On April 28, 1789, Lieutenant William Bligh, commander of the H.M.S. Bounty, was awakened by men who "seizing me tyed my hands with a Cord & threatened instant death if I made the least noise." Bligh called out anyway, but all of the ship's officers were guarded by mutineers. Bligh was then "carried on deck in my Shirt, in torture with a severe bandage round my wrists behind my back, where I found no man to rescue me."

Anyone who has seen either the 1935 or the 1962 version of this story likely thinks that Bligh had it coming. He was a sadistic villain, and the dashing leader of the mutineers, Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable/Marlon Brando), was doing everyone a favor. The reality was more complicated—and the ending much more surprising.

When the mutiny occurred, the Bounty was en route from Tahiti, where its crew had collected breadfruit plantings, to the Caribbean, where the plantings would be used to grow food for plantation slaves. The sailors had really enjoyed their time in Tahiti, though, and they didn't want to leave—especially under the command of Bligh, who was, if not a sadist, notably strict and ill-tempered. Christian's original plan was to flee the Bounty in its attached long boat and head back to sunny Polynesia, but other crew members convinced him to keep the Bounty and pack the officers in the long boat instead. Amazingly, Bligh and company navigated their overcrowded vessel 3,600 miles to the Dutch East Indies. The lieutenant eventually made it back to England, then returned to the South Pacific for revenge. In the meantime, the mutineers were living large on Tahiti.

Though Christian never found out Bligh had survived, he feared that staying at Tahiti could put him in danger of capture. Mutiny ...

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