Errington School of Woodwork and Design, Vancouver Island British Columbia
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Sea Chest

Replica of the sea chest made for William Bligh, 1791

Replica of Sea Chest  Used by Captain William Bligh, RN

40 in. x 20 in.(w) x 23 in.
Western Red Cedar

This chest is constructed so that the dove-tailed corners conceal the groove which holds the bottom of the box in place. This kind of joinery was not uncommon in the eighteenth century and it would have seemed fitting for the effects of a naval officer such as William Bligh.

The story of Bligh's chest is that, when Bligh was at Nootka with James Cook in the spring of 1778; he so much admired the chest made there in Friendly Cove for Captain James Cook, that he ordered the carpenters to make another one similar to Cook's chest for himself. Although the chest was begun in that place, the story tells of how the chest was not completed until long afterward in England; when even the Bounty mutiny and the Providence's successful breadfruit expedition were already history.

The front of this chest is carved with the name William Bligh. There is also carved a frieze of five breadfruit leaves, which form a pattern beneath the name. The ends of the chest are carved; one with the name of H.M.S. Bounty and the date 1787, the other with H.M.S. Providence and the date 1791.

The hardware is cast yellow brass. The handles are fastened carefully with screws to backing blocks on the inside of the box. The handles would have been used for lashing the chest in place, as well as for carrying it. A handsome feature is the cast brass hasp, which bears the date 1787. This locking device can accommodate two padlocks - witness to Bligh's typical demands for security.

The three hinges are strongly made from teak battens with brass cheeks. The battens are secured to the lid, and the heel of each batten is allowed to pivot in a brass box. The three brass boxes bearing the hinge battens, are housed along the top edge of the back panel. The hinges support the lid very well and tend to keep it flat. The hinges are very nicely made and provide another interesting feature of this chest.

The material throughout is old growth red cedar, of uniform thickness a little more than one and a half inches.

Interior Hinge Detail

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