Mutiny on the Bounty: Wikis


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The mutineers turning Lt Bligh and some of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship HMS Bounty, 29 April, 1789. By Robert Dodd

The mutiny on the Bounty is a mutiny that occurred aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789, and has been commemorated by several books, films, and popular songs, many of which take considerable liberties with the facts. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian against the commanding officer, William Bligh. The sailors were attracted to the idyllic life on the Pacific island, and repelled by the alleged cruelty of their captain.

Eighteen mutineers set Captain Bligh and most of those loyal to him afloat in a small boat. The mutineers then settled, some in Tahiti in 1789, others on Pitcairn Island, with Tahitians they had befriended. The Bounty was subsequently burned to avoid detection and to prevent desertion. Descendants of some of the mutineers and Tahitians still live on Pitcairn.

After Bligh and his crew of 18 made an epic and eventful journey in the small boat to Timor in the Dutch East Indies, he returned to the United Kingdom and reported the mutiny.


The Bounty

His Majesty's Armed Vessel (HMS) Bounty began her career as the collier Bethia, a relatively small sailing ship built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard in Hull. Later, she was purchased by the Royal Navy for £2,600 on May 26, 1787 (JJ Colledge/D Lyon say 23 May), refit, and renamed Bounty.[1]

The only two men ever to command her as the Bounty were Lieutenant William Bligh and Fletcher Christian, the latter illegally taking command through mutiny. Bligh was appointed Commanding Lieutenant of Bounty on 16 August 1787, at the age of 33, after a career that included a tour as sailing master of James Cook's HMS Resolution during Cook's third and final voyage (1776-1779). Though Bligh is commonly portrayed as the epitome of abusive sailing captains, this portrayal has recently come into dispute. In her book, The Bounty, Caroline Alexander claims that Bligh was relatively lenient compared with other British naval officers.[2] Bligh received the appointment because he was considered an exceptionally capable naval officer — an evaluation that would prove to be correct — and because of his experience and familiarity with navigation in the area and local customs.

The 1787 breadfruit expedition

The ship had been purchased by the Royal Navy for a single mission in support of an experiment: she was to travel to Tahiti, pick up breadfruit plants, and transport them to the West Indies in hopes that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. The experiment was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, who recommended Bligh as commander, and was promoted through a prize offered by the Royal Society of Arts. Sir Joseph Banks was at that time the unofficial director of Kew Gardens.

In June 1787, Bounty was refitted at Deptford. The great cabin was converted to house the potted breadfruit plants, and gratings fitted to the upper deck. Her complement was 46 officers and men.

On 23 December 1787, Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti. For a full month, she attempted to round Cape Horn, but adverse weather blocked her. Bligh ordered her turned about, and proceeded east, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and crossing the width of the Indian Ocean. During the outward voyage, Bligh demoted the ship's Sailing Master, John Fryer, replacing him with Fletcher Christian. This act seriously damaged the relationship between Bligh and Fryer, and Fryer would later claim Bligh's act was entirely personal. Bounty reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788, after ten months at sea.

Bligh and his crew spent five months in Tahiti, then called "Otaheite," collecting and preparing a total of 1,015 breadfruit plants. Bligh allowed the crew to live ashore and care for the potted breadfruit plants, and they became socialized to the customs and culture of the Tahitians. Many of the seamen and some of the "young gentlemen" had themselves tattooed in native fashion. Master's Mate and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian married Maimiti, a Tahitian woman. Other warrant officers and seamen of the Bounty were also said to have formed "connections" with native women.

Bligh was not surprised by his crew's reaction to the Tahitians. He recorded his analysis:

The Women are handsome ... and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved - The chiefs have taken such a liking to our People that they have rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made promises of large possessions. Under these and many other attendant circumstances equally desirable it is therefore now not to be Wondered at ... that a Set of Sailors led by Officers and void of connections ... should be governed by such powerful inducement ... to fix themselves in the midst of plenty in the finest Island in the World where they need not labour, and where the alurements of disipation are more than equal to anything that can be conceived.
A Narrative of the Mutiny, etc., by Lieut. W. Bligh, 1790, p. 9.

Crewmen Millward, Muspratt, and Churchill deserted and were recaptured. Instead of hanging them, the usual punishment for desertion, Bligh ordered them flogged. All three would be among the mutineers.

