“Of all the sea tales told down the ages, none has held its mystique so long as the mutiny on board HMS Bounty”
In the year of 1789, in the vast Pacific Ocean; the mutinous crew of the HMS Bounty turn on their loathed Captain.
Jeering and laughing the men push him into a tiny, overcrowded rowing boat.
Wearing only his nightgown and surrounded by the endless sea; Captain Bligh knows his chances of survival are slim.
As his rowboat drifts away he swears at his old crew that they will face justice once he reaches London.
But he would have to find them first.
Part one of the gripping story of: ‘The Mutiny That Created A Nation: The Founding of Pitcairn Island’
Mutiny On The Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
‘A Voyage to the South Sea - William Bligh
The Bounty - the true story of the mutiny of the bounty by Caroline Alexander
On the Character of Captain James Cook by JC Beaglehole
Fragile Paradise, Fletcher Christian of the HMS Bounty by Gynn Christian
Teehuteatuaonoa AKA Jenny's interview
William Blighs Court-martial and trial
It's early morning on the 28th of April, 1789.
Fletcher Christian leans over the quarter deck of the HMS Bounty, looking down at the
overcrowded lifeboat full of doomed men, men that he was about to leave to the mercy of
the high seas.
Sitting at the head of the sorry-looking vessel was William Bligh, one of Fletcher's closest
friends, his mentor, at least he had been.
Now he glared back up at his young pupil with seething hatred, contempt and disappointment.
Fletcher had never wanted this, to lead a mutiny against a man he had once thought so
highly of, but William Bligh had left him no other options.
The man's strictness, his obsession with cleanliness, his half rations, his ban on rum and the abuse,
my God the abuse, ranting over a dirty uniform, scathing insults for daring to speak out of
order, ears splitting, humiliation for saluting too slowly.
He had tried to warn his old friend at first that the crew, they wouldn't have it, that
he would lose the ship if he kept this up, but he refused to listen and now it was too late.
Good God, man, the least you could have done is give us some weapons.
Bligh yelled up to the mutineers.
Fletcher agreed and motioned his crew to gather a few swords, it was the least he could do.
Damn my eyes, he will have a vessel built in a month, I'll be damned if he does not
find his way home, spat one of the mutineers as he reluctantly dropped down four cutlasses
into the lifeboat.
This was as far as the crew's hospitality went.
Christian pensively gave the signal and the rope connecting the two boats was severed.
The sad overcrowded rowboat began to drift away slowly, its mournful looking crew staring
back in silence.
Many of the mutineers jeered and laughed, finally free of their hated taskmaster.
Others forced to stay aboard against their will, called out to their old captain, begging
him to remember that it was not their choice to remain.
Never fear lads, I'll do you justice if I ever reach England, Bligh yelled back.
Before long, the boat was just a speck on the horizon and then it was gone.
Fletcher looked upon his crew, most were drunk, laughing and dancing, with little thought
of the implications this morning would have for their future.
Fletcher knew William Bligh well, for all his faults, he was a determined leader and
a skilled navigator.
Come hell or high water, he would reach England and once he did, the Navy would scour the
seven seas until justice was served.
The countdown had begun.
My name's Elliot Gates and you're listening to Anthology of Heroes, the podcast sharing
the tales of heroes and villains from across the ages.
And this is the story of Fletcher Christian and the mutiny that created a nation.
Before we get started today, just a little bit of housekeeping, I make use of several
quotes in each episode.
If you become a patron of the show, you've got the option to record your voice and have
it immortalized within a podcast episode forevermore.
If you'd like to help the show out, check out our Patreon links in the show notes and
on our website, anthologyofheroespodcast.com.
If you're familiar with the recent headlines in Pitkin Islands about the trials for incest
and rape and worried that this story will be revolving around that, don't stress.
I'll mention this briefly at the end of the next episode, but I'll give you warning when
this comes up so you'll have plenty of time to switch off if this isn't something you'd
like to hear.
