Lost at sea: every mariner’s fear.Maritime navigational tools could find latitude, but finding longitude remained elusive until Harrison developed the reliable sea clock, H4. Building on H4’s success, Kendall made a series of nautical timekeepers, K1, K2 and K3. This is the story of the K2 timekeeper; its adventurous voyages, the people it touched, and its place in history. K2’s first voyage, accompanied by the young Nelson, was nearly its last in the crushing Arctic ice. The next two expeditions saw it survive kidnappings, nautical intrigue, and gunpowder plots of the American revolutionary wars. The slave coasts of Africa followed.Bligh took K2 on the Bounty, but lost it in a fight with the mutineers in 1789. It was recovered by an American Quaker from Nantucket, only to be stolen by the Spanish. It rode on mules along the Andes before sailing into the Opium Wars. K2 finally returned to Greenwich in 1963.DRAMATIC, THREE NATION 'STORY OF TIME'
This is an extremely well researched book in to the life and times of the K2 watch. It goes in to the history and travails of the watch, but just as importantly it dives in to the historical events that surround it. I have have learnt more of some historical episodes from this than I ever did from history at school.
A marvelous, quirkily written story, that spans a great swathe of naval history. It concerns the travels of one particular naval timekeeper from its first voyage with Nelson to the attic, through the mutiny on the Bounty, riding on mules in the Andes until its return to Greenwich in 1963.
Bought this for my husband and he couldn’t put it down. Suggested I read it too and, really, it is a jolly good read. To think this small timepiece was held by both Nelson and Bligh, and that it travelled to the Arctic, America, China, Africa, Pitcairn Island, Spain and much more. Staggered no one had thought to write something about this extraordinary adventure before! It is especially relevant to those who enjoyed Dava Sobel’s; ‘Longitude’. Found the writing to be the perfect balance between technical information and a ripping good yarn. Birthdays and Christmas gifts sorted for the coming year!
What a fascinating book this is! Almost every chapter recalls a different thrilling adventure. This wonderful timepiece has touched the lives of so many famous people throughout its long history. Larcum Kendall, who made K2 for £200 between 1770 and 1772, was a highly skilled and inventive craftsman. His watch was cared for, and treasured by each of its owners, and we get to know them through the pages of John Bendall's book. It is not a stuffy book by any means, it is a fascinating read and has much about "our" subject of Pitcairn and the mutiny on the Bounty. John also includes the question, in an Epilogue to the book, which has always fascinated me: did Fletcher Christian leave Pitcairn Island? I will not give away his thoughts here, you will have to read the book for yourself, but I have to say that I agree with his feelings. And we will probably never know for certain.
Here is a brief extract from page 77 to give you a little flavour of the book:
"Up to this 4th voyage, K2 had seemed to be a lucky charm. The ship that took it to the Arctic would have been crushed by ice and perhaps all souls would have been lost but for a timely wind change. The two later ships operating in North America at different times, survived five and powder ships, gunfire, a submarine, floating mines, and kidnapping plots. K2 survived the African equatorial climate on this voyage, but its luck ran out with the death of the Commander.
However, already another naval captain who had the experience of K1 and K3 sailing with Cook in the Pacific was being offered K2 by the Admiralty. The next voyage would just involve sailing to a beautiful South Pacific Island where the officers only had to rub noses with some nice Polynesian chiefs and the crew only had to behave. It just involved digging up a few plants and transporting them to another beautiful island - in the Caribbean. Easy. Surely, nothing could go wrong?"
This book is not history, it is K2's story, and what a fabulous life K2 has led! Now sitting in its comfortable retirement home at Greenwich, the tales of this 250-year-old watch will enthrall you. K2 was an incredible piece of British craftsmanship and a wonderful work of art.
I recommend the book totally. Do buy it for yourself as a late Christmas present! I would like to congratulate John Bendall on his book, and welcome him as a new member of the Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands Society.
I must honestly say that I purchased this book for my husband based on the recommendation of a trusted friend. I didn’t even intend to read it but brought it on a boring car trip-- to appointments requiring hours of driving on dull highways. Initially, I ended up reading it aloud to him and we both thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was a tad dangerous when I tried to show him pictures and maps at 80 mph. The story managed to surpass my expectations and was nothing at all that I expected. As the title implies, K2 can essentially be described as a naval timepiece used to determine location, but in this story, the supporting cast of characters that come in contact with K2 is wonderfully nuanced-- even at times complicated, but always incredibly fascinating. It makes for a very quick read. We could not imagine how the author managed to tackle all the journeys, events, and historic figures that were involved in making, using, losing, and trying to find K2. It sparked such great conversations as we stopped for dinners on the road. My military aviator husband described navigating with stars, we discussed ships we had been on, and pondered if the current fleet of US Space Shuttles was named after those early exploratory Royal Naval ships, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavor, etc.—yes they were. It was so comforting to enjoy the same book. My mate will kill me if I refer to K2 as the “Forrest Gump” of naval equipment. (Apologies to Mr. Bendall as well) But, I hesitate to describe this book as a technical, historical tome about a timepiece. It is so much more. The meat of the book is far more focused on all the people and places impacted by the presence of it on the different vessels, and those who made it relied on it or went in search for it—not to overlook the politics involved. But, like Gump in the movie, it just seems that K2 goes everywhere with everybody. Each chapter relates a tale with a figure right out of history; Captain Cook, Horatio Nelson, Captain Bligh, Fletcher Christian. Charles Darwin even makes an appearance. K2 travels from the Atlantic to the Pacific back again and even over to the US side of the pond for the Revolution. The most fascinating detailed accounts to me involved the mystery of the characters from the Bounty and their demise. The stories from actual letters and accounts written by the players are amazing. No matter what genre you gravitate towards, this book will fill the bill and you will enjoy it. Alas, I must stop here as I am blessed to be able to travel back overseas soon. I am so hoping to take a side trip to Greenwich. I must meet K2 in person, while I am still able to……
Having read "Longitude" a few years ago, I found Kendall's Longitude K2 an excellent sequel. The historical facts are accurate and presented in an interesting way to keep the reader engaged. This book should appeal to people interested in exploration, science, and travel. Although, it is British Naval history there is global coverage including the Arctic, China, North America, and the Pacific Islands. The author provided enough detail to make it readable but not too overwhelming. Using K2 was a great way to pull the story together.
This book is a gem of a find. So many adventures for something so small. Imagine being held by Nelson, then in America, South America, China, and on the Bounty during the mutiny. It travelled around the world, and so many times could have been lost forever, but is now in London. This would make a super movie or Netflix series!
This is a story of a maritime clock (K2) which changed the face of navigation. It is the most extraordinary chronicle which by the end results in the transformation of the clock from a machine into a living thing. You imagine that if the clock could speak it would recount its journey in the way an old seafarer might. What is so engaging is that without indulging in exaggerated emotion the author, John Bendall, ably assisted by Mike Dryland in two of the early chapters, brings out the romance through pinpoint research, clever story-telling and concise development. The inscription on page 187 summarises the clock’s journey along with the factual amendments which immediately follow. The book is also brought to life by the vivid illustrations throughout. It is a book to read in a time of crisis because it shows that looking back a thread is laced through the inadequacies, brutalities and the sheer unknowns of human exploration, conflict and resolution. Once I started reading it I wanted to know what happened next. Two days later I found out and I was not disappointed.
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