Book review The 24-gun Frigate PANDORA (Anatomy of the Ship)" by John McKay and Ron Coleman


Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
Book Review:
The 24-gun Frigate PANDORA
Anatomy of the Ship - series
by John McKay and Ron Coleman

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my copy is the first revision
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Conway Maritime Press Ltd; several Editions between 1993 and 2003
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
This is the front page of the last revised Edition, which is including also a fold out plan in the cover




The Pandora was a 24-gun Sixth Rate built at Deptford in 1779. The 20- and 24-gun classes were the smallest regularly commanded by a Post Captain and they were consequently known as post ships; they were also the smallest frigate-built ships on the Navy List. The Pandora is best known for her voyage to Tahiti which was undertaken to bring back the Bounty mutineers. Fourteen of them were captured at Tahiti but four of them were drowned when Pandora ran aground on 29 August 1791 on the Great Barrier Reef on her return journey. The surviving ten were eventually brought back to Portsmouth and court-martialled. Three of them were hung. The site of the wreck was discovered and has been extensively excavated by a team led by Ron Coleman. The 'Anatomy of the Ship' series aims to provide the finest documentation of individual ships and ship types ever published. What makes the series unique is a complete set of superbly executed line drawings, both the conventional type of plan as well as explanatory views, with fully descriptive keys. These are supported by technical details and a record of the ship's service history.

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About the Author

John McKay is an architectural draughtsman by profession, and this training undoubtedly helped with the production of a series of techical drawings for three volumes in Conway's Anatomy of the Ship series; on the Victory, the frigate Pandora and the armed transport Bounty. His book on the Victory took nearly five years to complete and involved more than 3,000 hours of work, but resulted in what remains perhaps the most comprehensive documentation of the ship to date. John lives near Vancouver, Canada.

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The Background
Design and building
Hull Construction
Copper sheating and fastening
Ship´s boats
Galley stove and still
Anchors and cables
Pandora´s Box
Ship´s oars and sweeps
Masts, yards and rigging
The appropriateness of the equipment
Select bibliography
The Photographs
The Drawings

A General arrangement and lines
B Hull Construction
C External Hull
D Internal Hull
E Fittings
F Armament
G Masts and yards
H Rigging
I Sails
J Ship´s boats

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In short time I will write in a following post some more words about the ship, her class, the wreck research and available drawings from John McKay ......


Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
Some info about the vessel

HMS Pandora was a 24-gun Porcupine-class sixth-rate post ship of the Royal Navy launched in May 1779. She is best known as the ship sent in 1790 to search for the Bounty mutineers. The Pandora was partially successful by capturing 14 of the mutineers, but was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef on the return voyage in 1791. The Pandora is considered to be one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Early service
Her first service was in the Channel during the 1779 threatened invasion by the combined fleets of France and Spain. She was deployed in North American waters during the American War Of Independence and saw service as a convoy escort between England and Quebec. On 18 July 1780, while under the command of Captain Anthony Parry, she and Danae captured the American privateer Jack. Then on 2 September, the two British vessels captured the American privateer Terrible. On 14 January Pandora captured the brig Janie. Then on 11 March she captured the ship Mercury. Two days later Pandora and HMS Belisarius were off the Capes of Virginia when they captured the sloop Louis, which had been sailing to Virginia with a cargo of cider and onions. Under Captain John Inglis Pandora captured more merchant vessels. The first was the brig Lively on 24 May 1782. More followed: the ship Mercury and the sloops Port Royal and Superb (22 November 1782), the brig Nestor (3 February 1783), and the ship Financier (29 March). At the end of the American war the Admiralty placed Pandora in ordinary (mothballed) in 1783 at Chatham for seven years.

Voyage in search of the Bounty
Pandora was ordered to be brought back into service on 30 June 1790 when war between England and Spain seemed likely due to the Nootka Crisis. However, in early August 1790, 5 months after learning of the mutiny on HMS Bounty, the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, decided to despatch her to recover the Bounty, capture the mutineers, and return them to England for trial. She was refitted, and her 9-pounder guns were reduced to 20 in number, though she gained four 18-pounder carronades.

Pandora sailed from The Solent on 7 November 1790, commanded by Captain Edward Edwards and manned by a crew of 134 men. With his crew was Thomas Hayward, who had been on the Bounty at the time of the mutiny, and left with Bligh in the open boat. At Tahiti they were also assisted by John Brown, who had been left on the island by an English merchant ship, The Mercury.