For the majority of the episode, it's just the anthology of heroes bulk order of violence,
sex, and a sprinkling of cannibalism.
Let's get started.
Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as
I think it is possible for man to go.
These are the words that are attributed to one of the most esteemed British naval pioneers.
A guy you might have heard of, Captain James Cook.
Cook was the quintessential symbol of the age of exploration, civilization's last great
rush to chart the last few islands of the world that had not yet been mapped.
Africa, America, and India, they were all old news.
By now, almost every inch of them had been added to one of the world power's colonial
But with advances in shipbuilding, navigation, and nutrition, sea convoys could travel much
longer distances without the need to return to port.
Cook was the first to make contact with the Aboriginal Australians on the island's east
He then circumnavigated New Zealand, proving that it was an island, but eventually he met
his end in Hawaii.
Held in high esteem by the natives, Cook pushed his luck a little too far.
After getting into a scrap with some of them about a stolen boat, he tried to arrest their
leader King Kaleopu, hoping to ransom him back in exchange for the boat.
A crowd gathered, a rock was thrown, and then in a matter of seconds, Captain James Cook
The old story goes that the natives then cooked, no pun intended, and ate him, but this has
pretty much been debunked.
Watching in horror as their famous captain was hacked to death in front of them was his
One of them was a young man named William Bligh, the expedition's navigator.
Bligh was around twenty-five or so at the time.
If you remember that meme from about ten years ago of the old bloke saying disregard females,
acquire currency, well Bligh looked like a bit less of a happy version of him.
The young man had a high hairline, deep inset eyes, a strong brow and nose, with thin pursed
Perhaps it was just for fashion at the time, but he seemed to have styled himself very
much after Captain Cook.
He likely idolized him, as lots of other young hopefuls did.
Cook had been a man of action.
If there was something that needed to be done, he hated sitting around, preferring to make
a decision based on the information he had at hand.
He had a strong sense of duty and placed great importance in the naval command structure.
He was quick to anger, but equally quick to calm down.
Young William Bligh would go on to embody almost all of these traits down to a T with
his own crew later in life.
Where the men differed, though, was their upbringing.
Cook had risen up from the dirt.
He was the mixed-blood, half-scot son of a laborer.
With no formal education, he had opened his own doors with his natural talent, and that
Bligh, on the other hand, was minor gentry.
He grew up in Plymouth, England, but his family came from a long line of mares from down in
His first experience on the deck of his ship was at age seven, his position being logged
as, air quotes, a young gentleman.
I don't know if they still have this rank in the navy anymore.
I mean, I doubt it, but it definitely needs to make a comeback.
Just imagining some little upstart strutting around a deck in a full suit with tails, surrounded
by disgusting men vomiting, drinking, and teaching parents to swear.
Anyway, he definitely had a chip on his shoulder about his family pedigree.
I mean, in his diary later in life, he actually lists all of his crew members and makes note
of who was Blue Blood and who wasn't.
But even so, he was no slouch, and he made his name as a capable navigator.
And on one of these many voyages, he meets a young man named Fletcher Christian.
Now, Christian's story was a little different.
He had some pedigree to him as well.
Back in the day, his family had been important judges on the Isle of Man, but very recently
they had fallen on hard times.
Due mainly to his mother's mismanagement of their funds, the family had fled their
ancestral home almost completely destitute.
Starting from scratch in England, Christian took enthusiastically to the best education
that he could afford.
He started in the navy as a cabin boy, someone who ran errands for others on the ship before
being promoted into a midshipman, a kind of generalist responsible for basic navigation
and rigging sales, before being promoted to a master's mate where he supervised other
Not a bad turnaround for just over two years on the waves.
Fletcher Christian had a kind of charismatic charm that didn't come naturally to Bligh.
Bligh demanded respect from his achievements and rank, but Christian earned it to his personality.
In modern screenplays, he's portrayed as a bit of a dandy.
