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GLOBE MUTINY

GLOBE MUTINY. The Globe (built 1815) of Nantucket* might have been
remembered as the first ship to return more than 2,000 barrels of whale oil,
but that distinction was eclipsed by its being the stage of the bloodiest
mutiny* in the history of the whale fishery. The Globe sailed on its fourth voyage December 1822 for the Pacific,
worked the Japan ground, and stopped at Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands in
December 1823, where it lost seven crew members (six by desertion) and
signed on six new hands, two of whom, Silas Payne and John Oliver, were
to be key players in the mutiny and its sequel. The vessel left Honolulu 29
December 1823; a month later on the night of 26 January 1824, while off
Fanning* Island (3 49′ N/158 29′ W), boatsteerer Samuel Comstock, the
organizer of the mutiny, aided by Payne, Oliver, and William Humphries,
broke into the cabin and killed Captain Thomas Worth, Mate William
Beetle, Second Mate John Lombard (or Lumbert), and Third Mate Nathaniel Fisher. Two days later the mutineers hanged one of their own number, Humphries, of whose loyalty Comstock claimed to be suspicious.
The motive of the killings seems to have been not so much grievances
about discipline (a flogging, insufficient time for meals) as the peculiar psychopathology of Comstock, whose earlier life had been marked by dramatic
outbursts of idiosyncratic, often violent behavior.
Under Comstock’s command the ship sailed first to the Kingsmill Islands,
where the natives were hostile, and then to the Marshalls and the Mulgraves,
where the mutineers landed on Mili Island. There the natives were unthreatening, but the Globe settlement was not destined to be the island kingdom
that Comstock, according to some reports, hoped to establish. Within days
of their landing, Comstock was murdered by Payne and Oliver, who suspected him of squandering the ship’s stores on the natives to put himself in
an alliance with them at the expense of the rest of the crew. Soon thereafter
Gilbert Smith, Comstock’s fellow boatsteerer, enlisted five of the seamen
who were not mutineers (Stephen Kidder, Peter Kidder, George Comstock,
Anthony Hanson, and Joseph Thomas) in an escape attempt. George Comstock was the younger brother of the chief mutineer; some suspicions hung
about the role of Joseph Thomas in the mutiny.
Under cover of night the six sailed the Globe out to sea and reached
Valparaiso four months later on 7 June 1824. Bad relations between the
natives and the nine remaining Globe people on the island, attributable
mainly to Payne’s abusive treatment of the natives, led to a massacre of all
the remaining seamen except for William Lay and Cyrus Hussey, who came
under the protection of friendly natives. The dead included not only Payne
and Oliver but Thomas Lilliston, who had been recruited by Comstock for
the killings but turned back and did not participate, and the innocent seamen Columbus Worth, Rowland Jones, Rowland Coffin, and Joseph Brown.
Lay and Hussey, who were to become the primary chroniclers of the Globe
story, lived almost two years among the Mulgrave natives before they were
rescued. Under orders from the secretary of the navy transmitted to Commodore Isaac Hull, the schooner Dolphin was dispatched under the command of Captain John Percival to find the Globe remnant, arrest the
mutineers, and rescue the rest. A perilous rescue of Lay was accomplished 29 November 1825; Hussey, who had been kept for most of the time apart
from Lay, was found shortly thereafter thanks to Lay’s directions and rescued after a show of force. The two survivors were taken to Valparaiso by
the Dolphin and returned to New York in the U.S. frigate United States,
arriving 22 April 1827.
The six crewmen who had escaped with the Globe were confined and
examined by U.S. consul Michael Hogan in Valparaiso and examined again
on their return to the United States. One of them, Joseph Thomas, was
tried for complicity in the mutiny and acquitted.
Accounts of the Globe events contain minor discrepancies but are in general complementary. Lay and Hussey produced the most popular version,
but the later telling of the story by William Comstock, brother of the chief
mutineer, is a remarkably engaging piece of writing. The depositions of
participants and other official documents are noted by Edouard Stackpole,
cited in the following.
FURTHER READING: Comstock, William. The Life of Samuel Comstock, the Terrible Whaleman. Containing an Account of the Mutiny, and Massacre of the Officers
of the Ship Globe, of Nantucket; With His Subsequent Adventures, and His Being Shot
at the Mulgrave Islands. Also, Lieutenant Percival’s Voyage in Search of the Survivors.
By His Brother, William Comstock. Boston: James Fisher, 1840; Lay, William, and
Cyrus M. Hussey. A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board the Whaleship Globe. Of
Nantucket, in the Pacific Ocean, Jan. 1824. And the Journal of a Residence of Two
Years on the Mulgrave Islands; With Observations on the Manners and Customs of the
Inhabitants. By William Lay, of Saybrook, Conn. and Cyrus M. Hussey, of Nantucket,
The Only Survivors from the Massacre of the Ship’s Company by the Natives. New
London: Wm. Lay and C. M. Hussey, 1828 [rpt. New York: Corinth, 1963]; Stackpole, Edouard. “Mutiny at Midnight,” The Sea-Hunters. Westport, CT: Greenwood,
1972.