The mutiny

On 4 April 1789, after five months in Tahiti, the Bounty set sail with its breadfruit cargo. On 28 April 1789, some 1,300 miles west of Tahiti, near Tonga, mutiny broke out. From all accounts, Fletcher Christian and several of his followers entered Bligh's cabin, which he always left unlocked, awakened him, and pushed him on deck wearing only his nightshirt, where he was guarded by Christian holding a bayonet. When Bligh entreated Christian to be reasonable, Christian would only reply, "I am in hell, I am in hell!" Despite strong words and threats heard on both sides, the ship was taken bloodlessly and apparently without struggle by any of the loyalists except Bligh himself. Of the 42 men on board aside from Bligh and Christian, 18 joined the mutiny, two were passive, and 22 remained loyal to Bligh.

The mutineers ordered Bligh, the ship's master, two midshipmen, the surgeon's mate (Ledward), and the ship's clerk into Bounty's launch. Several more men voluntarily joined Bligh rather than remaining aboard, as they knew that those who remained on board would be considered de jure mutineers under the Articles of War.

Aftermath of the mutiny

Bligh's epic voyage

William Bligh in 1814, many years after the events described here.

In all, 18 of the loyal crew were in the launch with Bligh; four other loyalists were forced to stay with the mutineers. The mutiny took place about 30 nautical miles (56 km) from Tofua (Bligh spelled it Tofoa). Bligh and his crew attempted to land here (in a cove that they subsequently called "Murderers' Cove") in order to augment their meager provisions.[3] The only casualty during this voyage was a crewman, John Norton, who was stoned to death by some natives of Tofua.

Bligh navigated the 23 foot (7 m) open launch on a 47-day voyage, first to Tofua and then to Timor in the Dutch East Indies. Equipped with a sextant and a pocket watch and with no charts or compass, he recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (6710 km). He was chased by cannibals in what is now known as Bligh Water, Fiji and passed through Torres Strait along the way, landing in Kupang, Timor on June 14.[4] Shortly after the launch reached Timor, the cook and botanist died. Three other crewmen died in the coming months.

Lieutenant Bligh returned to Britain and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on 15 March 1790.

Mutineers in Tahiti

Meanwhile, the mutineers sailed for the island of Tubuai where they tried to settle. After three months of being attacked by the island's natives they returned to Tahiti. Twelve of the mutineers and the four loyalists who had been unable to accompany Bligh remained there, taking their chances that the Royal Navy would find them and bring them to justice.

Two of the mutineers died in Tahiti between 1789 and 1790. Matthew Thompson shot Charles Churchill and was subsequently stoned to death by Churchill's Tahitian family in an act of vendetta.

Last voyage of the Pandora

HMS Pandora, under the command of Captain Edward Edwards, was dispatched on 7 November 1790 to search for Bounty and the mutineers. Pandora carried twice the normal complement of crewmen, as it was expected that the extras would man the Bounty when it was recovered from the mutineers.

Pandora reached Tahiti on 23 March 1791. Four of the men from the Bounty came on board Pandora soon after its arrival, and ten more were arrested within a few weeks. These fourteen, mutineers and loyal crew alike, were imprisoned in a makeshift cell on Pandora's deck, which they derisively called "Pandora's Box."

On 8 May 1791, Pandora left Tahiti, spending about three months visiting islands to the west of Tahiti in search of Bounty and the remaining mutineers, without finding anything except flotsam (including some spars and a yard on Palmerston Island). Heading west through the Torres Strait, Pandora ran aground on a reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef) on 29 August 1791. The ship sank the next day, and 31 of the crew and four of the prisoners (Skinner, Sumner, Stewart and Hillbrandt) were lost. The remaining 89 of the ship's company and ten prisoners (released from their cage at the last moment by William Moulter, a bosun's mate on the Pandora[5]) assembled in four small launches and sailed for Timor, in a voyage ironically similar to that of Bligh. They arrived at Timor on 16 September 1791.


Peter Heywood, oil painting by John Simpson

After being repatriated to Britain, the ten surviving prisoners were tried by a naval court. During the trial, great importance was attached to which men had been seen to be holding weapons during the critical moments of the mutiny, as under the Articles of War, failure to act when able to prevent a mutiny was considered no different from being an active mutineer. In the judgment delivered on 18 September 1792, four men whom Bligh had designated as innocent were acquitted. Two were found guilty, but pardoned; one of these was Peter Heywood, who later rose to the rank of captain himself; the second was James Morrison who also continued his naval career and died at sea. Another was reprieved due to a legal technicality, and later also received a pardon. The other three men were convicted, and hanged aboard HMS Brunswick on 29 October 1792. In other trials, both Bligh and Edwards were court-martialled for the loss of their ships (an automatic proceeding under British naval law, and not indicative of any particular suspicion of guilt). Both were acquitted.