Handsome, youthful, dark, and lean, he's usually shown with a ponytail, rolled up sleeves,
and perhaps an earring or two.
I'll check a few Hollywood interpretations of him and Bligh on our website and Patreon.
Bligh, who was 10 years and several ranks senior to Christian, noticed the young man worked
hard and seemed determined to learn and advance himself, which impressed him.
While Christian saw in Bligh a mentor, someone whose company he enjoyed, but also a man connected
to the higher society Christian hoped to rejoin, the two became friends, a union that would
have lifelong consequences for the both of them.
After a lull in work, both Bligh and Christian found themselves at half pay, virtually shorebound
waiting for something to come up.
In late 1787, they got their break.
Bligh was approached with a rather unusual mission.
He was to transport breadfruit from the island of Tahiti in the Pacific Ocean to the West
Indies in the Caribbean Sea.
Fruit is a type of fruit about the size of a football, part of the jackfruit or mulberry
It grew natively on the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia and took its name from the
texture of the flesh, that of fresh bread.
Yeah, okay, but why were they transporting it?
Well, to save money.
The British were hoping to grow this fruit over in their colonies in the Caribbean and
feed it to their slaves.
Previously these slaves were fed with surplus from the British colonies of North America,
but a little known event called the Declaration of Independence of the United States had meant
that these colonies were less willing to spend their capital feeding British slaves on some
Simply put, breadfruit was easy to grow, quick to mature, and sufficiently nutritious.
The venture was intended to save money.
Bligh was over the moon, finally an opportunity to prove his worth to his superiors.
Sure, it wasn't quite the same as one of Cook's missions, but even so it would be
his first independent command.
The vessel Bligh was to captain was a refit, meaning it was another class of ship, in this
case a merchant ship, that had its interior gutted and remodeled to suit a specific task.
During the refit it was renamed the HMS Bounty.
An old sailing superstition goes that it's bad luck to rename ships, and in this case
perhaps there was some truth to it.
Apart from a few cannons, the main alteration to the ship was the refitting of the great
cabin to be a kind of makeshift plant nursery.
The fledgling breadfruit plants would be at sea for a while, and they required lots of
Tall ships were incrediBligh cramped, and the repurposing of this room, which was meant
to be the kind of captain's office, meant even less personal space for each sailor.
A description of the living quarters says, quote, this microcosm of self-sufficient life
was carried on in virtual darkness and impossible cramp.
There were no port holes.
Fresh air and light came only through the three-foot hatches to the ladderways when
conditions were suitable, so 39 of the 45 men had to live for months on end with an
average space of 30 square feet, end quote.
Smelly, filthy, dark, and cramped is how you could describe the living quarters of the
The refit also meant that the marines that usually accompanied an expedition like this
In usual circumstances these guys would help reinforce the authority of the captain, but
there was simply no room for them on the ship.
Bligh supervised the refit eagerly and made a few demands around specific modifications
that he wanted included.
The largest lifeboat of the vessel was originally a fairly old 20-foot craft, which Bligh insisted
needed to be replaced with a newer and slightly larger 23-footer.
What was no doubt seen as a pedantic demand by a self-important lieutenant would go on
to mean the difference between life and death for many of his crew not long after.
With news of Bligh's appointment, Christian excitedly approached his friend and practically
begged him to take him along.
Christian was so keen that he was willing to take a demotion in rank as long as he still
retained the privilege of being able to sit at the captain's table.
The captain's table was where the elite of the ship rubbed shoulders.
It wasn't about the food or the wine, it was a chance to network and improve your standing,
and Christian was keen to advance himself.
The final crew count came to about 40 men.
Apart from the usual ranks, it included two botanists who were tasked with making sure
the breadfruit saplings would survive the journey back.
Bligh requested the admiralty promote him to the rank of captain, reasoning that he was
commander of the vessel, so it was only fair, but they brushed off the request with a vague
hint that once he returned successfully, then maybe they would consider it.
