Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

36 corrected entries

(4 votes)

Corrected entry: In the scene where the Surprise is being re-fitted after the first encounter with the Acheron, Captain Aubrey tells Mr. Allen, "A week spent crawling through the Brazilian rain forest looking for a new mast won't do." He would not have used "rain forest" in 1805, the term "rain forest" was first coined in 1898 by a German botanist. (00:23:00)

Correction: See corrections of this kind for 'Troy', 'Pirates of the Carribean' and 'Braveheart'. The film uses contemporary English so modern audiences can understand the dialogue. This is a film convention, not a mistake.

Corrected entry: Surprise, disguised as a whaler, makes a quick tack (within a minute) so that both sides of the ship can fire broadsides into Acheron. In real life, a square-rigger such as Surprise would take a half-hour or more to turn around, with much effort on the part of the crew to maneuver the sails and spars.

Correction: Sailing ships, especially in the Royal Navy with their large crews, can tack and wear in a few minutes. I have sailed aboard the Rose, which was the life size sailing version of Surprise in the movie, and we could tack or wear easily in about five minutes with a much smaller crew than would have been available to Jack Aubrey.

Corrected entry: When the rowing boats are towing the ship into the fog, the ropes are not tight. They are actually very loose - so they can't be pulling much.

Jacob La Cour

Correction: Actually these loose ropes can only be seen in two scenes. In one scene, just one of the three boats is shown, so the other two could be a bit ahead of that one. In the second scene, the Surprise has reached the fog and the boat crews stop pulling like madmen, hence the loose rope. No mistake here.

Corrected entry: Aubrey's ship HMS Surprise spends a lot of its time with the guns run out. In reality, they would only be run out for battle, secured inboard since the ship could ship water through open gun-ports. Also, the captain would not be running around the ship, doing "hands on" stuff, like on the helm. He'd stand back and issue orders.

Correction: It is very doubtful that a sixth-rate of just 28 guns would have gun-port lids on most of the battery at all. RN frigates were built with open ports except for perhaps the two rearmost gun-ports which were in accommodation areas. The lids would be closed except in action when the interior partitions would be dismantled to "clear the decks" and let the guns be positioned there. At sea frigates would sail with their guns run out and secured, but not rigged for action, and with the muzzles stoppered to keep the water out of the barrels. Frigates could do this because their design allowed the main battery to be rather higher above the water than in larger ships, and thus shipping less water (relatively) through the open ports. A frigate really only looked like a frigate and this makes Aubrey's plan to disguise the Surprise as a whaler rather ridiculous, and gives the lie to the story's premise that the skipper of Acheron is a smart man...since all Surprise could hope to look like is a ship of war and he would not have been fooled for a moment.

Corrected entry: Upon arriving at the Galapagos Islands, Aubrey encounters the survivors of a British whaler who claim the French privateer captured their ship and seized their cargo of oil. This is hogwash. A privateer, by its very nature, has no room to transport bulk cargo like whale oil. They would be likely to load any ambergris from the whaler, but the premise that a privateer would make profits by seizing and burning whalers is specious at best.

Correction: The key point with this is that it is a British whaler. Any oil harvested on that whaler would be taken back to Britain. It would be quite logical that a French vessel, in the middle of a war with Britain, would want to burn any product bound for the country they were at war with, thus attacking the British vessel, and taking and burning the oil.

Corrected entry: In the beginning shot it reads "HMS Surprise, 28 Guns..." On the ship, there are 12 Guns on each side of the gun deck, that equals 24. On the quarterdeck, there are 4 Carronades which is 28, the purposed number. But there are also 2 Bow chasers, which would equal in a 30 Gun ship. There are also 2 Swivels but those don't count.

Correction: At the time, the rating of a ship by the number of guns was purely nominal. It indicated the ship's approximate size and strength but a ship could and often did carry a few extra guns especially if the captain was wealthy and could afford to bring his own special cannons. In the Patrick O'Brian books Aubrey has a couple of brass long cannons which he moves from ship to ship and uses as chasers because he thinks they are more accurate.

