Mutiny on the Bounty

Captain William Bligh

William Bligh was the captain of the HMS Bounty. In the early morning of April 28, 1789, much of his crew mutinied in the waters between Lifuka, Uoleva and Tofua Islands in the Ha'apai group. You can actually see Tofua on the photo above which was taken from our beach in front of Sea Change. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian.

Bligh and eighteen others were cast off in an open boat with the ship's log, a compass, a sextant, and very limited provisions. Their provisions included 150 pounds of biscuits, 20 pounds of salted meat, and 120 liters of water.

They were able to land their open boat on nearby Tofua (you can see this island from Sea Change). However, hostile islanders killed the quartermaster, and the remaining men quickly fled to sea.

Bligh and his men drifted for 42 days over 3,500 miles to Timor, Indonesia. This remains the longest voyage ever in an open boat. The mutineers had returned to Tahiti where they took on 26 natives - seven men and nineteen women. Some mutineers were fearful of being discovered and jailed while others were not, and disagreements erupted among them. Christian and eight other mutineers sailed away leaving the rest of the mutineers in Tahiti.

The Bounty, with Fletcher Christian and eight others aboard, sailed 8,000 miles before landing on Pitcairn Island where they remained. Today, most of the population of Pitcairn Island are descendants of Christian and his eight fellow mutineers.

Bligh reached England in April 1790, whereupon the Admiralty despatched HMS Pandora to apprehend the mutineers. Fourteen were captured in Tahiti and imprisoned on board Pandora, which then searched without success for Christian's party that had hidden on Pitcairn Island. After turning back toward England, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 31 crew and 4 prisoners from Bounty. The 10 surviving detainees reached England in June 1792 and were court martialled; 4 were acquitted, 3 were pardoned, and 3 were hanged.

Although the mutiny on the Bounty occurred over 200 years ago, it continues to intrigue even casual readers of maritime history. Also, during the 20th century, the United States' film industry made four feature films about this event. That suggests that interest in this event goes well beyond only those with an interest in maritime history.



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