The Mutiny on the Bounty was a mutiny aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian against their captain, Lieutenant William Bligh. According to accounts, the sailors were attracted to the "idyllic" life and sexual opportunities afforded on the Pacific island of Tahiti. It has also been argued that they were motivated by Bligh's allegedly harsh treatment of them. Eighteen mutineers set Bligh afloat in a small boat with eighteen of the twenty-two crew loyal to him. To avoid detection and prevent desertion, the mutineers then variously settled on Pitcairn Island or on Tahiti and burned the Bounty off Pitcairn. In an extraordinary feat of seamanship, Bligh navigated the 23-foot (7 m) open launch on a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies, equipped with a quadrant and pocket watch and without charts or compass. He recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (6,710 km). He then returned to Britain and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on 15 March 1790, 2 years and 11 weeks after his original departure. The British government dispatched HMS Pandora to capture the mutineers, and Pandora reached Tahiti on 23 March 1791. Four of the men from the Bounty came on board soon after its arrival, and ten more were arrested within a few weeks. These fourteen were imprisoned in a makeshift cell on Pandora's deck. Pandora ran aground on part of the Great Barrier Reef on 29 August 1791, with the loss of 31 of the crew and four of the prisoners. The surviving ten prisoners were eventually repatriated to England, tried in a naval court with three hanged, four acquitted and three pardoned. Descendants of some of the mutineers and Tahitians still live on Pitcairn. The mutiny has been commemorated in books, films and songs. His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Bounty began her career as the collierBethia, a small vessel built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard in Hull. On 26 May 1787 (JJ Colledge/D Lyon say 23 May), she was bought by the Royal Navy for £2,600 refitted and renamed Bounty. Bligh was appointed commanding lieutenant of Bounty on 16 August 1787, at the age of 32, after a career that included a tour as sailing master of James Cook'sHMS Resolution during Cook's third and final voyage (1776–79). The Royal Navy bought the ship 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 the hopes they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. The experiment, promoted through a prize offered by the Royal Society, was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, who recommended Bligh as commander, Banks at the time being the unofficial director of Kew Gardens. In June 1787, Bounty was refitted at Deptford. The great captain's cabin was converted to house the potted breadfruit plants, and glazed windows were fitted to the upper deck, while a lead lining was installed on the floor to catch and re-use run-off water used to feed the plants. Bligh was quartered in a small cramped cabin next to crew and officers. On 23 December 1787, Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti with a complement of 46 officers and men. 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; the five-month layover was unplanned, required to allow the plants to reach the point of development where they could be safely transported by ship. 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 allurements of dissipation are more than equal to anything that can be conceived.— A Narrative of the Mutiny, etc., by Lieut. W. Bligh, 1790, p. 9.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere, relations between Bligh and his men, and particularly between Bligh and Christian, continued to deteriorate. Christian was routinely humiliated by the captain—often in front of the crew and the native Tahitians—for real or imagined slackness,while severe punishments were handed out to men whose carelessness had led to the loss or theft of equipment.Floggings, rarely administered during the outward voyage, now became a common occurrence; as a consequence, crewmen Millward, Muspratt and Churchill deserted the ship. They were quickly recaptured, and a search of their belongings revealed a list of names which included those of Christian and Heywood. Bligh confronted the pair and accused them of complicity in the desertion plot, which they strenuously denied; without further corroboration Bligh could not act against them. As the date for departure grew closer, Bligh's outbursts against his officers became more frequent. One witness reported that "Whatever fault was found, Mr. Christian was sure to bear the brunt." Tensions rose among the men, who faced the prospect of a long and dangerous voyage that would take them through the uncharted Endeavour Strait followed by many months of hard sailing. Bligh was impatient to be away, but in Hough's words he "failed to anticipate how his company would react to the severity and austerity of life at sea ... after five dissolute, hedonistic months at Tahiti". On 5 April, Bounty finally weighed anchor and made for the open sea with its breadfruit cargo. On 28 April, some 23 days out and 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'slaunch. 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. In all, 18 of the loyal crew were in the launch with Bligh; 4 other loyalists were forced to stay with the 18 mutineers and 2 passive crew. 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") to augment their meagre provisions.The only casualty during this voyage was a crewman, John Norton, who was stoned to death by some natives of Tofua. Bligh then navigated the 23-foot (7 m) open launch on a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies. Equipped with a quadrant and a pocket watch and with no charts or compass, he recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (6,710 km). He was chased by cannibals in what is now known as Bligh Water, Fiji and passed through the Torres Strait along the way, landing in Kupang, Timor on 14 June. 