Under the command of Captain William Bligh, the British ship HMS Bounty set sail for the West Indies in early 1789 after 5 months in Tahiti, carrying a cargo of breadfruit plants. However the ship would never reach its intended destination, and early in the voyage the ship’s first officer, Fletcher Christian, led a mutiny against the captain on the 28th April. The exact reasons for the mutiny are debated, but it has been speculated that the crew resented the enforced departure from their idyllic Tahitian lifestyle, especially as several had formed relationships with local women during their stay. The overly harsh efforts of Captain Bligh to restore discipline after his crew’s tropical island indulgences may also have fanned the flames of disorder. Whatever the true reasons, the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ sparked a chain of events which would shape the future of the rugged green island upon which I will be staying until the end of August.
After setting Bligh and 18 loyal crew members adrift in an open longboat (Bligh’s miraculous survival, navigation back to land and return to England is an incredible story in itself) the mutineers, having collected their loved ones from Tahiti, sought refuge from the British navy. Under the command of Fletcher Christian the Bounty made landfall on uninhabited Pitcairn Island on 15th January 1790, and the drastic decision was taken to burn the ship, thereby destroying evidence of the mutiny and eliminating any possibility of returning home. Outbreaks of violence and disease claimed the lives of all but one of the mutineers by 1800, but their names would endure through the children they fathered with their Polynesian wives. Today, many of Pitcairn’s population can trace their lineage directly back to those who came ashore on the Bounty over 200 years ago, and the ship’s anchor is proudly displayed in the public square of Pitcairn’s only settlement, Adamstown. Roughly 50 people now live on Pitcairn permanently, and I am looking forward to getting to know this small community well during my time here. I am still forming my first impressions, trying to remember lots of names and attempting to find my way around. I will post again soon to discuss the scientific work I am aiming to do on the island hideaway of the Bounty mutineers.
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