Bligh resumed his naval career and went on to attain the rank of Vice Admiral. However, his career was marked by another challenge to his authority as Governor of New South Wales. In 1808, the troops of New South Wales arrested Bligh in an incident known as the Rum Rebellion.

Second breadfruit expedition

Even before Edwards had returned from his search for Bounty, HMS Providence and her tender Assistant began a second voyage to collect breadfruit trees on 3 August 1791. This mission was again championed by Joseph Banks and again commanded by Bligh, now promoted from Lieutenant to Captain. On this second voyage, they successfully collected 2,126 breadfruit plants and hundreds of other botanical specimens and delivered them to the West Indies. The slaves on Jamaica, however, refused to eat the breadfruit, so the main purpose of the expedition was ultimately a failure. Departing Tahiti on 19 July 1792, Bligh once again successfully navigated the Torres Strait.

Mutineers on Pitcairn Island

Map showing Bounty's movements in the Pacific Ocean, 1788–1790     Voyage of Bounty to Tahiti and to location of the mutiny, 28 April 1789     Movements of Bounty after the mutiny, under Christian's command     Course of Bligh's open-boat journey to Coupang

Immediately after setting sixteen men ashore in Tahiti in September 1789, Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 11 women, one with a baby, set sail in Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. According to a journal kept by one of Christian's followers, the Tahitians were actually kidnapped when Christian set sail without warning them, the purpose being to kidnap the women[citation needed].

The mutineers passed through the Fiji and Cook Islands, but feared that they would be found there. Continuing their quest for a safe haven, on 15 January 1790 they rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been misplaced on the Royal Navy's charts. After the decision was made to settle on Pitcairn, livestock and other provisions were removed from the Bounty. To prevent the ship's detection, and anyone's possible escape, the ship was burned on 23 January 1790 in what is now called Bounty Bay. Some of her remains, such as her ballast stones, are still partially visible in its waters. Her rudder is displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva. An anchor of the Bounty was recovered by Luis Marden in Bounty Bay.

The Pitcairn island community began life with bright prospects. There was ample food, water and land for everyone, and the climate was mild. Although many of the Polynesians were homesick, and the Britons knew they were marooned on Pitcairn forever, they settled into life on Pitcairn fairly quickly. A number of children were born.

Fletcher Christian became the established leader of the community, and followed a policy of fairness and moderation toward all. He wanted the Polynesians to have an equal say in community affairs, and was supported in this by several of the Britons and likely all of the Polynesians. Other mutineers, however, treated the Polynesians as servants, even those of high rank, and attempted to deprive them of land. The natives resented this unfair treatment, which caused relationships between the Britons and the Polynesians to deteriorate. The hostility increased when Jack Williams' wife died, and one of the Polynesians' consorts was "given" to Williams as a "replacement". Despite Fletcher Christian's efforts to maintain peace, the Polynesian men revolted against their British oppressors.

In 1793, a conflict broke out on Pitcairn Island between the mutineers and the Tahitian men who sailed with them. Four of the mutineers (John Williams, Isaac Martin, John Mills and William Brown) and Fletcher Christian were killed by the Tahitians. All six of the Tahitian men were killed during the on and off fighting, some by the widows of the murdered mutineers and others by each other.

Fletcher Christian was survived by Maimiti and their son Thursday October Christian (sometimes called "Friday October Christian"). Rumours persisted that Christian left the island and made it back to England. There are other reports that Christian actually committed suicide.

Of the Tahitian women, early on, one died in a fall while gathering eggs from a cliff and another from a respiratory illness (thus precipitating the taking of the Tahitian men's consorts).

Christian's death caused a leadership vacuum on the island. Two of the four surviving mutineers, Ned Young and John Adams (also known as Alexander Smith), assumed leadership, and some peace followed, until William McCoy created a still and began brewing an alcoholic beverage from a native plant. The mutineers began drinking excessively and making life miserable for the women.

The women revolted a number of times — with the men continually "granting pardons" (each time threatening to execute the leaders of the next revolt) — and some of the women attempted to leave the island on a makeshift raft; it swamped in the "bay". Life in Pitcairn continued thus until the deaths of McCoy and Quintal, and the destruction of the still.

