An Early-Victorian Windfall
In June of 1844, Sir Edward Belcher and two boats from HMS Samarang were engaged in surveying the Molucca Islands when they encountered a hostile group of natives. The British retaliated by burning the local village and several prahus (outrigger canoes) drawn up on the beach. That night the natives responded by sending fifteen large prahus to attack the British boats; in the resulting clash a number of canoes were captured, and most of the rest destroyed. On slim evidence, Belcher branded his opponents as pirates, and he and his crew were eventually awarded a bounty of about £12,000.