Today on April 28, 1789, the crew of HMS Bounty seizes control of the ship in mutiny against their Captain William Bligh.
The Mutiny on the Bounty is perhaps the most famous mutiny in the history of the British Royal Navy. In December 1788, HMS Bounty and its crew arrived at the beautiful island of Tahiti under orders to collect a cargo ship full of breadfruit saplings. Their mission was to transport the plants back to the West Indies to harvest as food for the ever-growing slave population. However, the Bounty’s crew had become accustomed to the relaxing island lifestyle and were not so eager to leave. In fact, many of the sailors had also fallen in love with the local Polynesian women and reportedly discussed staying. The five-month layover in Tahiti proved to be harmful to discipline among the Bounty’s ranks.
To make matters worse, Captain William Bligh was notorious for being a hard-nosed naval commander. Nevertheless, HMS Bounty reluctantly set sail on April 4 with a full cargo and headed towards the Caribbean. However, relations between the captain and his crew rapidly deteriorated in the subsequent weeks. Bligh began issuing harsh punishments to virtually anyone and developed an abusive tone. After three weeks of sailing, Fletcher Christian and a group of 25 petty officers suddenly seized control of the ship. They immediately forced Bligh and 18 of his loyalists onto a small, open-air boat and left them for dead.
The mutineers sailed back to Tahiti but were at risk of being captured by British authorities. Unsure of what, Christian along with eight other men left to establish a colony on the remote, volcanic island of Pitcairn. However, all but one of the mutineers quickly died, either from sickness or internal strife. The surviving mutineer, John Adams, led the small, but thriving colony until his death in 1829. Meanwhile, Captain Bligh and his men miraculously reached the island of Timor after completing a daunting 3,500 nautical mile voyage. He eventually returned to England and promptly sailed back to Tahiti to get his revenge. Those who stayed in Tahiti were apprehended and transported home. Three of them faced execution for their treasonous actions.