William McCoy died after a drunken fall. Matthew Quintal was subsequently killed by John Adams and Ned Young after threatening to kill everyone. Eventually John Adams and Ned Young were reconciled with the women, and the community began to flourish.

Ned Young succumbed in 1800 to asthma, the first man to die of natural causes. After Young's death in 1800, Adams became the leader of the community, and took responsibility for educating its members. Adams started holding regular Sunday services and teaching the Christian religion to the settlement. His gentleness and tolerance enabled the small community to thrive, and peace was restored to Pitcairn Island at last ... one man, nine Tahitian women and dozens of children.

The islanders reported that it was not until 27 December 1795 that the first ship after the Bounty was seen from the island, but as she did not approach the land, they could not make out to what nation she belonged. A second appeared some time in 1801, but did not attempt to communicate with them. A third came sufficiently near to see their habitations, but did not venture to send a boat on shore. The American trading ship Topaz, under the command of Mayhew Folger, was the first to visit the island and communicate with the inhabitants when the crew spent 10 hours at Pitcairn in February 1808. A report of Folger's find was forwarded to the Admiralty—which mentioned the discovery and the position of the island at latitude 25° 2' south and 130° longitude,[6] however this rediscovery was not known to Sir Thomas Staines who commanded a Royal Navy flotilla of two ships (HMS Briton and HMS Tagus) which found the island at 25° 4' S. (by meridian observation) on 17 September 1814. Staines sent a party ashore and wrote a detailed report for the Admiralty.[7][8][9] In November 2009 a logbook kept by midshipman J.B. Hoodthorp of the HMS Briton detailing the first contact with the mutineers was auctioned for over £40,000 by Cheffin's Auction House in Cambridge.[10]

In 1808, when the Topaz reached Pitcairn Island, only John Adams, nine women, and some children still lived. In 1825, Adams was granted amnesty for his mutiny; Pitcairn's capital, Adamstown, is named for him. On 30 November 1838, the Pitcairn Islands (which include the uninhabited islands of Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno) were incorporated into the British Empire. In 1856, the British government granted Norfolk Island to the Pitcairners for settlement since population growth was rendering their original refuge uninhabitable.

As of 2007, Pitcairn Islands is a British Overseas Territory with a small population of about 50 inhabitants. Bounty Day is celebrated on 23 January by Pitcairn Islanders in commemoration of the 1790 burning of the Bounty, and on 8 June as the national holiday on Norfolk Island to commemorate the 1856 arrival of settlers from Pitcairn Island.

Crew details

Page one of Bligh's list of mutineers - starting with Fletcher Christian .

In the 18th century Royal Navy, rank and position onboard ship was defined by a mix of two hierarchies, an official hierarchy of ranks (commissioned officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and seamen) and a conventionally-recognized social divide between gentlemen and non-gentlemen.

At the top of the official rank hierarchy were the commissioned officers — on a larger warship, the commissioned officers included the captain, several lieutenants to command watches, and the officers commanding the Royal Marines on board the ship. The Bounty, however, carried no marines, and no commissioned officers other than Lieutenant Bligh himself, who served as master and commander of the ship. As he was effectively the captain, he occupied a private cabin.

Next below the commissioned officers came the warrant officers, such as the sailing master, surgeon, boatswain, purser, and gunner, who were as likely to be considered skilled tradesmen as gentlemen. As the senior warrant officer, the sailing master and his mates were entitled to berth with the lieutenants in the wardroom (though in this case there were no lieutenants there); other warrant officers berthed in the gunroom. Like commissioned officers, warrant officers had the right of access to the quarterdeck and were immune from punishment by flogging. They held their warrants directly from the navy, and the captain could not alter their rank. Roman Catholics were allowed to serve as warrant officers, but not as commissioned officers.

Below the warrant officers came the petty officers, who were technically ratings like the seamen. The petty officers included two separate groups: young gentlemen training to be future commissioned officers, often serving as midshipmen or master's mates, and tradesmen working as skilled assistants to the warrant officers. Although the young gentlemen technically were ratings, holding a rank below warrant officers at the mercy of the captain, as aspiring future commissioned officers they were considered socially superior and were often given a watch (with authority over some warrant officers) or a minor command.

