter was a qualified shipwright who had served his apprenticeship on one of the dockyards. He was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ship's hull, yards, and pumps. Generally, the Carpenter's Crew were men of little skill who assisted the carpenter in his duties (Rodger 1988, 26-55). Brown had a conceivable reason to be below decks as desperate attempts were being made not only to repair the leaks, but also the pumps.

Alexander Arbuthnot was one of the Sailmaker's Crew who, like the Carpenter's Crew, were generally unskilled men assisting the Sailmaker. It was possible that Arbuthnot was below at some stage retrieving sails, oakum, needles, and tar to prepare for fothering the ship. If so it would be likely that he had some seamen assisting him. However, Hamilton mentions that the idea of fothering the ship had been abandoned well before the ship heeled over prior to sinking. Therefore although it is theoretically possible that Arbuthnot was below decks when Pandora sank there is no solid reason to state that fact with any degree of certainty.

Jonathan Grimwood, formerly an Able Seaman, was promoted to Master at Arms several months before the sinking. He was seen rolling off the top of Pandora's Box with the Sentries as the ship heeled over before sinking (Morrison's Memorandum & Particulars, Admiralty Records ML, MS Safe 1/33). He was not below decks when the ship sank.

William Rodrick was the Corporal assisting Armourer's Mate Hodges to remove the mutineers' irons in the prisoners' cell as Edwards had ordered, moments before Pandora sank. According to Morrison, he rolled overboard at the same time as the Master at Arms (Morrison's Memorandum & Particulars, Admiralty Records ML, MS Safe 1/33). He too was not below decks during Pandora's final moments.

Of the six Petty Officers, we have only three who had any conceivable reason to be below decks, Bowler, Brown or Arbuthnot. Any man below decks, perhaps assisting Brown and Arbuthnot, could easily have been trapped below. There was a significant amount of water in the hold, loose cargo would have been floating and sloshing around, and in the dark spaces any one of a number of incidents could have occurred which trapped, disabled or even killed a man. That being the case, and even if not already dead, then rising water could have drowned the victim several hours before Pandora sank. Additionally, a man below decks on the port side could have been submerged in seconds and drowned in minutes by a massive volume of water shifting to one side and filling compartments, as Pandora heeled to port. Such a victim may not have had time, or been able, to escape due to displaced cargo or injuries sustained.

The Seamen

A total of 25 common seamen were lost. The majority would have had a lower-class background and a likely history of hard physical labour which possibly had an effect on their skeletal development.

Two unnamed men were crushed to death a few hours prior to the sinking. At one stage, Edwards ordered that the guns be thrown overboard to lighten the ship. As this was being done, the ship took a heel and one gun slid across the deck and crushed a man. Excluding the considerable weight of the solid oak carriage, the iron barrel, alone, weighed 2,045lbs (just over 900kg) (McKay and Coleman 1992, 10). It is not only possible, but quite likely, that several bones were crushed when this occurred, perhaps leaving the individual identifiable through osteological investigation. Another man was crushed by a spare topmast falling from its stowage midships (Hamilton in Thompson 1915). In the surviving accounts, both killed were referred to as 'men'. If they had a specific rating they should have been referred to by such. The fact that they weren't may indicate that they were ABs, ORDs or Landsmen. Considering that the upper decks would have been quite frantic at this stage, with the crew fearing for their lives, these bodies would have almost certainly been placed together below decks, immediately, until further notice. It would not have been beneficial to the crew's morale to see two fellow crewmen lying on the deck, dead, let alone the fact that they would probably get in the way of desperate efforts being made to save the ship. After being taken below decks, dealing with their bodies would not have been a priority for anyone. Quite simply, there was no time. Throughout the chaos, the bodies would have remained where they were placed, below decks, and later went down with the Pandora. These two bodies are the most likely candidates to fit two of the individuals whose skeletal remains were recovered from the wreck of Pandora. It would be impossible to state where the two bodies were placed below decks.

At least two Sentries (seamen) abandoned ship, moments before sinking, with Grimwood (Master at Arms). Lieutenant Corner says in his account (Thompson 1915, 73) that when some of the prisoners shed their manacles, 'two additional sentinels were placed over them...'. Therefore, there may have been as many as four Sentries who abandoned the ship with Grimwood.


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Last updated: Thu Mar 28 2002