But just a heads up, I'll be referring to him in this story as Captain Bligh, as this
was his de facto ranking aboard the ship.
This outcome really ticked off Bligh, and he moaned about this lack of respect several
times in his journal.
He was further frustrated when he had to wait two and a half months for the final OK to
By the time the HMS Bounty left port, it was late December, and the favorable winds he
had hoped to catch had long passed, meaning crossing the Atlantic Ocean would be choppier
with stronger currents.
Before he left, he wrote to his uncle snidely, quote,
Had Lord Howe sweetened this difficult task by giving me promotion, I should have been
satisfied, end quote.
After a brief stop at the Canary Islands, the voyage made its way to the southern point
of modern day Chile.
Bligh, for all his faults, did genuinely seem to lead as fairly as he could.
In some modern reenactments, he's painted as this kind of mean, cruel taskmaster, but
especially at this stage of the journey, by all accounts, this just wasn't true.
His relationship with the crew at this point was at least amicable.
Instead of splitting shifts into two 12 hour intervals, which was the naval standard, he
split them into thirds, which meant every sailor got a little bit more rest between
After a particularly nasty storm, he had a hog cooked and killed to lift the men's spirits.
And for his crew's health, he kept a kind of portable soup, which was like a solid biscuit
that would turn into liquid when hot water was added.
But most famously, he enforced dancing.
Every day, the sailors were brought up on deck to dance for an hour or so to raise spirits
and to get some exercise in.
This was not optional.
If you didn't dance, you were punished.
I mean, you're on a ship in the middle of the ocean.
There's no Facebook, there's no Netflix, there's no Clash of Clans.
I mean, what else are you going to do?
To be honest, I'm with Bligh on this one.
But what lost him points more than anything else with his men was his kind of hair trigger
He would swear a blue moon at his men, single out and humiliate individuals in front of
the crew, and then 10 seconds later, he'd just be over it.
And he seemed to expect that the target of his rage would also have completely forgotten
the insult equally quickly.
As Tahiti grew closer and closer, the crew had grown, I don't know if resentful is the
right word, but definitely irritated by their captain.
Because his quarters were taken up by the makeshift nursery, he spent more and more
time with the crew than they would have liked.
This close proximity removed a lot of the mystique a captain usually tried to maintain.
In the tiny, smelly, dimly lit quarters, they began to see their captain as insecure, petty,
It's unknown if Christian had already begun arguing with Bligh at this point, but some crew
members definitely had.
There's a record of a few of them rejecting the captain's invitations to eat with him
in his quarters.
What should have been seen as a privilege and an honor was a burden that no one wanted
As the tropical paradise finally appeared on the horizon, Bligh demanded an inspection
of the genitals of all men.
He was wanting to check for any signs of sexually transmitted infections, a way of the kind
of monkey business that would take place once they docked.
The crew reluctantly dropped their breeches and counted down the seconds until they could
be rid of their tyrannical captain.
But first, a quick message from one of our friends at the show.
So I hear you're doing a one man history show.
Relevant History is a one man podcast where I talk about all kinds of historical events.
Did you know that a lot of people think the Ark of the Covenant still exists in Ethiopia?
I did not.
What about the prophet Muhammad?
Did you know he used to be a merchant sailor who traveled at least as far as India?
I had no clue.
That's why you should listen to Relevant History.
It's a one man podcast where I take a deep dive into all kinds of historical events.
The first season is about the idea of nationalism and how different societies form their sense
of national identity.
What if I want to be a part of the show?
Is this a lecture?
It's a one man show.
But if you want to listen, you can find the podcast at DanTolerPodcast.com.
That's Dan T-O-L-E-R Podcast dot com.
Or you can search for Relevant History on any major streaming platform.
I like that.
Well it had taken 10 months, 10 months of stinking darkness, 10 months of maggot filled
biscuits, 10 months of boredom, 10 months of Captain Bligh, but they had made it Tahiti.