Corrected entry: After the initial attack by the Acheron, Aubrey goes down below to see how deep the water is. The guy standing in the water says "2 ft, 6 in." This is a BRITISH ship in the early 1800s!

Correction: I don't see the mistake here. If the submitter is saying that some archaic unit would have been used, they should have specified it. If they are saying that metric units would have been used, they could not be more wrong. In the early 1800s, even the French still regularly used their customary units (the metric system wasn't fully adopted until the 1840s), and feet and inches are widely used in Britain to this day.

J I Cohen

Corrected entry: Bonden is the Coxswain, a petty officer. At one point, the captain addresses him as 'Mr' Bonden, a term of address reserved for warrant officers. In a similar vein, Higgins, the Surgeon's Mate, is listed on the cast as a warrant officer. Surgeon's Mates were petty officers.

Correction: This is incorrect. In 1805, Petty Officers didn't exist for about another 50 years and roles like the Bosun and Master-at-arms were Warrant officers. When Petty Officers were introduced some positions went down in rank (coxswain, Master-at-arms), while others eventually became commissioned ranks (Sailing master (Navigation officer), Surgeon, etc.).

Petty officers did exist in 1805 but they were appointed by the captain and lost their rate as soon as they were paid off at the end of the commission. If they followed the captain to his next ship, they might be re-rated petty officers but there was no guarantee. The 19th century changes made the ratings permanent. Seamen now joined the navy for a set period rather than joining a ship for a single commission. Surgeons and bosuns were warrant officers. Surgeon's mates, bosuns mates, coxswain etc were petty officers.

Corrected entry: Near the end of the film when the crew are playing cricket on the island the camera pans out to show the batsman in front of three stumps. However cricket didn't start to be played with three stumps until at least 50 years after the film is set. At the time of the movie time people only played with two. (01:33:40)

Correction: This entry is completely wrong. Three stumps had been in use for a long time and became official in 1775 and not more than fifty years after 1805 as stated.

Corrected entry: In the final DVD scene Jack and Stephen are playing their instruments. Jack is strumming his violin before picking up his bow. The sound of the strumming continues for several seconds after Jack stops and before he starts playing using the bow. (02:02:35)

Correction: Already listed and corrected.


Corrected entry: It is highly unlikely that a French privateer would attack a British frigate, even with an advantage in size and armament. Privateers were in the profitable business of capturing enemy merchantmen, not in the dangerous one of fighting enemy warships. The Acheron would only fight the Surprise if forced to. I can't see why the screenwriters made the Acheron a privateer - making her a French warship would have been more realistic and would have detracted nothing from the story.

Correction: Just because you think something's unlikely, it doesn't necessarily make it a mistake. While privateers did generally go after merchant vessels, there are numerous recorded examples of them attacking riskier targets - Henry Morgan, for example, successfully attacked heavily fortified towns on at least two occasions during his career, which makes attacking a smaller outgunned warship seems relatively minor. Privateers also had to think about their reputation - a better 'legend' would lead to more prestigious and more profitable assignments, to say nothing of the bragging rights among their fellow captains. If a privateer saw the opportunity to take out an enemy warship in a sneak attack (thus lessening the risk considerably), it's more than plausible that they'd do so.

Tailkinker Premium member

Corrected entry: Dr. Maturin states that the lizards they see at the Galápagos are "vegetarians". This word wasn't introduced until 1847 by the first Vegetarian Society in Ramsgate, England.

Ronnie Bischof

Correction: As with almost all historical films, modern terms are being used to allow modern audiences to understand easily - the earlier term "Pythagorean" would have meant nothing to them. Standard movie convention, therefore this cannot really be considered a mistake.

