Military Wiki
HMS Bounty
Bounty replica
Replica of the Bounty
Career (Great Britain)
Name: Bethia (1784–1787)
Bounty (1787–1790)
Builder: No evidence but was reputedly built at Blaydes shipyard, Kingston-upon-Hull, United Kingdom
Cost: £1950
Acquired: 26 May 1787
Commissioned: 16 August 1787
Fate: Burned, 23 January 1790
General characteristics
Class & type: Armed Vessel
Tons burthen: 220 2694
Length: 90 ft 10 in (27.69 m)
Beam: 24 ft 4 in (7.42 m)
Depth of hold: 11 ft 4 in (3.45 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 44 officers and men
Armament: 4 × 4-pounder guns
10 × swivel guns

Plan and section of the Bounty Armed Transport showing the manner of fitting and stowing the pots for receiving the bread-fruit plants, from William Bligh's 1792 account of the voyage and mutiny, entitled A Voyage to the South Sea, available from Project Gutenberg.

HMS Bounty, also known as HM Armed Vessel Bounty, was a small merchant vessel purchased by the Royal Navy for a botanical mission. The ship, under the command of William Bligh, was sent to the Pacific Ocean to acquire breadfruit plants and transport them to British possessions in the West Indies. That mission was never completed, due to a mutiny led by the acting Master, Fletcher Christian. This was the famous Mutiny on the Bounty.[1]

Origin and description

Bounty was originally known as collier Bethia, reputedly built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard in Hull. The vessel was purchased by the Royal Navy for £2,600[2] on 26 May 1787,[3] refit, and renamed Bounty.[4] The ship was relatively small at 215 tons, but had three masts and was full-rigged. After conversion for the breadfruit expedition, she was equipped with four 4-pounder (1.8 kg)[7] cannons and ten swivel guns.

1787 breadfruit expedition


The ship had been purchased by the Royal Navy for a single mission in support of an experiment: The acquisition of breadfruit plants from Tahiti, and the transportation of those plants to the West Indies in the hope that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. The experiment was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, who recommended William Bligh as commander, who in a turn was promoted through a prize offered by the Royal Society of Arts.

In June 1787, Bounty was refitted at Deptford. The great cabin was converted to house the potted breadfruit plants, and gratings fitted to the upper deck. The ship's complement was 46 officers and men.

Bligh described the ship thus:[8]

"The Burthen of the Ship was nearly 215 Tons; Her extreme length on deck 90Ft..10In. & breadth from outside to outside of the bends 24Ft..3 in. A Flush deck & a pretty Figure Head of a Woman in Riding habit; She mounted 4 four pounders & 10 Swivels & her Complement was,

1. Lieut & Commander 2. Masters Mates 1. Gunners Mate
1. Master 2. Midshipmen 1. Carpenters Mate
1. Boatswain 1. Clerk 1. Sailmaker
1. Gunner 2. Qr. Masters 1. Armourer
1. Carpenter 1. Qr.Masr.Mate 1. Carpenters Crew
1. Surgeon 1. Boatswains Mate 1. Corporal
24 Able Seamen
Total. 45 One of which is a Widow's man. There was likewise a Botanist & his Assistant."

William Bligh was appointed Commanding Lieutenant of Bounty on 16 August 1787, at the age of 33, after a career that included a tour as sailing master of James Cook's Resolution during Cook's third and final voyage (1776–1779).

Voyage out

On 23 December 1787, Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti. For a full month, the crew attempted to take the ship around Cape Horn, but adverse weather prevented this. Bligh then proceeded east, rounding the southern tip of Africa (Cape Agulhas) and crossing the width of the Indian Ocean. During the outward voyage, Bligh demoted Sailing Master John Fryer, replacing him with Fletcher Christian. This act seriously damaged the relationship between Bligh and Fryer, and Fryer would later claim Bligh's act was entirely personal.

"The Bounty", painting by Yasmina (2009)

Though Bligh is commonly portrayed as the epitome of abusive sailing captains, this portrayal has recently come into dispute. Caroline Alexander, in her 2003 book The Bounty, points out that Bligh was relatively lenient compared with other British naval officers.[9] Bligh enjoyed the patronage of Sir Joseph Banks, a wealthy botanist and influential figure in Britain at the time. That, and his experience sailing with Cook and familiarity with navigation in the area and local customs, were probably important factors in his appointment.[10]

Bounty reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788, after ten months at sea.