Tahiti is located pretty much smack bang between Australia and South America.
It had become a kind of common landfall for British sailors, mainly because of the friendly
Not all other islands in the area had natives who were cautious at best and ferocious at
worst with white foreigners.
It was Captain Cook who had first visited Tahiti and developed open relations with its
The relationships weren't one sided either.
The native chiefs quickly learned that friendship with the British gave them huge advantages
over other chieftains.
Iron was nonexistent on the Pacific Islands and was highly prized.
Any tools made from the material severely cut down the time required for islanders to
create canoes and other crafts, gunpowder too obviously provided huge advantages.
It was through this that one man had gained control of the entire island, a man the Europeans
called King Pomer.
While diplomacy and first impressions were at the forefront of Bligh's mind, for his
sailors it was something else entirely.
Tahiti to an English sailor in the 18th century was what, I guess, Las Vegas is to us.
A pleasure paradise where virtually anything goes.
In almost every way it was the opposite to England.
Where England was cold and gloomy, Tahiti was warm and sunny.
In England living was hard, in Tahiti it was easy, but most different of all Tahiti was
incrediBligh sexually liberal.
Even though Europeans at the time followed their old racist idea of darker skin being
less attractive, the Tahitians were thought of as a very attractive race indeed.
Both sexes wore their hair long and straight, paid very close attention to personal hygiene
and removed virtually all of their body hair.
The men were generally a little taller than Europeans while the women were curvier.
Women and men went around topless, I know, talk about scandalous, just imagine the pope
getting reports of these topless pagans on their island paradise, eh?
But it didn't end there.
Apart from incest there were very few taboos in Tahitian sexual society.
Men on men, women on women, two men sharing one woman, all of it was above board at least
prior to marriage.
Sex just wasn't seen as this private shameful thing, it was something that everyone acknowledged
openly and sometimes performed openly.
The locals found the Europeans' prudeness and their need for privacy during sex amusing
With all that in mind it should be no surprise to learn what happened after dozens of canoes
full of women came out to a ship to greet a crew that had not even seen a woman in over
Despite Buzzkill Bligh attempting to anchor further out in the harbour to dissuade his
guests, within a few minutes a vessel had turned into a kind of floating brothel.
Bligh reluctantly let his men have their fun but he himself headed formally to greet King
He knew a few words of the Tahitian language from his last trip with Captain Cook and Pomer
knew a little English.
Pomer had been an early friend of Captain Cook and the navigator was, to an extent,
venerated by the king and his islanders.
It was for this reason that Bligh decided that he would keep the news of Cook's violent
death from the chieftain.
He had minimal understanding of the local religion and didn't really know to what
extent the news would impact future relationships, so better to be safe than sorry.
A few gifts were exchanged and Bligh's plan to harvest breadfruit was effortlessly agreed
to by the king.
He had no reason not to.
Breadfruit, like most other tropical fruit, grew in abundance.
No one ever went hungry on Tahiti.
With approval granted, Bligh set his men to work, harvesting breadfruit under the supervision
of the two botanists he brought along.
He was tasked with gathering 1,000 of the plants.
According to one source, this was done in two weeks.
According to another, six weeks.
So that was it, right?
A month and a half and they were off again, Tahiti just a fleeting memory.
The crew of the bounty hung around for five months.
In retrospect, Bligh has copped a lot of slack for this, but the delay was at least partly
due to the admiralty who had pushed his original departure date so far.
November through to April was the hurricane season in the Pacific, which would make following
his original route back impossible.
Had he left around this time, he would have had to take a route through the Endeavour
Strait, a notorious passage of water between Indonesia and Australia, subject to unpredictable
currents and hidden reefs.
Little did he know, he would be taking that route very soon with a much smaller boat.
While Bligh kept things smooth with the king, his crew settled into the idyllic lifestyle
of a tropical paradise.
All work involving digging was done with ease.
The soil was soft and fertile with just a shell needed to break into it.
