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The Bounty Crew Mutinies

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The Mutiny on the Bounty
Pitcairn Island
Captain William Bligh

It happened in 1789. On April 28, Fletcher Christian and 25 petty officers and seamen seized control of the H.M.S. Bounty and set Captain William Bligh and 18 men loyal to him adrift in a small, open boat. The Bounty, meanwhile, set sail for Tubuai.

The Bounty had left England for Tahiti in December 1787, on a mission to collect breadfruit trees and take them to the West Indies. The breadfruit was earmarked as food for slaves there. Bligh, who had sailed with the famous Captain James Cook, was the guinea pig of a new experiment to transplant one crop in large numbers to another location many miles away.

The journey was a long one, and the men were glad to see the shores of Tahiti. Bligh wanted his men to be relaxed for the rest of the journey, so he agreed to an extended shore leave. They stayed for five months, during which Christian, who was the ship's mate, fell in love with a local woman who was called Mauatua. Many other men enjoyed the lush surroundings and weren't too happy about leaving. But Blight insisted that they fulfill their mission, so on April 4, 1789, they left, many of them grumbling.

A little more than three weeks later, a large number of the crew mutinied. Why did they do it? Bligh was said to be known for his cruelty. It could also be that they wanted to turn the ship around and head back to Tahiti. Whatever the case, mutiny they did and seize the ship they did. Bligh and his men were left for dead.

Incredibly, they survived. They reached Timor, 3,600 miles away in the East Indies, on June 14. From there, they gained a ship and sailed back to England. Ironically, Bligh sailed again to Tahiti, this time completing his breadfruit shipment to the West Indies.

Christian and the others, on the other hand, tried their hand at settling down on Tubuai. Not finding it to their liking, they split up: Some sailed back to Tahiti; others sailed into the unknown.

Those who remained on Tahiti were eventually captured and then hanged in England. Christian and his men, however, arrived on Pitcairn Island in January 1790 and stayed there for the rest of their lives.

All but one, however: John Adams, the sole survivor of the original nine mutineers, was found in 1808 by an American whaling ship. Adams was granted amnesty and continued to serve as leader of the Pitcairn community until he died, in 1829.

The British Empire claimed the Pitcairn Islands, Christian's island and three nearby uninhabited ones, in 1838. Today, about 1,000 people claim Fletcher Christian and his eight mutineers as their ancestors.

As for Bligh, he continued sailing. He was the target of three mutinies in his career, but he also received, in 1794, the Society of Arts for his feats of navigation during the 42-day voyage from Tahiti to Timor.


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