Mutiny on the Bounty

In May 28th 1789 Captain Bligh, an experienced mariner who had been on James Cook's voyages to the Pacific of the HMS Bounty was set adrift in a small boat by his own crew mates led by Fletcher Christian.

Ian Wright in a HMS Bounty re-enactment

In May 28th 1789 Captain Bligh, an experienced mariner who had been on James Cook’s voyages to the Pacific of the HMS Bounty was set adrift in a small boat by his own crew mates led by Fletcher Christian. His fate – certain death in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a sea with terrible storms and Islands teeming with hungry cannibals.

Captain Bligh and his men survived 40 days adrift at sea. The mutineers went in search of a place to land in the South Pacific. The first stop was on the island of Tubuai. His survival became the most famous story to come out of Tahiti: Mutiny on the Bounty. Their voyage was to research the breadfruit plants; after many problems the mission was delayed by 5 months awaiting breadfruit to seed and the crew integrated into the wild Polynesian life and took lovers ashore. The mutineers sank Bounty near a rocky bay off Pitcairn Island, it’s remains are still in the sea.

The mutineers attempts to settle in Tubuai was met by local opposition and 12 Polynesians were killed by the English. Some of the mutineers and a small group of Polynesians settled in Pitcairn. Their final fate was gory, when 12 years after settling one of the mutineers took one of the Polynesians’ women as replacement for his dead mate. Jealousies between the English and the Polynesian men became inflamed and led to a massacre between the two groups in which 5 mutineers including Fletcher Christian were murdered, another commited suicide and another died of asthma and another was killed by his remaining crew mates. Their descendants still live in Pitcairn today.

Every two years on the island of Tubuai, the locals reinact the arrival of the mutineers led by Fletcher Christian on the shore where they landed, called Bloody Bay. The first part of the reinactment shows the mutineers being greeted by the 3 chiefs of the island and their daughters. The crew also bought gifts of domestic animals that the islanders had never seen before.

In May 1791 HMS Pandora from England approached the island of Tahiti to capture the mutineers. Certain sailors of Bounty, in particular those not having taken share with the mutiny, delivered themselves in order to prove their good faith. The others 14 were captured. All, without exception, were placed in a cage of 15 square meters, called “the Pandora’s box“, without contact with the crew.

On a coral barrier in the strait of Torres a terrifying storm threw Pandora on August 28. The following day, in spite of the efforts of the crew, the ship could not be saved. The captain ordered the abandonment of the ship, but refused to release the prisoners. At the very last moment the fencing master, in spite of the orders of his commander, gave the keys to the prisoners trapped in Pandora’s Box. 10 of the prisoners were saved, but four of them did not have a chance to escape and perished drowned, still connected to their cages.

In 1792 the remaining mutineers were captured, and three of the 10 were hanged.

 

MORE INFORMATION

BOOK:
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff, James N. Hall

The story of Fletcher Christian’s mutiny against Captain Bligh, as told by Midshipman Roger Byam

History of Fletcher and the Mutineers
A short history of the ship wreck and return to Tahiti

Reclaiming the Bounty
An underwater discovery of the treasures of the bounty

 

By Susi O’Neill

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