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SOOKE HISTORY: Exploring the legacy of North Pacific explorers

Capt. William Bligh once sailed with Capt. James Cook
HMCS Bounty laid anchor in Victoria Harbour in 1962. The majestic square-rigger was on a North American tour to promote the legendary film Mutiny on the Bounty. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Seeing the vessels participating in the Swiftsure reminds us of the significance of sailing vessels to the history of this coast.

Capt. James Cook may be the best-known early explorer of the North Pacific. One seaman who sailed with him on the Resolution was Capt. William Bligh, who later became famous when the mutiny occurred on HMS Bounty.

Today’s photograph shows a replica vessel of HMS Bounty moored at Ship’s Point in Victoria, with the Empress Hotel in the background. The date was 1962, and the square-rigger was on a North American tour to promote the movie Mutiny on the Bounty, produced by MGM.

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Those who have read about HMS Bounty will recall an expedition to acquire breadfruit that took the Royal Navy’s Bounty from Britain to Tahiti in 1789. Accounts of that time relate that the ship’s crew felt the command of Capt. Bligh was brutal. Eventually, this led to the unhappy crew taking control of the vessel.

Under the ship’s mate Fletcher Christian, the mutineers put Capt. Bligh and crew members loyal to him in a 20-foot longboat to fend for themselves. The mutinying crew eventually landed at Pitcairn Island, where they set up an independent colony. The fact that Capt. Bligh was able to bring his longboat to safety and eventually return to England demonstrated his remarkable ability in navigation and perseverance.

When MGM made plans in 1960 to memorialize the event in their movie Mutiny on the Bounty, they had this replica vessel built at Lunenberg, N.S. The World’s Fair was held in Seattle in 1962, which brought the replica ship to stop on their promotional tour at Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria.

The opportunity to get tickets to tour such a historic vessel led many Sooke parents, such as my husband and me, to take our children to see the ship on this unique visit.

Back in the 1960s, there was no way a small village could have hosted such a ship as Sooke was then. Conversely, in 1999 Sooke was able to host the visit of the replica Cook vessel, HMS Endeavour, and offer folk the opportunity to tour her right at our government dock.

Sadly, the vessel pictured is no longer, lost off North Carolina’s coast in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email