Unknown to Edwards, twelve of the mutineers, together with four crew who had stayed loyal to Bligh, had by then already elected to return to Tahiti, after a failed attempt to establish a colony (Fort St George) under Fletcher Christian's leadership on Tubuai, one of the Austral Islands. The disaffected men were living in Tahiti as 'beachcombers', many of them having fathered children with local women. Fletcher Christian's group of mutineers and their Polynesian followers had sailed off and eventually established their settlement on the then uncharted Pitcairn Island. By the time of Pandora's arrival, fourteen of the former Bounty men remained on Tahiti, Charles Churchill having been murdered in a quarrel with Matthew Thompson, who was in turn killed by Polynesians, who considered Churchill their king.

The Pandora reached Tahiti on 23 March 1791 via Cape Horn. Three men came out and surrendered to Edwards shortly after Pandora's arrival. These were Joseph Coleman, the Bounty's armourer, and Peter Heywood and George Stewart, midshipmen. Edwards then dispatched search parties to round up the remainder. Able Seaman Richard Skinner was apprehended the day after Pandora's arrival. By now alerted to Edwards' presence, the other Bounty men fled to the mountains while James Morrison, Charles Norman and Thomas Ellison, tried to reach the Pandora to surrender in the escape boat they had built. All were eventually captured, and brought back to Pandora on 29 March. An eighth man, the half blind Michael Byrne, who had been fiddler aboard Bounty, had also come aboard by this time. It was not recorded whether he had been captured or had handed himself in. Edwards conducted further searches over the next week and a half, and on Saturday two more men were brought aboard Pandora, Henry Hilbrant and Thomas McIntosh. The remaining four men, Thomas Burkett, John Millward, John Sumner and William Muspratt, were brought in the following day. These fourteen men were locked up in a makeshift prison cell, measuring eleven-by-eighteen feet, on the Pandora'squarter-deck, which they called "Pandora's Box".

On 8 May 1791 the Pandora left Tahiti and subsequently spent three months visiting islands in the South-West Pacific in search of the Bounty and the remaining mutineers, without finding any traces of the pirated vessel. During this part of the voyage fourteen crew went missing in two of the ship's boats. In the meantime the Pandora visited Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and Rotuma. They also passed VanikoroIsland, which Edwards named Pitt's Island; but they did not stop to explore the island and investigate obvious signs of habitation. If they had done so, they would very probably have discovered early evidence of the fate of the French Pacific explorer La Perouse's expedition which had disappeared in 1788. From later accounts about their fate it is evident that a substantial number of crew survived the cyclone that wrecked their ships Astrolabe and Boussole on Vanikoro's fringing reef.

HMS Pandora in the act of foundering by Robert Batty

Heading west, making for the Torres Strait, the ship ran aground on 29 August 1791 on the outer Great Barrier Reef. She sank the next morning, claiming the lives of 35 men - 31 crew and 4 of the mutineers. The remainder of the ship's company (89 crew and 10 prisoners, 7 of whom were released from their cell as the ship sank) assembled on a small treeless sand cay. After two nights on the island they sailed for Timor in four open boats, arriving in Kupang on 16 September 1791 after an arduous voyage across the Arafura Sea. Sixteen more died after surviving the wreck, many having fallen ill during their sojourn in Batavia (Jakarta). Eventually only 78 of the 134 men who had been on board upon departure returned home.

Captain Edwards and his officers were exonerated for the loss of the Pandora after a court martial. No attempt was made by the colonial authorities in New South Wales to salvage material from the wreck. The ten surviving prisoners were also tried; the various courts martial held found four of them innocent of mutiny and, although the other six were found guilty, only three were executed - Millward, Burkitt and Ellison who were executed on 29 October 1792 on board the man of war Brunswick at Portsmouth. Peter Heywood and James Morrison received a Royal pardon, while William Muspratt was acquitted on a legal technicality.

Descendants of the nine mutineers not discovered by Pandora still live on Pitcairn Island, the refuge Fletcher Christian founded in January 1790 and where they burnt and scuttled the Bounty a few weeks after arrival. Their hiding place was not discovered until 1808 when the New England sealer Topaz (Captain Mayhew Folger) happened on the tiny uncharted island. By then, all of the mutineers – except John Adams (aka Alexander Smith) – were dead, most having died under violent circumstances.

Wreck site: discovery and archaeology
The wreck of the Pandora is located approximately 5 km north-west of Moulter Cay 11°23′S 143°59′ECoordinates:
11°23′S 143°59′E on the outer Great Barrier Reef, on the edge of the Coral Sea. It is one of the best preserved shipwrecks in Australian waters. Its discovery was made on 15 November 1977 by independent explorers Ben Cropp, Steve Domm and John Heyer.

John Heyer, an Australian documentary film maker, had predicted the position of the wreck based on his research in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. His discovery expedition was launched with the help of Steve Domm, a boat owner and naturalist, and the Royal Australian Air Force. Using the built-in sensors of the RAAF P-2V Neptune, the magnetic anomaly caused by the wreck was detected and flares were laid down near the coordinates predicted by John Heyer.

