Today’s Mutinous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
When Captain Cook went on his third Pacific expedition in 1772, his sailing master was William Bligh. Fifteen years later, Bligh was the captain on a ship (the Bounty) that was commissioned to take bread fruit from Tahiti and transplant it to the West Indies. Bligh was a harsh disciplinarian with a quick temper. When the men arrived at Tahiti, he kept them on rations of salt pork, although there was an abundance of fruit. Four men who tried to desert were brought back and flogged in front of the entire crew. But Bligh’s greatest mistake was to make an enemy of the chief mate, Fletcher Christian, who championed the seamen. When they sailed from Tahiti, Bligh “treated them like a dog,” until Christian determined to avenge both himself and those under him.
On April 28, 1789, Bligh woke up to find his cabin filled with mutineers, who tied his hands and dragged him up on deck. Then, with 18 officers, and a supply of food, he was cast adrift in an open boat. What followed is one of the great epics of the sea. For 41 days, Bligh navigated the boat through tropical storms, until he reached Timor Island, some 4000 miles away. But only 12 of the 19 castaways reached England; the rest died as a result of their ordeal and privations.
For the mutineers, the taste of paradise had already gone sour. They made for Toobouai Island, hoping to settle there, but hostile natives drove them away. They then returned to Tahiti, and split into two parties.; one group of sixteen stayed behind; nine other men, including Fletcher Christian, embarked on the Bounty – and apparently sailed into oblivion. As soon as Bligh reached England, the story of his overthrow caused nationwide excitement, and another ship, the Pandora, was sent to Tahiti to try and arrest Christian and his followers.
By the time she arrived, two of the mutineers were dead anyway – one had shot the other in a quarrel, and had been stoned to death in turn by the natives. The captain of the Pandora arrested the remaining 14, and set off in search of the Bounty. He never found it; instead, he and his crew were wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Four of the mutineers drowned there, so that only ten finally reached England. Of these, four were actually executed for mutiny and the others went free.
Meanwhile, what of the Bounty, the nine mutineers, and the several Tahitian men and women who were with them? It was more than 20 years later that Matthew Folger, an American sea captain, landed on Pitcairn Island, in the middle of the Pacific, and learned the bloody end of the saga. The Bounty had run ashore on Pitcairn Island, and Christian had ordered the ship to be set on fire. Ironically, Christian himself then turned into a tyrant as harsh as Bligh. His companions grew to detest him just as much as they had done their previous captain. Then one day Christian stole one of the Tahitian women from her husband. The husband crept up on the seducer while he was digging in a field, and unceremoniously shot him dead.
The rest of the party quickly split into two warring groups, and the killing went on. One Scotsman named M’Koy discovered how to distill an alcoholic spirit, and he and a friend spent their days drunk, until M’Koy threw himself over a cliff in a state of delirium tremens, and survivors destroyed the still. The Tahitian men killed all but two of the remaining white men in one night. Then, aided by some of the women, the last two whites murdered the six Tahitians.
By the time Captain Folger came on the scene there was only one survivor of the original mutineers –Alexander Smith. But there were 40 descendants. And many of their descendants live on Pitcairn Island to this day. In their search for an “earthly paradise” – one with unlimited drink, sun, and sex – 18 members of the Bounty crew had died violent and bloody deaths.
As for Bligh, he later completed his mission, transplanted the bread fruit to the West Indies, and had a distinguished career in the navy. Later, when he was governor of New South Wales in Australia, he caused another mutiny. But this one ended without bloodshed, and he died peacefully in his bed at the age of 63.
Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 26
We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!
Ghastly: Red Sox Edition!
New York Crime Scene Photograph culled from Harms Way.