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The story of the HMS Pandora begins with the voyage of the HMS Bounty, which set sail from England for Tahiti in the Pacific in 1787. On arrival, the crew mutinied, one of the most notorious mutinies in British naval history.

In 1790, the HMS Pandora sailed for Tahiti with the intent to capture the mutineers. They succeeded in doing so, but on the return voyage, the ship struck the Great Barrier Reef of North Queensland and sank, where it remained undiscovered until 1977, where the remains were located and the contents carefully excavated.


The Pandora, a frigate, carried fewer than fifty guns, and was intended for scouting rather than engaging in naval battles, due to its small size and high speed. On the bow, the ship carried a figurehead, like many ships of her day. Hers was of Pandora, a character from Greek mythology.

The Pandora had a lower deck and a main deck, which was partly open. There were also the fo'c'sle and quarterdeck at the bow and stern of the ship respectively. Crew members were accommodated in the crowded forward area of the ship, where as the officers accommodation was in the stern, consisting of light, airy cabins with glass windows and in the captains cabin an ornate fireplace, since recovered from the wreck. The prisoners were kept in a cell built atop the poop-deck, known as "Pandora's Box". When the ship sank, all but one of the prisoners escaped, save for one, who drowned still in his shackles. Three prisoners later died in the water.

The Pandora carried 22 9-pounders, 2 3-pounders and 6 18-pounder Carronades, though often known as "smashers", due to the fact that they fired large cannonballs which were capable of causing large amounts of damage at a short range. Carronades also fired grapeshot, small bags of cannonballs with the intention of killing or maiming crew members.

LENGTH: 120 ft (36.5m)
WIDTH: 32 ft (9.75m)
PANDORA'S BOX: length 11 ft (3.4m) width 18 ft (5.5m)

Source: Look Inside Cross-Section Ships by Moira Butterfield

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