Ben Cropp, an Australian television film maker, gained knowledge of Heyer's expedition and decided to launch his own search with the intention of following Heyer by boat; In this way Ben Cropp found the Pandora wreck just before John Heyer's boat did. The wreck was actually sighted by a diver called Ron Bell on Ben Cropp's boat. After the wreck site was located it was immediately declared a protected site under the Australian Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, and in 1978 Ben Cropp and Steve Domm shared the $10,000. reward for finding the wreck.

The Queensland Museum excavated the wreck on nine occasions between 1983 and 1999, according to a research design devised by marine archaeologists at the West Australian and Queensland museums (Gesner, 2016:16). Archaeologists, historians and scholars at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville, continue to piece together the Pandora story, using archaeological and extant historical evidence. A large collection of artefacts is on display at the museum.

In the course of the nine seasons of excavation during the 1980s and 1990s, the museum's marine archaeological teams established that approximately 30% of the hull is still intact (Gesner, 2000:39ff). The vessel came to rest at a depth of between 30 and 33 m on a gently sloping sandy bottom, slightly inclined to starboard; consequently more of the starboard side has been preserved than the port side of the hull. Approximately one third of the seabed in which the wreck is buried has been excavated by the Queensland Museum, leaving approximately 350 m³ for any future excavations.

Voyage of HMS Pandora in 1791



Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
The Porcupine-class sailing sixth rates were a series of ten 24-gun post ships built to a 1776 design by John Williams, that served in the Royal Navyduring the American War Of Independence. Some survived to serve again in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. The first two were launched in 1777. Three were launched in 1778, three more in 1779, and the last two in 1781.

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John Williams, the Surveyor of the Navy, designed the class as a development of his 1773 design for the 20-gun Sphinx class. The 1776 design enlarged the ship, which permitted the mounting of an eleventh pair of 9-pounder guns on the upper deck and two smaller (6-pounder) guns on the quarterdeck.

Ships in class
The Admiralty ordered ten ships to this design over a period of two years. The contract for the first ship was agreed on 25 June 1776 with Greaves, for launching in July 1777; the second was agreed with Adams on 6 August 1776, for launching in May 1777. The contract price for each was £10½ per ton BM; they were named Porcupine and Pelican by Admiralty Order on 27 August 1776. The contract price for Penelope was £11½ per ton BM.


One drawing of this class is available at the NMM online

HMS Pelican, Porcupine class
Plan showing the body plan, sheer lines, and longitudinal half-breadth for Pelican (1777). Annotated with Isaac Rogers (bottom right). From Tyne & Wear Archives Service, Blandford House, Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4JA.

The Sphinx-class sailing sixth rates were a series of ten post ships built to a 1773 design by John Williams. Although smaller than true frigates, post ships were often referred to incorrectly as frigates by sea officers, but not by the Admiralty or Navy Board.

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The first vessel in the class was launched in 1775, six more in 1776, two in 1777 and the last in 1781. The vessels of the class served in the Royal Navyduring the American Revolutionary War. Three of them - Sphinx and Ariel in September 1779, and Unicorn in September 1780 - were captured by the French Navy, but Sphinx was recovered in December 1779 and Unicorn in April 1781. Some survived to see service in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.


Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the body plan with stern board decoration and her name on the counter, the sheer lines with inboard detail and figurehead, and the longitudinal half-breadth for Sphinx (1775), a 20-gun Sixth Rate, as built at Portsmouth Dockyard.

Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the framing profile (disposition) for Sphinx (1775) and Vestal (1777), both 20-gun Sixth Rates. A copy was sent to Portsmouth on 16 July 1773 and then a copy sent to Plymouth on 19 September 1775. Signed by John Williams [Surveyor of the Navy, 1765-1784]

Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the outboard expansion and the inboard expansion for Sphinx (1775), a 20-gun Sixth Rate. Signed by John Ancell [Assistant to the Master Shipwright, Plymouth Dockyard, 1801-1814].

Inboard profile plan NMM, Progress Book, volume 5, folio 674, states that 'Sphynx' was at Mr Dudman's Yard between 18 Feburary 1793 and 13 March 1793 being fitted. There is no mention of her being converted or of her being in Mr Wilson's Yard during her life.

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Jan 9, 2013



Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
One of the best (new built) ship models I was allowed to see is the 1:36 model of the hungarian Attila Gémes

I borrowed three photos from the hungarian page




He built 19 years on this model with somehow 20.000 it was also for him a very long way.

Take a look at this page with dozens of photos also during construction:

Another very interesting model in POF you can find here:

Also @Mike41 built already the Pandora :

Interesting file for download:

HMS Pandora project - Queensland Museum