Bligh and his crew spent five months in Tahiti, then called "Otaheite", collecting and preparing 1015 breadfruit plants to be transported. Bligh allowed the crew to live ashore and care for the potted breadfruit plants, and they became socialized to the customs and culture of the Tahitians. Many of the seamen and some of the "young gentlemen" had themselves tattooed in native fashion. Master's Mate and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian married Maimiti, a Tahitian woman. Other of Bounty's warrant officers and seamen were also said to have formed "connections" with native women.

After five months in Tahiti, Bounty set sail with her breadfruit cargo on 4 April 1789.

Mutiny and destruction of the ship

Map showing Bounty's movements in the Pacific Ocean, 1788–1790

  Voyage of Bounty to Tahiti and to location of the mutiny, 28 April 1789
  Movements of Bounty after the mutiny, under Christian's command
  Course of Bligh's open-boat journey to Coupang

Some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) west of Tahiti, near Tonga, mutiny broke out on 28 April 1789. Despite strong words and threats heard on both sides, the ship was taken bloodlessly and apparently without struggle by any of the loyalists except Bligh himself. Of the 42 men on board aside from Bligh and Christian, 22 joined Christian in mutiny, two were passive, and 18 remained loyal to Bligh. The mutineers ordered Bligh, two midshipmen, the surgeon's mate (Ledward), and the ship's clerk into the ship's boat. Several more men voluntarily joined Bligh rather than remain aboard. Bligh and his men sailed the open boat 30 nautical miles (56 km) to Tofua in search of supplies, but were forced to flee after attacks by hostile natives resulted in the death of one of the men. Bligh then undertook an arduous journey to the Dutch port of Coupang, located over 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km) from Tofua. He safely landed there 47 days later, having lost no men during the voyage except the one killed on Tofua.[11]

The mutineers sailed for the island of Tubuai, where they tried to settle. After three months of bloody conflict with the natives, however, they returned to Tahiti. Sixteen of the mutineers - including the four loyalists who had been unable to accompany Bligh - remained there, taking their chances that the Royal Navy would find them and bring them to justice. HMS Pandora was sent out by the Admiralty in November 1790 in pursuit of the Bounty, to capture the mutineers and bring them back to England to face a court martial. She arrived in March 1791 and captured fourteen men within two weeks; they were locked away in a makeshift wooden prison on the Pandora's quarterdeck. The men called their cell "Pandora's box". They remained in their prison until 29 August 1791 when the Pandora was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef with the loss of 35 lives; four of them (Stewart, Sumner, Skinner and Hildebrand) were mutineers. Immediately after setting the sixteen men ashore in Tahiti in September 1789, Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 11 women, one with a baby, set sail in Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. According to a journal kept by one of Christian's followers, the Tahitians were actually kidnapped when Christian set sail without warning them, the purpose of this being to acquire the women. The mutineers passed through the Fiji and Cook Islands, but feared that they would be found there. Continuing their quest for a safe haven, on 15 January 1790 they rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been misplaced on the Royal Navy's charts. After the decision was made to settle on Pitcairn, livestock and other provisions were removed from Bounty. To prevent the ship's detection, and anyone's possible escape, the ship was burned on 23 January 1790 in what is now called Bounty Bay.

Thirty-five years later in 1825, HMS Blossom on a voyage of exploration under Captain Frederick William Beechey, arrived on Christmas Day off Pitcairn and spent 19 days there. Captain Beechey later recorded this in his 1831 published account of the voyage, as did one of his crew, John Bechervaise, in his 1839 Thirty-Six years of a Seafaring Life by an Old Quarter Master. Beechey wrote a detailed account of the mutiny as recounted to him by the last survivor, Adams. Bechervaise, who described the life of the islanders, says he found the remains of Bounty and took some pieces of wood from it which were turned into souvenirs such as snuff boxes.

Discovery of the wreck of the Bounty

Luis Marden discovered the remains of Bounty in January 1957. After spotting remains of the rudder[12] (which had been found in 1933 by Parkin Christian, and is still displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva), he persuaded his editors and writers to let him dive off Pitcairn Island, where the rudder had been found. Despite the warnings of one islander – "Man, you gwen be dead as a hatchet!"[13] – Marden dived for several days in the dangerous swells near the island, and found the remains of the fabled ship: a rudder pin, nails, a ships boat oarlock, fittings and a Bounty anchor that he raised.[12][16] He subsequently met with Marlon Brando to counsel him on his role as Fletcher Christian in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty. Later in life, Marden wore cuff links made of nails from Bounty. Marden also dived on the wreck of HMS Pandora and left a Bounty nail with Pandora.

