On 23 December 1787, 33-year-old Commander William Bligh set sail aboard the newly refitted Royal Navy’s Bounty with a total crew of 46. The ship’s sole purpose was to sail to the Pacific island of Oteheite (Tahiti) and prepare breadfruit plants for transplantation to the West Indies. For a full month, Bligh attempted to navigate Bounty round Cape Horn but was foiled by unfavourable weather conditions. He then turned her east and headed for the Cape of Good Hope. After ten months at sea, Bounty reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788. Bligh and his crew lived ashore for 5 months, preparing a total of 1015 breadfruit plants. During that time his crew had become socialised with the customs and culture of the native people – some even had themselves tattooed in local fashion. With its cargo of breadfruit carefully packed and ready for transportation, H.M.A.V. Bounty eventually left for the West Indies on 4 April 1789.
In the middle of the night, just 3 weeks into the voyage, Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian and several other men mutinied, entering Bligh’s cabin and dragging him on deck.
Of the 42 men on board, aside from Bligh and Christian, 18 joined the mutiny, 22 stayed loyal to Bligh, and two remained neutral.
Bligh was ordered into H.M.A.V. Bounty’s 23-foot open launch along with 2 midshipmen, the surgeon’s mate and the ship’s clerk. Several other men voluntarily joined Bligh rather than remaining aboard, in fear of being considered de facto mutineers under the Articles of War.
Without charts or a compass, Bligh managed to navigate H.M.A.V. Bounty’s overcrowded launch on an epic 47-day voyage to the Portuguese settlement of Timor, equipped with only a sextant and a pocket watch; a distance of 3,618 nautical miles.
Bligh then returned to Britain and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on 15 March 1790.
In September 1789, after returning to Tahiti briefly and setting 16 men ashore, Fletcher Christian, 8 other crewmen, 6 Tahitian men and 11 women, set sail in H.M.A.V. Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. After passing through both Fiji and Cook Islands they eventually rediscovered Pitcairn Island on 15 January 1790.
Fearing discovery from the Royal Navy, and to prevent possible escape, H.M.A.V. Bounty was razed by fire on 23 January 1790 in what is now called Bounty Bay.
The legend surrounding H.M.A.V. Bounty’s sole voyage has inspired many works of literature and cinema while the original ship has been replicated twice.
And now, by exclusive arrangement with Pitcairn Island, is a commemorative coin, in celebration of the events surrounding the infamous ship, her commander Capt. William Bligh and one of the most famous maritime stories.