Led by Fletcher Christian against Lieutenant William Bligh, sailors were motivated by alleged harsh treatment by Bligh — who they set afloat in a small boat with about 20 crew loyal to him. To avoid detection and prevent desertion, the mutineers then variously settled on Pitcairn Island or on Tahiti and burned Bounty off Pitcairn.
Bligh navigated the 23-foot open launch through a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies, equipped with a quadrant and pocket watch and without charts or compass. He recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (4,164 mi). He then returned to Britain and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on March 15, 1790 — 2 years and 11 weeks after his original departure.
The British government dispatched HMS Pandora to capture the mutineers, and Pandora reached Tahiti on March 23, 1791.
Four of the men from Bounty came on board soon after her arrival, and 10 more were arrested within a few weeks. These 14 were imprisoned in a makeshift cell on Pandora’s deck. Pandora ran aground on part of the Great Barrier Reef on August 29, 1791, with the loss of 31 of the crew and four of the prisoners.
The surviving 10 prisoners were eventually repatriated to England, tried in a naval court, with three hanged, four acquitted, and three pardoned. Descendants of some of the mutineers and Tahitians still live on Pitcairn. The mutiny has been commemorated in books, films, and songs.
Words of Wisdom
"When you're back in England with the fleet again, you'll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on they'll spell mutiny with my name."