Monday, April 28, 2014
APRIL 28 = Mutiny on the Bounty
"Just before Sunrise Mr. Christian and the Master at Arms came into my cabin while I was fast asleep, and seizing me tyed my hands with a cord and threatened instant death if I made the least noise. I however called sufficiently loud to alarm the officers, who found themselves equally secured by centinels at their door. There were now three men at my Cabbin door and four inside (a) (Fletcher Christian, Alexander Smith, John Sumner, Mathew Quintal) Mr Christian had a Cutlass and the others were armed with Musquets and Bayonets -- I was now carried on deck in my Shirt in torture with a severe bandage around my wrists behind my back, when I found no man to rescue me. I ask'd the reason for such a violent act, but I was threatned to be put to death if I said a word."
So wrote William Bligh (Pictured, below right, as a Rear Admiral)
"Breadfruit" on Tahiti
By 1786, the British plantation owners of the West Indies found that the events of the American Revolution had cut them off from their best supplies of cheap subsistence food for their slaves. They believed that the breadfruit tree (below) found on the Polynesian island of Tahiti by
the Bounty letter-perfect.
Bligh's Needling Style of Command
Bounty set sail in December of 1787. A rough voyage made matters difficult. Bligh's style of command made matters worse. His first mate was one Fletcher Christian (pictured right in an artists conception based on written accounts),
Tahiti - An Island Paradise Seduces the Bounty Crew
The Bounty arrived in Tahiti in October of 1788, and stayed five months while waiting for the breadfruit trees to mature. During this time, the crew grew attached to the tropical climate, and to the Tahitian women; the two combining into much of what they had hoped for in a tropical paradise. Thus when it came time to leave in April of 1789, many of them were loath to return to the hard life of a sea under the command of a captain whom they disliked. While there is little evidence to support the Hollywood view of Bligh as a cruel despot, his frequent bursts of temper at an incompetent crew which had just left paradise behind drove them over the edge. The result was the April 28'th insurrection which Bligh described above, which was bloodless, but which seems to have taken Bligh completely by surprise.
Bligh's Amazing 4,000 Mile Voyage
Bligh and eighteen other crewmen were put over the side in the ship's launch boat with five day's worth of supplies. Bligh was a sailor of the greatest skill, and in an incredible feat of seamanship, he guided his 24 foot launch on 4,000 mile voyage to the island of Timor. The Bounty and the mutineers sailed on back to Tahiti, picked up some of the islanders, and moved on in search of a hiding place. They ultimately found one in the remote Pitcairn Island in the eastern Pacific. Bligh had returned to England to report on the mutiny. He was given the ship HMS Providence to return to the Pacific for the Breadfruit. Another officer was sent with the HMS Pandora to hunt down the mutineers. Fourteen who had remained on Tahiti were captured and put in chains. When Pandora wrecked off the Australian coast,
the Bounty mutineers reside on Pitcairn Island to this day.
Hollywood Takes a Hand
(Click on the highlighted words below for film clips)
However the story was not to end there. In 1931 authors Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall published a novel; a trilogy of books based on the events of the mutiny. It was in these books that the picture of William Bligh as the vicious and tyrannical captain was presented to the world. MGM Producer Irving Thalberg read the books and was convinced that they would make good and popular movie material. Well Thalberg, genius film maker that he was proved to be quite right about this - the film "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Charles Laughton (left)
1962 with Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando as the aforementioned Bligh and Christian. This film version cast essentially the same light on the relationship. Not until 1984 was the film remade as "The Bounty" (below, right) with more of a balance to the character of Bligh. Played
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by Greg Dening.
Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1992
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE BOUNTY. Translated from the Swedish by Alan Tapsell. by Bengt Danielson
Rand Mc Nally Co., Chicago, 1964.