Finally, at the bottom of the hierarchical tree, were the seamen, divided into Able Seamen and Ordinary Seamen. Aboard some vessels, an even lower grade existed called Landsman, who were seamen-in-training with very little or no naval skill. Note, however, that the young gentlemen might also be rated as seamen rather than midshipmen on the ship's books, though they were still considered the social superiors of the seamen, petty officers (excluding other young gentlemen), and most warrant officers, and could be given authority over them.

In the immediate wake of the mutiny, all but four of the loyal crew joined Captain Bligh in the long boat for the voyage to Timor, and eventually made it safely back to England unless otherwise noted in the table below. Four were detained against their will on the Bounty for their needed skills and for lack of space on the long boat. The mutineers first returned to Tahiti, where most of the survivors were later captured by the Pandora and taken to England for trial. Nine mutineers continued their flight from the law and eventually settled Pitcairn Island, where all but one died before their fate became known to the outside world.

Crew of the Bounty in 1788-89
Category Name Position Mutiny
Lieutenant William Bligh Master and Commander. Acting Purser[11]
Wardroom Officers John Fryer Sailing Master loyal died at Wells-next-the-Sea on May 26, 1817
Fletcher Christian Master's Mate mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 Sep. 1793
William Elphinstone Master's Mate loyal died in Batavia Oct. 1789
Thomas Huggan Surgeon died in Tahiti 9 Dec. 1788 before mutiny
Cockpit Officers John Hallett Midshipman loyal Died 1794 of illness
Thomas Hayward Midshipman loyal Died 1798 in shipwreck
Thomas Ledward Surgeon's Mate loyal promoted to Surgeon after death of Thomas Huggan;
presumed lost at sea in sinking of Welfare 1789 but reported to have been ship surgeon on HMS Discovery in 1791 and died several years later
John Samuel Clerk loyal
Warrant Officers William Cole Boatswain loyal
Charles Churchill Master-at-Arms
(Ship's Corporal)
mutinied to Tahiti; murdered by Matthew Thomson in Tahiti Apr. 1790 prior to trial
William Peckover Gunner loyal
Joseph Coleman Armourer loyal detained on Bounty against his will; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted
Peter Linkletter Quartermaster loyal died in Batavia Oct. 1789
John Norton Quartermaster loyal killed by natives in Tofua 2 May 1789
Lawrence LeBogue Sailmaker loyal went with Bligh; arrived safely in England - did join Bligh on the second breadfruit expedition
Henry Hillbrandt Cooper mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 Aug. 1791
William Purcell Carpenter loyal
David Nelson Botanist
loyal died 20 July 1789 at Coupang
mustered as
Able Seamen
Peter Heywood Midshipman loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but pardoned;
aka Roger Byam in novels by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
George Stewart Midshipman loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; killed after being hit by gangway at wreck of Pandora 29 Aug. 1791
Robert Tinkler Midshipman loyal
Ned Young Midshipman mutinied to Pitcairn; died 25 Dec. 1800
James Morrison Boatswain's Mate loyal stayed on Bounty; to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but pardoned
George Simpson Quartermaster's Mate loyal
John Williams Armourer's Mate mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 Sep. 1793
Thomas McIntosh Carpenter's Mate loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted
Charles Norman Carpenter's Mate loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted
John Mills Gunner's Mate mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 Sep. 1793
William Muspratt Tailor mutinied to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but released on appeal and pardoned
John Smith Steward loyal went with Bligh; arrived safely in England - did join Bligh on the second breadfruit expedition
Thomas Hall Cook loyal died from a tropical disease (probably malaria) in Batavia on October 11, 1789
Richard Skinner Barber mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 Aug. 1791
William Brown Botanist's Assistant mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 Sep. 1793
Robert Lamb Butcher loyal died at sea 11 Oct. 1789 en route Batavia to Cape Town
John Adams Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; pardoned 1825, died 1829; aka Alexander Smith
Thomas Burkitt Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; condemned and hanged 29 Oct. 1792 at Spithead
Michael Byrne Able Seaman loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted
Thomas Ellison Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; condemned and hanged 29 Oct. 1792 at Spithead
Isaac Martin Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 Sep. 1793
William McCoy Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; committed suicide 1797/98
John Millward Able Seaman mutinied condemned and hanged 29 Oct. 1792 at Spithead
Matthew Quintal Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; "executed" 1799 by Adams and Young
John Sumner Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 Aug. 1791
Matthew Thompson Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; murdered Apr. 1790 prior to trial
James Valentine Able Seaman died of scurvy at sea 9 Oct. 1788 prior to mutiny

Crew members' biographical information may be found on the Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia page at the Pitcairn Islands Study Centre (PISC).

