The Bounty

by maddielou Email

The British Admiralty purchased a coal carrying merchant ship operating on the coast of England, named Bethia, renamed the coal carrying ship Bounty, and re-commissioned her in 1787 for a special mission. Bounty was to sail halfway around the world to the tiny island of Tahiti, collecting sapling Breadfruit trees and transport them to the West Indies in hope of growth, to make a cheap meal for slaves.

To lead the mission, the Admiralty picked 33-year-old Lt. William Bligh, who had been the sailing master on HMS Resolution on Capt. Cook's last voyage of discovery. Though portrayed as an abusive tyrant by Hollywood. Bligh may be one of the greatest seaman who ever lived.

After trying for 30 whole days to make it around Cape Horn, as he had been ordered, Bligh turned about and headed East; around the Cape of Good Hope, across the whole width of the Indian Ocean, then headed Northeast into the Pacific, arriving in Tahiti after a 10-month voyage halfway around the world. Bligh and the crew sat about collecting the more than 1,000 Breadfruit plants they were to take to the Caribbean. They spent five months in Tahiti, during their time there Bligh allowed a number of the crew to live ashore, to care for the potted Breadfruit plants. Without the discipline and rigid schedule of the sea, the men went native. Three crewmen deserted, hoping to spend their days in this tropical paradise but they were recaptured by Bligh and flogged.

Three weeks out of Tahiti, enroute to the West Indies with the Breadfruit plants, the Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, angered and humiliated over the continual abuse from Capt. Bligh, so he took the ship. Of the 44 men onboard, 31 sided with Bligh. Of the 31, 18 went over the side to be set adrift in the Bounty's launch with Bligh. The mutineers, numbering about half of the remaining 25 crewmen, but in command of the Bounty having secured all the firearms aboard, sailed the ship to the island of Tubuai. After an unsuccessful 3 month effort to settle on the island, they returned to Tahiti, put 16 of the crew ashore, some loyal to Bligh, some mutineers. Fletcher Christian and 8 Bounty crew, accompanied by 6 Tahatian men and 12 women, one with a baby, sailed away on the Bounty hoping to hide forever from the long arm of the British law.

Bligh, having no charts, navigated the launch 3,600 nautical miles to safety in 41 days using only a sextant and a pocket watch. Only one man died on the voyage - stoned to death by angry natives on the first island they tried to land on. The launch voyage was a feat navigation unparalleled to this day.

The mutineers eventually settled on Pitcairn Island, an isolated rock in the Pacific that was misplaced on British charts. They burned the Bounty in what is now called Bounty Bay and weren't discovered for 18 years.

After all but 2 of the 15 men that settled of Pitcairn had been killed in bloody murders, Midshipman Edward Young and Able Bodied Seaman John Adams began building a society based on the ship's bible. Edward Young died in 1800, leaving John Adams the sole surviver. Today their descendants still live there in a moralistic community, clinging to their tiny rock, struggling to survive in today's technological world.

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