The Mutiny on the Bounty … 1789 …


Monday, April 28, 2014, was the 225th Anniversary of another historical event which has always fascinated me — the Mutiny on HMS Bounty …

… the basic story, of course, is well-known … a group of mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian … … overthrew their captain (actually Lieutenant) William Bligh …

… setting him and 18 loyal crewmen adrift on the Pacific Ocean in a 23 foot open launch …

The mutineers then tried unsuccessfully for several weeks to settle on the island of Tubuai … set sail again, dropping off 16 sailors on Tahiti, and sailing on to Pitcairn Island … 

… there they burned the ship …

Burning of HMS Bounty in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island

Burning of HMS Bounty in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island

… in what is now called Bounty Bay and settled on the island. The settlers included Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 18 women, one with a baby.

What is less well-known is the aftermath — for both Christian and Bligh. The latter navigated the launch in which he had been set adrift for 47 days until reaching Timor in the Dutch East Indies …

William Bligh's 47 Day Voyage

William Bligh’s 47 Day Voyage

… he did this with a quadrant and a pocket watch, but no charts or compass, and covered a distance of approximately 3,618 nautical miles or 4,164 miles, an extraordinary feat of seamanship. Bligh went on to have a long and successful career in the British Navy.

On Pitcairn …

… things were less sanguine. The Tahitians who had accompanied the Englishmen to Pitcairn were treated as virtual slaves and eventually revolted. There is some disagreement in surviving accounts of what happened, but what is clear is that Christian, most of the other Englishmen and all of the Tahitian men died in a series of battles that took place just four years after the landing. Some reports indicate that Christian actually committed suicide during the fighting.

By 1808, when the American trading ship Topaz visited Pitcairn, only one Englishman (John Adams), nine women and a handful of children were still alive.

John Adams Pitcairn Island Stamp

John Adams Pitcairn Island Stamp

Their descendants (approximately 48 people) still live today on Pitcairn, a British overseas territory.

Pitcairn Island TodayBligh later wrote a book about the incident,”The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty” …

The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty by William Bligh

The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty by William Bligh

… as did Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, whose 1932 novel “Mutiny on the Bounty” was my introduction to the event in the mid-1950’s.

Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff & Hall

Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff & Hall

I later read the Notable Trials Library edition of “The Court-Martial of the ‘Bounty’ Mutineers”…

The Court Martial of the "Bounty" Mutineers, The Notable Trials Library

The Court Martial of the “Bounty” Mutineers, The Notable Trials Library

… which was first published in England in 1931, and which contains both correspondence among the principals and a transcript of the courts-martial proceedings against Bligh and the mutineers who were captured on Tahiti.

More recently, Caroline Alexander has written “The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty”, which brings to the events a more modern interpretation.

The Bounty:  The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

And, of course, Hollywood has made three big budget movies about the Bounty:

In 1935, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as Christian …

Mutiny on the Bounty 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty 1935

… in 1962, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Trevor Howard as Bligh and Marlon Brando as Christian …

Mutiny on the Bounty 1962

Mutiny on the Bounty 1962

… and in 1984, “The Bounty”, starring Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian …

The Bounty 1984

The Bounty 1984

I have watched all three multiple times … each has strengths and weaknesses … my personal favorite among them is the 1962 version.

____________________________________________

For more information about the Mutiny on the Bounty, see:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mutiny_on_the_Bounty

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One thought on “The Mutiny on the Bounty … 1789 …

  1. Pingback: The Mutiny on the Bounty ... 1789 ... | Tinseltown Times

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