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Mutiny on the Bounty
Fletcher Christian’s Predicament
Having cast Captain Bligh and 18 of his fellow crew out to sea and to almost certain death, the remaining 24 mutineers did the usual pirate thing and voted Fletcher Christian as their new captain. Not sure of what to do next, they shared the various Tahitian trinkets and spare clothing among themselves. Christian’s first act as captain was to order the throwing of most of the collected plants overboard.
At this point, it seemed that Christian’s priority was to find a place to settle, not to plunder other ships. He set a course for the islands around Tahiti. But among the mutineers, Christian’s authority as captain was not secure. Already some were plotting to seize the ship for themselves. Christian soon took to sleeping with a pistol on him.
As the Bounty sought a place to call home, the islanders ensured they were not welcome. Eventually Christian happened upon Tubuai, south of Tahiti’s main island. It seemed suitable for his purposes but lacked animals to hunt. So he decided to return to Tahiti to ‘collect’ women and animals.
He fabricated a fanciful story of Captain Bligh meeting up with Captain James Cook and the two men sending him to obtain resources for a new colony. This secured him around 30 Tahitians (men, women and children), and over 500 farm animals of various flavours.
The Bounty returned to Tubuai on 26 June and its crew quickly found themselves embroiled in the political rivalry of its three rulers. To create their own space, the mutineers set about building a fortress.
Dissent among the crew grew. They argued constantly among themselves: often about access to the women. Christian resorted to violent threats to keep control; perhaps gaining some insight into Bligh’s frustrations with managing crew.
Meanwhile relations between the visitors and the islanders soon deteriorated. The animals ruined islanders’ gardens and the Europeans and islanders stole food from each other. The island soon descended into violence.
By September, after a long discussion, the mutineers voted 16 to 9 to abandon Tubuai and return to Tahiti, ‘where they might get women without force.’
Back at Tahiti, all but eight of the mutineers deserted the Bounty. The others, including Fletcher Christian, John Adams, John Mills, William McCoy and Matthew Quintal, together with six Polynesian men, 12 women and a child sailed on.
After four months at sea they happened upon a tiny spec of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Pitcairn Island.
Only one man would survive long enough to tell what happened next.