Discovery of the wreck

Luis Marden discovered the remains of the Bounty in January 1957. After spotting a rudder from this ship in a museum on Fiji, he persuaded his editors and writers to let him dive off Pitcairn Island, where the rudder had been found. Despite the warnings of one islander -"Man, you gwen be dead as a hatchet!"[12] — Marden dived for several days in the dangerous swells near the island, and found the remains of the fabled ship. He subsequently met with Marlon Brando to counsel him on his role as Fletcher Christian in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty. Later in life, Marden wore cuff links made of nails from the Bounty.

The mutiny in literature and cinema

Actor Charles Laughton as Bligh in the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • Although William Bligh has frequently been portrayed as a middle-aged man in stage and screen productions about the Bounty, he was thirty-four years old at the time of the mutiny, having been born in 1754.
  • "Pitcairn's Island", A new Melo Dramatic Ballet of Action, opened in Drury Lane in April 1816 following publication in the Naval Chronicle of an account of the 1814 visit to Pitcairn of Captain Sir Thomas Staines, of the Briton, and Captain Philip Pipon, of the Tagus.
  • Lord Byron published his poem The Island in 1823.
  • Mark Twain describes the mutiny as background to his story The Great Revolution in Pitcairn (1879).
  • Les révoltés de la Bounty by Jules Verne in 1879, based on a work by Gabriel Marcel.[13]
  • A first movie was made in Australia in 1916.
  • Another Mutiny on the Bounty was released in 1962, starring Trevor Howard as Bligh and Marlon Brando as Christian. The 1962 movie is generally considered the least accurate with such historical errors as Christian and Bligh meeting (and subsequently hating) each other at the first sailing of the Bounty, the mutiny occurring in the middle of the day sparked by Bligh's order to let a sailor die of ingested saltwater poisoning rather than be given water set aside for the breadfruits, and Fletcher Christian dying from injuries sustained in the fire aboard Bounty while trying to save the ship.
  • A fifth film, The Bounty (1984), starred Anthony Hopkins as William Bligh and Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian. This film is generally considered the most historically accurate with some of the scenes reenacted directly from William Bligh's own log.
  • Val McDermid explores the fate of Fletcher Christian in her novel The Grave Tattoo.
  • Rasputina wrote the double album Oh Perilous World as faux 1930s musical theater about Pitcairnian mutineer life with thinly veiled, anti-neoconservative allegory.
  • R. M. Ballantyne wrote a novel about the mutineers on the Bounty called The Lonely Island.
  • John Boyne wrote a novel called Mutiny on the Bounty, published in 2008, about the voyage of the Bounty and the mutiny from the perspective of Captain's Bligh's personal young valet.

The Bounty on Postage Stamps

  • The third definitive issue of 1964 depicted "H.M. Armed Vessel Bounty" on the 1d denomination, changed to 1 cent in 1967.
  • In 1976 Bounty was shown as "H.M.S. Bounty" on the 10c stamp.
  • Bicentenary Sheetlets and first day covers were issued in 1990 depicting Bounty as "HMAV Bounty".
  • In 2004 a set of stamps and first day covers were issued to celebrate "HMAV Bounty" the 1979 replica then based in Sydney.
  • In 2007 a set of stamps and first day covers were issued to celebrate "HMS Bounty" the 1962 USA based replica.

See also


  1. ^ "Blaydes – Summary". Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  2. ^ The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Caroline Alexander. ISBN 0006532462
  3. ^ Wahlroos, Sven. "Bligh Encyclopedia". Pitcairn Islands Study Center. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  4. ^ Toohey, John (March 2000). Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to safety--4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-019532-0. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ The European Magazine, and London Review, Philological Society of London, 1816, Volume 69 (Jan. - June 1816) "Mutineers of the Bounty". p. 134
  7. ^ Staff. The Annual Biography and Obituary for the Year ..., Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1831, Volume 15 "Chapter X Sir Thomas Staines" pp. 366-367
  8. ^ History of Pitcairn IslandHistory of Pitcairn Island, Pitcairn Study Center. Retrieved 15 September 2008
  9. ^ Pitcairn descendants of the Bounty Mutineers, Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  10. ^ Bounty logbook sells for £40,000.
  11. ^ "Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  12. ^ "National Geographic Icon Luis Marden Dies". National Geographic. 2003-03-03. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "The Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau". 
  • Dening, Greg (1992-06-26). Mr. Bligh's Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the Bounty. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521383707. 
  • Alexander, Caroline (2003). The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Viking Penguin. ISBN 0-670-03133-X. 
  • Conway, Christiane (2005). Letters from the Isle of Man - The Bounty-Correspondence of Nessy and Peter Heywood. Isle of Man: The Manx Experience. ISBN 1-873120-77-X. 
  • William Bligh - Meuterei auf der Bounty, Erdmann Verlag Tuebingen . Description of actual travel logs by W. Bligh, published 1791 and 1793 by Georg Forster and his father in Berlin as "Magazin von merkwuerdigen neuen Reisebeschreibungen"

