Apr 28, 1789 CE: Mutiny on the Bounty

Apr 28, 1789 CE: Mutiny on the Bounty

On April 28, 1789, 18 crewmembers of the British trade ship Bounty mutinied against their captain while sailing in the remote South Pacific.


9 - 12


Anthropology, Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies, World History

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On April 28, 1789, crewmembers of the British trade ship Bounty mutinied against their captain while sailing in the remote South Pacific. The mutiny has been chronicled in books, theatrical productions, and movies. The Bounty had left England almost two years earlier. The ship was on a voyage to collect breadfruit saplings from the tropical island of Tahiti, in the South Pacific. The saplings would then be delivered to British plantations in the West Indies, where they would be a cheap source of food for slaves. Collecting the saplings in Tahiti took longer than expected. During the five months it took the breadfruit cuttings to grow into sturdy saplings, the Bounty’s crew became part of the local community. They enjoyed the easygoing Tahitian culture, which was a dramatic contrast to the strict—and sometimes violent—command of the Bounty’s captain, William Bligh. About a month into the Bounty’s voyage to the West Indies, a group led by Fletcher Christian abducted Bligh from his quarters. Although most of the crew remained loyal to Bligh, they were overpowered by the armed mutineers. Bligh and 18 sailors were set adrift in a rowboat, without navigational aids such as charts or compasses. Bligh then proceeded to complete a spectacular feat of navigation. Using only his watch and a quadrant, he successfully navigated 6,600 kilometers (3,500 nautical miles) across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the island of Timor, now part of Indonesia. The mutineers endured different fates. Some returned to Tahiti, where they were arrested. Some died on the way back to England to stand trial, some were executed there, and others were pardoned. Christian, the leader of the mutiny, fled British authority and established a struggling community on the isolated island of Pitcairn. Today, most of the few dozen residents of Pitcairn Island trace their ancestry to Christian and other Bounty mutineers.

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National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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