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, 2 years and 11 weeks after leaving England. 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 not 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. HMS Pandora, under the command of Captain Edward Edwards, was dispatched on 7 November 1790 to search for the Bounty and the mutineers. Pandora carried twice the normal complement of master's mates, petty officers and midshipmen, 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 morning, 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 cell at the last moment by William Moulter, a boatswain's mate on the Pandora) assembled in four small launches and sailed for Timor, in a voyage similar to that of Bligh. They arrived at Timor on 16 September 1791. 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 judgement 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. His career was marked by another insurrection. In 1808, while Bligh was Governor of New South Wales, troops of New South Wales arrested him in an incident known as the Rum Rebellion. 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. However, breadfruit is today a staple in Jamaica. Departing Tahiti on 19 July 1792, Bligh once again successfully navigated the Torres Strait. Immediately after setting sixteen men ashore in Tahiti in September 1789, Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 18 women, one with a baby, set sail in the Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. According to a journal kept by Edward Young, one of the mutineers, all but three of the Tahitian "women brought to Pitcairn had been kidnapped" when Christian set sail without warning them, the purpose being to kidnap the women. 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 in 1957. 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. At the time the community on Pitcairn was first visited by outsiders, John Adams "was the sole surviving mutineer." Little is agreed upon regarding Fletcher Christian's role once the mutineers were established on Pitcairn Island. Adams claimed "Christian 'was always cheerful'" but also claimed Christian would "retreat and brood" in a cave, and "had 'by many acts of cruelty and inhumanity, brought on himself the hatred and detestation of his companions.'" Adams variously claimed that Christian had been killed "in a single massacre that occurred on the island about four years after arrival" and that Christian had "committed suicide." Adams at another point claimed the "mutineers had divided into parties, 'seeking every opportunity on both sides to put each other to death.'" While the details were inconsistent, Adams usually agreed with the journal of Young: that Christian died as the result of a massacre. "The massacre ... had taken place in several waves of violence, and principally arose from the fact that the Englishmen had come to regard their [Tahitian] friends as slaves." The women, "passed around from one 'husband' to the other, as men died and the balance of power shifted," eventually "rebelled" as well. In 1793, a conflict broke out on Pitcairn Island between the mutineers and the Tahitian men who sailed with them. Fletcher Christian and four of the mutineers (Jack Williams, Isaac Martin, John Mills, and William Brown) 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, with the population measuring 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 ashore. 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 longitude 130° west; 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. In November 2009 a logbook kept by midshipman J.B. Hoodthorp of HMS Briton detailing the first contact with the mutineers was auctioned for over £40,000 by Cheffin's Auction House in Cambridge. 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. The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory with a population of about 48. 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. The details of the voyage of the HMAV Bounty are very well documented, largely in part to the effort of William Bligh to maintain an accurate log before, during, and after the actual mutiny. The Bounty's crew list is also well chronicled, down to and including the names of every seaman on board, something which larger ships in the rating system only occasionally were capable of due to crews in the hundreds whereas the Bounty carried fewer than fifty personnel. In the 18th century Royal Navy, rank and position on board 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. Royal Navy uniforms were often used to denote rank and position on board ships; however, due to the lengthy and isolated voyage of the Bounty, uniforms were not worn daily on board while the ship was underway. 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. 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. On board the Bounty, due to the vessel's long and fairly important mission, the only seamen mustered into the crew were able seamen – the ship did not carry any ordinary seamen or landsmen. 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. In 1811, Mary Russell Mitford memorialized the mutiny on the Bounty with her poem, Christina, The Maid of the South Seas. In April 2010, 221 years after the original voyage, a crew recreating Captain William Bligh's epic voyage after the mutiny on the Bounty was set adrift in Tongan waters. The expedition eschewed the use of modern technology including compasses and toilet paper, and only took the same provisions as were aboard the original ship. The expedition lasted 48 days – one day longer than the original voyage – and was led by Australian adventurer Don McIntyre on board the sailing ship the Talisker Bounty.