Further reading

External links

Replica vessels
Official Pitcairn Coinage


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

For other uses, see Mutiny on the Bounty (disambiguation).

The Mutiny on the Bounty was a real-life mutiny aboard the HMAV Bounty on April 28, 1789, lead by Fletcher Christian against the ship's captain, William Bligh.


  • ... the wreck of the Batavia provides the greatest dramatic tragedy in Australian history, beside which the Mutiny on the Bounty is an anaemic tale.
    • Thomas Davies Mutch, in a private letter to Henrietta Drake-Brockman, 1947. Published in the Foreword to Drake-Brockman's 1963 Voyage to Discovery.

Simple English

The Mutiny on the Bounty has become a famous story, leading to many books, movies, and songs. The HMS Bounty was a small, three masted,[1] fully rigged, sailing ship. The Bounty became famous when the crew (seamen) mutinied (took over) the ship on 28 April 1789.


The ship

]] The ship was built in Hull, England in 1784 and was first called Bethia. In 1787 the ship was rebuilt to carry breadfruit trees. Heat and water were added to the cabins so the trees would survive in cold weather. The British government was hoping the breadfruit trees growing wild in Tahiti could be grown in Jamaica. This would provide cheap food for the slaves working on the sugar farms. The ship was very small - 90 feet 10 inches (27.7 metres) long and 24 feet 4 inches (7.4 metres) wide. The tallest mast was 53 feet (16.1 metres) high.[2].

The Bounty was captained by Lieutenant William Bligh and he took command on 16 August 1787. On 23 December, 1787, Bounty set off on the long trip to Tahiti. On the journey, William Bligh tried to go around Cape Horn. He tried for over a month but bad weather and winds stopped the ship. The Bounty was turned around and went the longer way around the Cape of Good Hope.


The Bounty reached Tahiti on 25 October 1788. She had been at sea for ten months. The crew stayed for five months and lived on the island. They collected 1015 breadfruit plants. The crew were very happy living in Tahiti and Fletcher Christian fell in love with a Tahitian girl named Maimiti. They did not want to have another long journey and go back to England.

The Bounty left Tahiti on 4 April 1789, on the way to Jamaica. On 28 April, near the Friendly Islands, Fletcher Christian led the mutiny (take over). Bligh and 18 sailors were left at sea in a small boat, while Christian and the Bounty went back to Tahiti. 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. A sailor called Matthew Quintal, burned and destroyed the Bounty on 23 January 1790.

Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn Island is a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesians knew about the island and people had once lived there. There was nobody living on Pitcairn when it was discovered by an English sailor, Philip Carteret on 2 July 1767. He made a mistake and marked it on the map 200 miles from its real location. The people from the Bounty had the remote island to themselves. There was a lot of fighting between the new settlers. Fletcher Christian, 4 other mutineers and all 6 of the Tahitian men were killed. One of the 4 surviving mutineers fell off a cliff while drunk. Matthew Quintal was killed by the remaining 2 mutineers after he attacked them. When the American seal-hunting ship Topaz visited the island in 1808 they found only 1 mutineer, John Adams, still alive along with 9 Tahitian women. In 1856, the British government moved all the island people to Norfolk Island. Most stayed on Norfolk, but about 22 people found their way back and their descendants still live on Pitcairn. Norfolk has about 1000 Bounty descendants, which is about half its population.[3]


Lieutenant William Bligh was able to sail the small boat 6500 km back to Batavia. He returned to England and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on 15 March 1790. On 7 November 1790, HMS Pandora was sent to Tahiti look for the Bounty and to bring back the mutineers for punishment. The Pandora was able to capture the mutineers left on Tahiti, but could find no sign of the group that was hiding on Pitcairn. The Pandora was wrecked on the way back to England.

