The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty


In 1798 there was a mutiny aboard a ship called the Bounty. Many people are familiar with the story of the mutiny on the Bounty and the subsequent voyage of Captain Bligh and his men. However, the story is often
 sensationalized for entertainment. Nonetheless, in this case, the truth is just as interesting as fiction. The true story is one of some men seeking paradise, while another group of men fights for their lives on the open sea.

The Bounty was captained by a man named William Bligh. Captain Bligh had been hired to take the Bounty on an expedition to collect Breadfruit trees in the South Pacific. Captain Bligh was a very able captain, but by all accounts, he was very strict. He kept very careful account of all of the Bounty's provisions and rationed out the food carefully. He was also keen on keeping his men on task. At one point during the voyage, Captain Bligh was compelled to flog some of his men for attempting to desert the Bounty. However, this was not unheard of at the time.

The real trouble began when the master at arms, Fletcher Christian, began to display his disdain for the captain. Bligh claimed later that he and Christian were on good terms and that he did not sense that the man was mutinous. However, there is evidence to the contrary. There were reports that Christian stated that he had been in hell on the Bounty. There was also an altercation about some missing coconuts, in which Fletcher Christian was involved. Eventually, it all came to a head when Christian rounded up some co-conspirators and perpetrated the mutiny on the Bounty.

On the night of April 28, 1789, Captain Bligh was asleep in his cabin when he was awakened and tied up. It soon became obvious to him that Christian and some other men were intent on taking over the Bounty. The captain was brought up on deck and forced into a 23-ft. launch with only meager provisions on board. They were then cast out into the Pacific. William Bligh's account of the incident suggests that the mutineers planned on returning to the island of Otaheite. The island was something of a paradise to the men and the natives were extremely friendly.

In all, 18 men set out in the launch with Captain Bligh, 25 remained on board the Bounty. It was later revealed that not all of the men that stayed with the Bounty were willing participants in the mutiny. As for those that set out on the launch, they would soon have reason to be thankful for the captain's strict provisioning. The food and water on the launch were not nearly enough for the journey the men were forced to take.

Captain Bligh and his eighteen men were quickly forced to seek out food and water on any island that they came across. At one island they were confronted by natives and one of the men was killed on the beach. From then on, Captain Bligh was careful to seek out islands that had no inhabitants or at least obviously friendly ones. They were able to gather more small provisions on these stops, but nonetheless the men were quickly suffering from hunger and exposure.

The launch finally reached Coupang in Timor on June 14. The men had been traveling for 48 days and had traveled an astounding 3,618 miles. They were forced to remain there for some time and one of the men succumbed to his ailments and died while in Coupang. Captain Bligh was eventually able to procure a vessel and the men went on their way to England. After changing ships and some incidents, Captain Bligh finally returned home to England on March 14, 1790, Eleven months after the mutiny on the Bounty.

A ship called the Pandora was later sent out to capture the mutineers and find the Bounty. When the Pandora arrived in Tahiti, three of the mutineers from the Bounty actually swam out to meet her. They were immediately arrested. One of them told the captain of the Pandora what had occurred after the Bounty had left Bligh and his men. Apparently, Christian had left sixteen of the men at Tahiti and had left; obviously Tahiti was not the paradise he had been looking for.

The men of the Pandora managed to find thirteen of the mutineers in Tahiti. The ship then set out in search of the other mutineers from the Bounty. They were ultimately unsuccessful in finding Christian and his men and were forced to head home. Unfortunately, the Pandora sank off of the Great Barrier Reef and three of the captives went down with the ship. Ten were brought back to England to face trial. Seven of the men were released and on October 29, 1974, three of them were hanged.

Fletcher Christian and the other men were never brought to justice. Twenty years later it was discovered that they had settled on Pitcairn Island. Their descendants still reside there to this day.

Sources

Linder, Douglas, The Story of the Court Martial of the Bounty Mutineers, retrieved 7/27/09, law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Bounty/bountyaccount.html

Lindon, George, Nicol, 1790, William Bligh's Narrative of the Mutiny on the Bounty, retrieved 7/27/09, law.umkc.edu/faculty/ftrials/Bounty/blighnarrative.html
by Shelly Barclay

Posted by Under The Black Flag on 12:10 π.μ.. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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