The Truth Behind The Mutiny on the Bounty

The Truth Behind The Mutiny On The Bounty

It was the early hours of the morning when Fletcher Christian decided to strike.

The Truth Behind The Mutiny on the Bounty

It was the early hours of the morning when Fletcher Christian decided to strike.

He rounded up some men, distributed arms amongst them before making their way to Captain Bligh’s cabin.

Fletcher along with three men then held the Captain down, tied his hands behind his back before marching him to the quarter-deck.

This was the Mutiny on the Bounty.

HMS Bounty was a royal Navy Vessel which left England in 1787 on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies.

She successfully made the journey, so the crew took a five-month layover in Tahiti, before setting off for England again.

After three weeks back at sea, on the 28 April 1789 whilst sailing in the South Pacific, the mutiny occurred.

The mutiny was led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, he and a disgruntled crew took control of the ship from their Captain Lieutenant William Bligh.

They had become unhappy with Bligh after he began handing out increasingly harsh punishments, criticism and abuse, Christian being a particular target.

Christian captured control of HMS Bounty, so Bligh and 18 loyalists were forced from the ship and set adrift.

The original plan was to send Bligh off in the Bounty’s small jolly boat with just three other men, however, the jolly boat was not sea worthy and Christian had underestimated the number of loyalists who were determined to leave with Bligh.

Over 20 men tried to climb aboard the launch and leave alongside Bligh but the Captain ordered two carpenter's mates and the armourer to stay with the ship as they were essential to navigating the HMS Bounty with a reduced crew.

They begged Bligh not to forget they had remained with the ship against their will.

Bligh assured them:

"Never fear, lads, I'll do you justice if ever I reach England"

Setting Bligh off in an overcrowded 23-foot-long boat in the middle of the Pacific was supposed to be Christian handing Bligh and the other men a death sentence.

All they were given to survive was around five days' food and water, a sextant, compass, nautical tables, and a tool chest.

The first island they headed to for supplies was Tofua.

But the crew had to leave very quickly as Bligh realised that an attack by the natives was imminent.

Bligh also decided against heading towards the Fiji Islands due to their reputation of cannibalism.

The Truth Behind The Mutiny on the Bount
GREEN: Course of Bligh's open-boat journey to Coupang, Timor. RED: Voyage of Bounty to Tahiti and to location of the mutiny. YELLOW: Movements of Bounty under Christian after the mutiny

Bligh made the decision to sail directly to the Dutch settlement of Coupang in Timo.

Their only way to survive was to head straight there and use the rations presently on board - an ounce of bread and a quarter-pint of water for each man daily.

The journey from the outset was treacherous, the weather was stormy and the waves threatened to capsize the boat.

Even when the sun appeared it was equally unpleasant.

Bligh would tell the men stories from experiences, whilst singing and praying.

Most men were on the verge of collapsing when, on the 12th June, 45 days after being set adrift, the coast of Timor was sighted.

In his diary Bligh wrote:

"It is not possible for me to describe the pleasure which the blessing of the sight of this land diffused among us".

The Truth Behind The Mutiny On The Bounty
William Bligh

On 14th June, with a makeshift Union Jack hoisted, they sailed into Coupang harbour.

Once in Coupang, Bligh organised his journey home and he reached England in April 1790, almost a year later.

The Admiralty despatched HMS Pandora to bring the mutineers back to England to stand trial.

Fourteen were captured in Tahiti and imprisoned on board Pandora.

HMS Pandora’s Captain Edward Edwards searched unsuccessfully for months to find Fletcher Christian.

After turning back toward England, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 31 crew and 4 prisoners from the Bounty.

The 10 surviving detainees reached England in June 1792 and were court-martialled; 4 were acquitted, 3 were pardoned, and 3 were hanged.

Fletcher Christian managed to hide on the Pitcairn and started a family.

There are various accounts of Christian's death; natural causes, committing suicide, going insane and being murdered.

But one rumour has persisted for more than two hundred years, that Christian's murder may have been faked and that he left the island to make his way back home to England!