This Day in History: April 28
- Published: Apr 28, 2016, 4 AM
The story of mutiny on the high seas has been captured in movies, books and other popular culture.
The mutiny on the Bounty, the event most often linked to such tales, occurred on April 28, 1789.
The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian against the ship’s captain, Lt. William Bligh.
HMS Bounty (also known as His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty) was a small merchant vessel purchased by the Royal Navy for a long distance botanical mission, to transfer breadfruit plants from their Pacific island home to British plantations in the West Indies.
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The relatively small ship (215 tons) had three masts and was full-rigged. After conversion for the breadfruit expedition, it was equipped with four 4-pounder cannon and 10 swivel guns for self-defense.
HMS Bounty, under the command of Capt. Bligh, was sent to the Pacific Ocean to acquire breadfruit plants and transport them to British possessions in the West Indies. The plants were picked up, but the mission was never completed, after a mutiny led by the acting master, Fletcher Christian. This was the famous mutiny on the Bounty.
Harsh treatment by the captain, as well as reluctance to leave the idyllic environs of Tahiti, are some reasons cited as the cause of the mutiny.
Mutineers set Capt. Bligh afloat in a small boat with 22 other crewmembers, most of whom were loyal to Bligh. To avoid detection, the mutineers then variously settled on Pitcairn Island or on Tahiti. The group that sailed HMS Bounty to Pitcairn Island burned the ship after arrival there, to prevent desertion.
In an extraordinary feat of seamanship, Capt. Bligh successfully navigated the 23-foot open launch on a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies, equipped with only a quadrant and pocket watch, and without charts or a compass. He recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (4,164 miles). 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.
In 2013, Benin issued a coin to remember the HMS Bounty. The antique finish silver 1,000-franc coin has a colorful glass insert depicting the ship.
The coin has a mintage limit of 999 pieces.
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