Almost all men, apart from Bligh, took wives or girlfriends.
White or mixed children were desirable in Tahitian society.
Although the Tahitian women had husbands, there was this kind of close friend called
If one of the sailors, well I guess, classified as a Tayo, then having sex with that person
was okay in the rules of society.
This was confirmed by the close friendships many sailors made with the men of Tahiti.
Only have the European sources to go by, but with so many male friends mentioned by name,
jealousy didn't seem too much of an issue.
Many sailors went the extra mile with island culture.
They learned a good deal of the language and tattooed themselves in Tahitian style.
The most common of which was a kind of black trunks that were painted across the buttocks
and up her thigh.
Christian was one of the first to have tried this out and others soon followed.
It didn't take long before the handsome and uncharacteristically tanned British sailor
was noticed by the women of the land.
Before long, Christian too had found himself a lover.
Her name was Mautau, but Christian, I guess, renamed her Isabella, which was probaBligh easier
Isabella was tall and thin, leading to some of the sailors nicknaming her main mast.
She was by all accounts the most attractive woman on the island and was also virtual royalty
as one of the daughters of King Pomer.
This shows how others viewed Christian, whose charm clearly worked on the Tahitians as much
as the other sailors.
Christian, like most of the crew, had kept his distance from the captain once on shore.
Bligh's diaries make no mention of any specific conflicts, but things had clearly remained
tense since their arrival, if not soured even further.
There are a few scant rumors that Bligh and Christian had been lovers aboard the Bounty,
but these accusations seem to be based solely upon Bligh not taking a Tahitian woman once
And even putting that aside, the ship was packed to the brim.
If they were going to sneak off for a rendezvous in secret, where were they going to go?
As the day of departure from their island paradise beckoned nearer, three men deserted,
taking with them a lifeboat and weapons.
The desertion took place at night, and it's unclear whether the sentry fell asleep or
deliberately turned a blind eye.
Once they were caught, Bligh had the men flogged and clamped in irons, a fairly light punishment
as in the British Navy, the punishment for desertion was death.
Finally though, the day came, the crew of the Bounty waved goodbye to their generous
hosts, leaving them with many gifts, stories and well, unborn children I guess.
It would have been a bittersweet farewell, not just due to the relationships but the
climate, the easy living.
The last time Bligh had visited was 10 or 15 years ago, so for many of the men they understood
that this was a once in a lifetime holiday.
Once they were back on board, their captain really cracked down.
Much like his outbursts of anger that he expected his men to forget about as quickly as he did,
he seems to have assumed that as soon as the men stepped foot on the Bounty that the iron
discipline of the British Navy would immediately return to them.
That's just how Bligh was, a very by the book type of leader.
But the five months on shore had merely frozen the resentment of the crew rather than melting
it away, and once they were back out sea, the tension began to rise almost immediately.
There seems to be a bit of projecting his guilt on Bligh's part.
Perhaps he felt that in retrospect he had spent too long on the island and allowed discipline
to become too lax, or perhaps he had grown resentful of his crew.
Peppered with Polynesian tattoos and a lovely mahogany tan, they looked much less like Royal
British sailors than they did when they arrived.
Whatever his reason, he worked them hard.
There was little rest as he barked orders to hoist and unhoist sails, scrub the decks,
prepare for battle and everything in between.
In his defence, this could have been his way of preparing the crew for potentially rough
weather they were likely to come across, but it was unwise to begin the backbreaking work
The men had gone from relaxing with a Tahitian wife on the beach sipping coconut water as
they listened to the waves, to lugging sails and cargo from one side of the ship to the
other with Bligh screaming abuse at them as they did so.
With a great cabin now full of breadfruit, there was precious little space for refuge
from his tirades.
Trevor Loomis, author of Life and Death in Eden, says, quote, The confined nature of
the vessel meant he was increasingly perceived and judged through his qualities as a man,
With each passing day, the crew thought of Bligh less as their military superior and more
as an insecure and unpopular little man, a tyrant who in the middle of the ocean was
only as powerful as others believed him to be.
