History of Mutiny on the Bounty Part 1

About the history of the famous mutiny on the Bounty, account and information on Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian.



Background. In 1787 William Bligh was 34 and a lieutenant in His Majesty's service. Selected by the Admiralty, he was to command the Bounty, a 250-ton merchantman, readied for a voyage to Tahiti and Operation Breadfruit. This was a scheme, instigated by wealthy investors, to transplant breadfruit trees from South Pacific islands to the West Indies as a cheap food for slave labor. King George III was amenable and commissioned the Bounty for the task.

With a crew of 43, including Mate Fletcher Christian, the Bounty sailed from England on Dec. 23, 1787. Ten months and 27,086 mi. later, it dropped anchor in Tahiti's Matavai Bay on Oct. 25, 1788. After six months on the island, Operation Breadfruit reached the halfway point. The Bounty upped anchor on Apr. 4, 1789, and set sail for the West Indies with 1,500 plants in 774 pots, 39 tubs, and 24 boxes.

The Mutiny. Ship captains were emperors of their small floating worlds and enforced discipline necessary for the safety of ship and crew, but Bligh's brand of discipline was uniquely his own. He had no regard for the feelings of others and demanded absolute obedience.

At Tenerife, en route to Tahiti, Bligh had fabricated a story that a supply of cheese had been stolen. He had wanted to get rid of the spoiled pumpkins aboard and thought to do this by cutting allotments of cheese. Each man was given 1 lb. of rotting pumpkin and 2 lb. of dry biscuits. When they complained, Bligh called all hands.

"I'll see who will dare to refuse pumpkin or anything else I may order served out. I'll make you eat grass, or anything you can catch, before I have done with you."

Mate Fletcher Christian, inevitably in the middle between Bligh and the crew, endured more abuse from his captain than any man aboard.

After leaving Tahiti in April, Christian decided to build a raft and jump ship some dark night. Boatswain William Cole tried to dissuade him, but Christian was adamant.

"It is too late. I have been in hell this fortnight past, and am determined to bear it no longer. . . ."

On the 27th, Bligh threw another tantrum over some supposedly stolen coconuts. When asked who the thieves were, Christian told Bligh: "I do not know, sir, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing."

Bligh replied: "I'll make you sweat for it. I'll make you jump overboard before you get through Endeavour Strait."

This convinced Christian to leave that night, but when darkness came, the Bounty was becalmed. When he took his watch at 4:00 A.M. and realized the ship was asleep, he abandoned his raft scheme in favor of taking command of the ship.

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