Bounty was originally constructed as a collier, named Bethia but was purchased by the Royal Navy three years after her construction in order for her to be sent on a specific mission.
The Navy wished to investigate whether breadfruit plants, purchased from Tahiti, might be transported to the West Indies and there planted as a cheap means of feeding the region’s large slave population.
Bounty was to be captained by William Bligh, who chose to take a friend of his, Fletcher Christian, along for the voyage. Bligh would later, apparently, cause some tension aboard when he promoted Christian to take the place of Bounty’s sailing master.
Bligh has been characterised as a crude, cruel and abusive captain, though the truth of the matter is difficult to discern. What is known is that Bounty endured a very difficult voyage, failing to round South America’s Cape Horn for a full month before Bligh chose to head east and round Africa instead.
Upon reaching Tahiti, ten months after the voyage’s commencement, Bounty’s seamen spent five months living on-shore collecting and caring for the breadplants. During this time, many of them formed relationships with the native women.
On the 28th of April, 1789, 1,300 miles west of Tahiti, the ship was taken bloodlessly by mutineers. Bligh and those who remained loyal to him were cast adrift in the ship’s boat.
Bligh, a fantastic navigator, achieved the feat of navigating his men in that open launch more than 3,500 nautical miles, reaching the Dutch settlement of Coupang after 47 days. During the voyage, only one man was lost as the result of a native attack on the island of Tofua, where the party had stopped for supplies.
The mutineers meanwhile returned to Tahiti where sixteen opted to take their chances on the Royal Navy not finding them there. The remainder, being Fletcher Christian and eight other men, either convinced, tricked or coerced a handful of native men and women into departing with them on the Bounty.
Reaching Pitcairn Island and finding it had been misplaced on Royal naval charts, the group chose to settle it. Their descendants remain there to this day. The sole surviving mutineer, John Adams, interacted with the captains of both an American sealer and HMS Blossom, in 1808 and 1825 respectively.
After news of the mutiny reached London, HMS Pandora was dispatched in November 1790 to bring the mutineers to justice. She landed on Tahiti in March 1791 and captured fourteen of the mutineers. While transporting the mutineers, Pandora was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Despite being released from their wooden prison cell on the frigate’s deck, four of the mutineers were among the thirty-five lives lost.