About three weeks after the departure, the bounty dropped anchor at one of the Tongan
islands to fill up with fresh water.
Like many islands, the native population here had a fierce reputation for violence.
Washington was nominated to lead the expedition but was flabbergasted when Bligh flat out refused
to allow them to use their muskets under any circumstances.
He rightly pointed out that this was risking their lives, but the captain didn't budge.
At the pointy end of a bunch of native spears, Christian and the crew managed to gather the
water and a couple of coconuts, but Bligh was unimpressed.
The sailors were effectively chased off the island.
As a mob of people gathered around them, the men thought on their feet and bartered for
their safe passage using a handful of nails as gifts.
Scrambling back on board, they found Bligh moody and ready for an argument.
He humiliated Christian in front of the crew, calling him a rascal and a coward and taunting
him about being afraid of a bunch of quote, naked savages, end quote.
That night for the first time, Christian is recorded finally speaking back to his old
friend, quote, sir, your abuse is so bad that I could not do my duty with any pleasure.
I've been in hell for weeks with you, end quote.
But Bligh would have none of it.
He insisted that the crew wait around to try and recapture a single grappling hook that
the natives had stolen in the confusion.
When one of the men meekly suggested to him that the loss of the hook was not very great,
as they had several more on board, Bligh furiously screamed in the man's face, quote, not very
By God, sir, if it is not great with you, then it is great to me, end quote.
The next day, the torture continued.
Bligh gathered all his men on deck and inquired as to why there were less coconuts in his
personal coconut stash than there had been last night.
When the crew pleaded ignorance, he interrogated each man as to how many coconuts he had eaten
on the night prior.
And once he got to Christian, he chewed him out worse than any of the others.
Christian admitted that he hadn't been counting exactly how many coconuts he'd eaten, but
he hoped that Bligh wasn't accusing him of stealing them, to which the captain responded with
quote, yes, you damned hound, I do.
You must have stolen them from me or you could have given a better count of them.
God damn you scoundrels, you're all thieves alike and combined with the men to rob me.
I suppose you'll steal my yams next, but I'll sweat you for it, rascals.
I'll make half of you jump overboard before you get through the Endeavor Straits.
I take care of you now for my own good, but when I get through the straits, you may all
go to hell, end quote.
After this, all alcohol was banned indefinitely and the crew were set on half rations.
With this latest rant, Bligh had crossed an invisible dark line in Christian's mind.
Fletcher Christian's older brother had been involved in a mutiny himself that started
after the ship's captain ordered a man flogged to death.
The mutiny was suppressed, but both the Christian brothers had time to talk before Fletcher
left for this voyage.
It's likely that his brother's warning of the telltale signs of a tyrannical captain
were at the forefront of his mind.
Would Bligh really force his men to jump overboard?
But to Christian, already in a dark place, it didn't seem like much of a stretch.
Over the next few weeks, Christian, depressed and brooding, decided he couldn't live like
He began to stockpile spare wood and rope, planning to build a raft and escape when they
passed a nearby island.
On the night of the 27th of April, 1789, Captain William Bligh walked the ship's deck.
He gave his orders to the man on watch and the two spoke casually that it looked to be
a pleasant night ahead.
He then habitually checked on the breadfruit plants before retiring to his small windowless
cabin, leaving the door unlocked so it could be alerted if any disturbances came up.
Well, he certainly got that wish.
At around 5 a.m., the tanned arms of Fletcher Christian shook the captain awake.
Before he could rub the sleep from his eyes, a man standing beside Christian pushed a pistol
into his cheek.
"'Scream and you're a dead man.'"
Bligh called their bluff.
"'Murder, murder,' he screamed, hoping to wake the other sailors.
One of his officers, who slept closest to his cabin, was roused by the commotion.