The following list tells what happened to the crew of the Bounty.[4]
Two died before the mutiny:

  • James Valentine, sailor, died from an infection caused by surgery, before arriving in Tahiti
  • Thomas Huggan, Surgeon, died 6 weeks after arriving on Tahiti

From the 19 left in the small boat, only 12 got back safely to England

  • Lieutenant William Bligh, Commander
  • Lawrence Lebogue, sail maker, sailed with Bligh on next trip
  • Thomas Hayward, midshipman, went back to Tahiti on HMS Pandora, survived and went back to England
  • John Fryer, Sailing Master
  • William Cole, boatswain
  • William Peckover, gunner
  • William Purcell, carpenter
  • John Hallett, Midshipman
  • George Simpson, quartermaster’s Mate
  • John Smith, sailor/Commander’s Servant
  • John Samuel, clerk /steward
  • Robert Tinkler, sailor

One sailor was killed on the trip to Timor:

  • John Norton, quartermaster, killed by natives on Tofua

One sailor died from disease when they reached Timor:

Three sailors died from disease not long after getting to Batavia:

  • William Elphinstone, master’s mate, died from malaria at Batavia
  • Peter Linkletter, quartermaster, died from malaria at Batavia
  • Thomas Hall, sailor/ship's cook, died from disease in Batavia

Two sailors died on their way home from Batavia to England:

  • Thomas Denman Ledward, surgeon’s mate, lost at sea
  • Robert Lamb, sailor/butcher, died on the trip from Batavia

Seven sailors were forced to stay on the Bounty after the mutiny. There wasn't room in the small boat. They were all taken prisoner in Tahiti by the Pandora to be taken back to England to be charged:

  • George Stewart, acting midshipman, drowned in the Pandora wreck
  • Peter Heywood, acting midshipman, found guilty but pardoned
  • James Morrison, boatswain’s mate, found guilty but pardoned.
  • Charles Norman, carpenter’s mate, found not guilty
  • Michael Byrne, sailor/fiddler, found not guilty
  • Thomas McIntosh, carpenter’s crew, found not guilty
  • Joseph Coleman, armorer, found not guilty

Two of the mutineers who stayed on Tahiti died before the Pandora arrived:

  • Charles Churchill, master-at-arms, killed by Matthew Thompson
  • Matthew Thompson, sailor, killed by the Tahitians

Three mutineers who were captured by the Pandora, drowned in the wreck:

  • Henry Hillbrant, sailor/cooper
  • Richard Skinner, sailor/barber
  • John Sumner, sailor

Four mutineers survived the wreck and were taken to England for trial:

  • Thomas Burkett, sailor, found guilty and hanged
  • Thomas Ellison, sailor, found guilty and hanged
  • John Millward sailor, found guilty and hanged,
  • William Muspratt, sailor/tailor and assistant cook, sentenced to death, but released on appeal

Only two of the mutineers who went to Pitcairn died peacefully:

  • Isaac Martin, sailor, killed by the Tahitian men on Pitcairn
  • William McCoy, sailor, fell from cliff on Pitcairn while drunk
  • Matthew Quintal, sailor, killed by John Adams on Pitcairn
  • John Williams, sailor, killed by the Tahitian men on Pitcairn
  • William Brown, gardener, mutineer, killed by the Tahitian men on Pitcairn
  • Fletcher Christian, master’s mate, killed by the Tahitian men on Pitcairn
  • John Mills, gunner’s mate, killed by the Tahitian men on Pitcairn
  • Edward Young, acting midshipman, died of illness on Pitcairn
  • John Adams, sailor, died from natural causes on Pitcairn
after a long sea journey, 21 August 1788
2. The Bounty arrives at Tahiti 26 October 26, 1788. The Bounty leaves Tahiti on 4 April 1789
3. Visits the island of Palmerston.
4. Visits the island of Tofua.
5. The mutiny, 28 April 1789.
Christian's travels with Bounty.
6. Tubai, then back to Tahiti 7 July 1789.
7. Back to Tubai, 16 July 1789.
8. Return to Tahiti 22 September 1789, and leave the next day.
9. Visit the island of Tongatabu, 15 November 1789.
10. Arrive Pitcairn Island 15 January 1790. The Bounty burned 23 January 1790.
Bligh's travel in the small boat
16. Tonga
17. Arrive Batavia]]

Other pages


  1. mast = wooden poles to hold up the sails
  3. "Pitcairn and Norfolk Genealogy". Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. "Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia" (html). Pitcairn Islands Study Center. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 

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