Tailkinker Premium member

Corrected entry: When the Surprise is firing upon the Acheron in the last battle of the film, they completely destroy the main mast as shown in a wide shot of the Acheron's mast falling all the way off. However, when half of Jack's crew take the Acheron under Tom's command in the last 5 minutes of the film, the mast in miraculously back on. This is without them ever stopping to retrieve another mast or having enough time.

Correction: Quite a bit of time has gone by since the end of the battle and the parting of the 2 ships, they just did not show the work being done on the two ships to get them repaired. Both ships had a lot of damage to their sides, yet they are fixed before the funerals for the dead. So they may have had time to retrieve the mast and repair it enough to get the ship into port at Valparaso.

Corrected entry: During the boarding of the Acheron, Capt. Jack Aubrey is wielding two Flintlock Pistols (which can only hold one bullet each). But when the French come out of hiding, Jack fires from his Flintlocks three times in a row without reloading.

Correction: In a close action, pistols would not be reloaded but would be used once and dropped. Therefore, officers usually went in with pistols in each hand and one or two spares in their belt. Additionally, they would pick up pistols from fallen sailors and good shots would be handed them by others. It is unclear how many pistols Aubrey carries since he boards the ship with one, later holds two and later fires three.

Corrected entry: After the shot where Aubrey sees Hogg in the lifeboat, Hogg and the whalers climb up the starboard accommodation ladder. The starboard accommodation ladder was used for formal occasions; the larboard ladder when no ceremony was desired. (01:05:05)

Correction: Since these were obviously shipwrecked sailors, it's more than likely that Captain Aubrey (not to mention the crew of the Surprise) was not about to stand on ceremony in getting these weakened and dehydrated sailors onto the ship.

Corrected entry: A man in the cold Cape Horn waters would lose his senses in less than a minute; he wouldn't be able to swim vigorously. (00:51:05)

Correction: The length of time people can survive in cold water is an average estimate. That means some succumb quicker while others last longer. There are many reported cold water rescues where some victims survived long beyond all expectations.

Corrected entry: When Stephen is taking measurements of the tortoises, there's a close up of him measuring around one's neck. The tortoise if obviously dead.

Correction: Why is taking a measurement from a "Dead" tortise a mistake? Wouldn't it be easier to take measurements from one which is not moving?

Corrected entry: The lights on the Surprise are candle or oil lamps. These would flicker, in the movie they don't flicker at all. They're electric.

Correction: They are candle lamps. I have seen the lanterns used on this film being made and the finished product. They are not electric, they are high-quality reproductions that would only flicker if wind got to them but these have coverings.

Corrected entry: In the shot where Capt. Aubrey gives a navigational lesson, he refers to Mr. Williamson's sextant. Actually, it's an octant.

Correction: Actually, what the mids are holding are examples of a "Hadley's Quadrant", the half-step in navigational tool evolution between the octant and sextant. Aubrey had a sextant (in the final cut we don't see it) and would probably use 'sextant' as a generic term for intruments of this type.

Corrected entry: When Blakeney had boarded the Acheron and shoots his gun, for a very brief second we can see that there is a pause in the camera movement though the soundtrack goes on. (01:55:05)

Correction: That's your own DVD skipping as it changes chapters, not a movie mistake.

More mistakes in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Capt. Jack Aubrey: This is the second time he's done this to me. There will not be a third.

More quotes from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Trivia: The book, from which the film is based, was actually set during the "War of 1812" between Britain and America, and in the book the Acheron is an American made vessel used by America. By contrast, in the film the Acheron is an American made ship used by the French, who are the nemesis of Britain in this film.

More trivia for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Question: Will someone explain to me navigation. I have never heard of "Sou Sou West" or "Sou East by East."

Answer: There are four major directions (North, South, East and West), four minor (North East, south east, south west and north west) and 16 sub directions. Among these are South South West and South east by East. South South West is between South West and South and South East by East is between south east and east.


More questions & answers from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

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