Stumbling out of his own cabin, he saw Christian and his posse frog-marching Captain Bligh onto
the upper deck, wearing only his nightshirt.
But before he could react, one of the mutineers levelled a pistol at his chest.
"'Lie back down, hold your tongue, or you're a dead man.'"
As Bligh twisted in his bindings and yelled for help, the rest of the crew worked to the
Their reaction was all over the place.
Some shouted at Christian to release the captain, others egged him on.
Some mocked Bligh's calls for help, while a good few just stood and watched, not yet wanting
to pick a side.
The mutiny had begun when Christian took his shift at four a.m.
He had quietly broached the idea with another sentry who had turned him down, but by that
point he had crossed the threshold.
Planning mutiny was every bad as bit as committing it.
Rousing a few friends who knew would be down for the cause, Christian was encouraged to
go through with it, insisting that virtually the whole crew was on board with him.
As Bligh screamed bloody murder and ordered men by name to come to his aid, battle lines
Roughly half the crew stood with Bligh, half with Christian, much less than Christian had
Bligh and his low list were loaded down into a small rowing boat, but once that proved
unseaworthy they were loaded into another one, but soon this one proved too small as
so many of the crew now wished to leave with the captain.
Despite pressure from the other mutineers to just shoot Bligh, Christian relented and
again loaded the low lists into the 23-foot boat Bligh had specifically requested during
the ship's refit.
It was a hard decision, Bligh in the tiny dinghy represented authority, the British crown,
but already his prospect looked slim, marooned in the middle of an ocean in an overcrowded
While Christian on the other hand had the ship.
If one was to stay aboard voluntarily though, it was an extremely uncertain future.
Their old lives would be forfeit, they could never again show their face in England or
in any of her colonies under pain of death.
As Christian meted out the loyalists into the lifeboat it soon became clear that the
vessel could not hold them all.
Even with the current lot it was dangerously full, sitting too close to the waterline.
Meanwhile Bligh continued bellowing demands and shouting about how unjust the whole ordeal
When this failed to help his position, he whispered to the man holding his bindings
to assist him.
His jailer fed him a small citrus fruit to soothe his throat which had become hoarse
from yelling but refused to release him.
As the lifeboat was finally lowered down into the water, the ex-captain was unceremoniously shoved down into it.
Many loyalists needed to stay behind either due to the space limitations or because the
mutineers decided their skills were required to keep operating the boat.
Bligh, now realizing the inevitability of the mutiny, appealed to his old friend for extra
supplies, weapons and navigational equipment.
Begging him to think of his wife and his family, Christian coolly responded, quote, it's too
late Captain Bligh, you should have thought of them before this moment, end quote.
The mutineer's patience was already on thin ice.
As Christian looked to source a few extra supplies for his old friend, one man growled
at him, quote, I'll be damned if he does not find his way home if he gets anything more
with him, end quote.
Another man agreed, quote, damn my eyes, he will have a vessel built within a month, end
Despite their protests, Christian threw down a few canisters of water, some food and eventually
a few swords.
The rope tethering the two ships was cut and as the boats began to drift apart, a few loyalists
left aboard yelled out to Bligh to remember that they had not remained on board of their
own free will.
As the overcrowded dinghy began to recede into the distance, the ever defiant captain
yelled back, quote, never fear lads, I'll do you justice if I ever reach England, end
And then everything was quiet again.
The only sounds now were the waves gently lapping at the ship's keel.
And that is where I leave you this week, my friends.
But don't worry, much to Christian's annoyance, this would not be the last time you nor he
would hear about dear old Captain Bligh.
Nothing lit a fire under William Bligh like insubordination.
His singular goal was to see justice delivered to the men who had betrayed him.
Fletcher Christian, 24 men and a boat full of breadfruit would need to evade the largest
empire on earth.
The reach of King George was vast, but surely somewhere in the unending ocean they could
A countdown had begun.
“Hell was a more beautiful sight to behold.”
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