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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Mutiny on the Bounty


The Bounty was built in 1784 and was first used, under the name Bethia, for carrying coal.

After being bought by the Royal Navy in 1787, she was refitted and renamed the Bounty.

A 1960 reconstruction of HMS Bounty. By Dan Kasberger - Wikipedia Commons

HMS Bounty had, in Captain Bligh's words "a pretty Figure Head of a Woman in Riding habit".


The Bounty was captained by Lieutenant William Bligh. He took command on August 16, 1787.

One of the 46-man crew of the Bounty was a "widow's man", a fictional seaman whose salary was paid into a fund for families of dead sailors.

Mutiny leader, Bligh's Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, went to the Cockermouth Free School in Cumberland and was there at the same time as William Wordsworth.

Bligh wrote in his list of mutineers, "Fletcher Christian. Aged 24 years - 5.9 High. Dark swarthy complexion..."


The mission for the Bounty was to collect breadfruit from Tahiti in the hope that it could serve as cheap food for slaves in the West Indies.

The ship spent 10 months at sea sailing to Tahiti, where the crew spent a happy five months ashore and collected 1,015 breadfruit plants. Fletcher Christian fell in love with a Tahitian girl named Maimiti and he and the rest of the crew did not want to have to endure another long journey back to England.

Matavai Bay, Tahiti, as painted by William Hodges in 1776

The crew acquired tattoos during the expedition. According to Captain Bligh, Fletcher Christian had a star on his left breast and another tattoo on his backside.


The Bounty left Tahiti on April 4, 1789, on the way to Jamaica. On April 28, 1789, near the Friendly Islands, Fletcher Christian led a mutiny casting adrift Captain Bligh and 18 loyal crewmen in a small boat, while Christian and the Bounty went back to Tahiti.

Bligh and the 18 sailors were cast adrift enough food and water for about a week. They were also given four cutlasses, a compass, and a quadrant, but no maps.

Fletcher Christian and the mutineers turn Lieutenant William Bligh and 18 others adrift; 1790 painting by Robert Dodd

Christian and a small group of sailors, 11 Tahitian women, and 6 Tahitian men then went to the remote Pitcairn Island. After they arrived they took everything they could from the ship then burnt it on January 23, 1790..

After the Bounty mutineers arrived on Pitcairn Island, they hoped to spend happy and peaceful lives there. However plenty went wrong, there was much conspiracy, debauchery and carnage and after three years only four of the mutineers survived.

After the mutiny, Fletcher Christian called his first son "Thursday October" as he was born on a Thursday in October. It should have been "Friday October" as the mutineers had got the date wrong.

How Fletcher Christian died in 1793, aged 28, is not known for certain. According to an account by a Pitcairnian woman named Jenny who left the island in 1817, Christian was shot while working by a pond next to the home of his pregnant wife.

After being cast adrift, Captain Bligh survived a 47-day journey to Timor.

Bligh was later praised by Lord Nelson for his actions at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.

He was made Governor of New South Wales in 1806 with orders to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the New South Wales Corps. Bligh's actions directed against the trade resulted in the so-called Rum Rebellion, during which he was again deposed in a mutiny.

Portrait of Rear Admiral William Bligh by Alexander Huey, en:1814

Bligh died in Bond Street, London on December 7, 1817. His tomb is topped with a breadfruit.

The wreck of the Bounty was found in 1957 by US photographer and explorer Luis Marden.


Two Bibles had come ashore on Pitcairn Island with Fletcher Christian's men. Years later in February 1808, the American sealer Topaz came unexpectedly upon Pitcairn. To the astonishment of the soldiers a canoe from the island drew alongside and two young men hailed them in English. The native and his companion were taken on board to dine with the captain. Before eating the two South Sea islanders arose and one of them said to the British seamen's surprise, a Christian grace. The captain inquired where the young men had learnt their politeness and Christian manners. The answer was from the two Bibles that arrived all those years ago with the mutineers.

In 1814, two British warships, HMS Briton and HMS Tagus, chanced upon Pitcairn. Among those who greeted them were Thursday October Christian.

Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island where HMS Bounty was burned on 23 January 1790

On January 23rd each year, Bounty Day is celebrated on Pitcairn Island, celebrating the day in 1790 when the mutineers from HMS Bounty burned the ship to avoid its detection on Pitcairn. As part of the Bounty Day celebrations, models of the Bounty are made and burned.

The first film of Mutiny on the Bounty was a silent movie made in Australia in 1916.

Of the four later major films about the mutiny, only the 1935 version won an Oscar, for Best Film.

Source Daily Express

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