Some of Bounty's remains, such as the ballast stones, are still partially visible in the waters of Bounty Bay.

The last of the Bounty's 4-pounders was recovered in 1998 by an archaeological team from James Cook University and was sent to the Queensland Museum in Townsville to be stabilised through lengthy conservation treatment, i.e. nearly 40 months of electrolysis. The gun was subsequently returned to Pitcairn Island where it has been placed on display in a new community hall.

Modern Bounty reconstructions

US Coast Guard photo of the 1960 Bounty replica sinking during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

When the 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty was made, sailing vessels were still in wide use: existing vessels were adapted to play Bounty and Pandora.

For the 1962 film, a new Bounty was constructed in Nova Scotia. For much of 1962 to 2012, she was owned by not-for-profit organisations whose primary aim was to sail her and other square rigged sailing ships, and she sailed the world to appear at harbours for inspections, and take paying passengers, to recoup running costs. For long voyages, she took on volunteer crew. On 29 October 2012, sixteen Bounty crew-members abandoned ship off the coast of North Carolina after getting caught in the high seas brought on by Hurricane Sandy.[17] The ship sank, according to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, at 12:45 UTC Monday 29 October 2012, and two crew members, including Captain Robin Walbridge, were reported as missing. The Captain was not found and presumed deceased November 2, 2012.[18] It was later reported that the Coast Guard had recovered one of the missing crew members, Claudene Christian, who was apparently the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, the sailing master of the original HMS Bounty.[19][20] Ms. Christian was found to be unresponsive and pronounced dead at Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, NC.[21] [22]

A second Bounty replica, named HMAV Bounty, was built in New Zealand in 1979 and used in the 1984 Dino De Laurentiis film The Bounty. The hull is constructed of welded steel oversheathed with timber. For many years she served the tourist excursion market from Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, before being sold to HKR International Limited in October 2007. She is now a tourist attraction (also used for charter, excursions and sail training) based in Discovery Bay, on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, and has an additional Chinese name 濟民號.[23]


  1. C. Knight, "HM Armed Vessel Bounty," Mariner's Mirror 22 (1936). Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  2. This amount is roughly £284 thousand / €352 thousand / US$456 thousand in modern currency
  3. JJ Colledge and D Lyon say 23 May[citation needed]
  4. "Blaydes – Summary". Retrieved 2007-05-13. [dead link]
  5. "Cannon from HMAS Bounty". Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  6. Erskine, Nigel (May/June 1999). "Reclaiming the Bounty". Archaeology. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  7. See picture of cannon at;[5] for the disposition of the four ship's cannons see.[6]
  8. "Lt.Blighs account of the Bounty, William Bradley journal : A Voyage to New South Wales, December 1786 - May 1792". The State Library of NSW. Retrieved 2010-05-04. [not in citation given]
  9. Alexander, C. (2003). The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. ISBN 0-00-653246-2. 
  10. Alexander 2003, p. 48.
  11. "William Bligh". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "The 'Bounty's' Last Relics". Life. 10 February 1958. pp. 38–41. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  13. Jenkins, Mark (3 March 2003). "National Geographic Icon Luis Marden Dies". National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  14. "Bounty anchor at the town square". Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  15. "HMS Pandora Encyclopedia". Pitcairn Islands Study Center. Pacific Union Collage. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  16. For a recent picture of anchor see;[14] Another Bounty anchor was lost off Tubai by the mutineers and recovered by Pandora. See[15]
  17. "Hurricane Sandy: Hurricane Sandy sinks tall ship HMS Bounty". CBS News. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  18. Grier, Peter (29 October 2012). "The story behind the HMS Bounty, sunk by Sandy off N.C. coast". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  19. Jonsson, Patrik (30 October 2012). "HMS Bounty casualty claimed tie to mutinous Fletcher Christian". Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  20. Allen, Nick (October 31, 2012). "Sandy's Bounty victim was descendent of man who led famous mutiny". Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  21. Dolak, Kevin; Effron, Lauren (30 October 2012). "Woman Dies After Hurricane Sandy Ship Rescue". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  22. Dalesio, Emery P.; Lush, Tamara (31 October 2012). "HMS Bounty: Search for missing captain continues". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  23. "The Bounty" (pdf). 24 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 

External links

Coordinates: 25°4′7.26″S 130°5′42.52″W / 25.0686833°S 130.0951444°W / -25.0686833; -130.0951444

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).