1962’s Mutiny on the Bounty is one of the most popular requests to cover. Today, we’ll do that with the help of Brandon Huebner, the host of The Maritime History Podcast.
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Dan LeFebvre: [00:01:53] The movie opens by giving us a time and place where, Portsmouth Harbor in England on December 23rd, 1787. This is when the HMS bounty leaves England. Her mission, according to the movie, is to travel to Tahiti to gather what the Gardner on board, Mr. Brown calls breadfruit. And according to Mr. Brown, the breadfruit plant has the potential to be a great source of food for British colonies like those in the West Indies.
That’s how the movie kind of sets up the context for the purpose of the bounties mission. Can you give us an overview of how accurate that was to history?
Brandon Huebner: [00:02:34] Yeah, definitely. My basic answer is that that is the broad purpose of the mission. It’s pretty accurate in in the big picture, so I was pretty impressed with how they set it up there.
I think in one of the opening scenes, the gardener Brown that you mentioned, he alludes to Kew gardens, which he says is the garden in London, and that was the Royal gardens in London there. It had been around for a while. The connection with Kew gardens to the actual bounty mission was that sir Joseph Banks was the president of the Royal society, the scientific society of gentlemen in London and that time, and he was one of the guys who really helped get the Kew gardens off the ground and grow a lot in that era.
He’s the man who bankrolled the bounty expedition basically had a lot of finances and he put it together and his whole purpose for the expedition was to get breadfruit from Tahiti, like they said. So that was definitely the main purpose. Joseph Banks actually had gone on previous expeditions to the Pacific, so he was personally familiar with that area.
He went there with captain cook, who’s a pretty well known, one of the early explorers of the Pacific. There. So yeah, bringing breadfruit from Tahiti over to the West Indies was their main goal. They had some other sub goals, I guess, which were too more fully explore that area of the world cause it hadn’t been fully explored to that point.
There were broad stretches of it that weren’t on maps at all. So that was a secondary purpose of the expedition too.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:04:13] Would that be a rather consistent secondary purpose of, I guess I’m just assuming that if a ship, whether it’s bounty or you know, another ship. It goes off into an area that’s not necessarily explored very well, that automatically becomes a secondary mission to whatever it is that they’re doing.
Brandon Huebner: [00:04:32] Yeah, I think that’s pretty fair. That’s how a lot of them viewed their purpose as explorers at that time and place in history, especially the, you know, the captain’s coming from Europe in that time were the ones leading the forefront of exploration. So, yeah, having the dual purpose there I think was pretty common.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:04:51] Okay. Well, now that we know a little bit about the, when and where and what their purpose was, I’m curious about the who, especially since movies, a lot of times like to change names or make up completely fictional characters. I always like to ask about some of the characters that we see. And in this movie, there’s a few key characters that we meet early on.
There’s Lieutenant Fletcher Christian. He’s played by Marlon Brando. When I went back to watch this man, he was really young in this movie.
Brandon Huebner: [00:05:20] Yeah, I noticed that too.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:05:24] and then a captain William Bligh, who’s played by Trevor Howard. And one of the more prominent of the crew crewman, a man by the name of John Mills.
He’s played by Richard Harris. And again, I did not recognize him at first. It took a little bit cause he was so young. But were those real people on the bounty?
Brandon Huebner: [00:05:41] Yeah, all three of them were. And I agree with you, like I was kind of caught off guard by how young all the actors were. It’s been a long time since I saw this movie.
So pretty interesting. But yeah, all three of those guys were real men who went on the bounty expedition. Of course, Fletcher Christian and the captain Bligh are the two main ones. Christian, you know, was fairly well depicted. I think he was kind of coming from a family that had more means, I suppose you could say.
I don’t know if he was quite as much of, you know, a dandy is the movie depicted necessarily, but it’s a little hard to tell just from looking at records from the time, so he could have had that type of personality. Bly too. He was basically the captain of the voyage, I guess technically in that timeframe.
He hadn’t achieved the rank of captain officially for the Navy yet. Bligh was technically not a captain, but that’s the role that he played on this expedition. He was the leader and everybody knew he was. Bligh was the one who really gives us most of the records we have from the actual expedition, because as the captain, he’s the one who was writing the log book every day.
You know, he kept his own journal of events as they unfolded. So his records are pretty good contemporary running log of what would have happened on the expedition with the giant caveat. Of course, that. He could leave stuff out if he wanted to. So at that, that becomes a focal point of the historical debate, I guess.
The third guy, John Mills, he was also part of the crew. He was Gunner’s mate, I think. So. He wasn’t at the top of the leadership structure per se, and I’ve found it a little strange that they included him as more of a focus of the film’s narrative, because as far as we can tell from history, he didn’t really play that big of a role.
And we don’t have any, you know, firsthand written accounts from him. Where we do have written journals are after the fact accounts from other people who were part of the expedition. So his role in the film was a little surprising to me, but he was a real person.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:07:57] I wonder if maybe, I’ve seen this a lot with filmmakers will, in order to make it easier to understand, it’s the crew is this one essentially all coming from this one guy, because as I recall.
Mills, at least in the movie, was the spokesperson for the crew. And so the crew’s position very often was essentially whatever it was he was saying.
Brandon Huebner: [00:08:17] Yeah, I think that’s a fair way to look at it. And I kind of had the same thought watching back through the film. He’s used as like a figure head almost.
There were a fair number of other crew members that I caught their names over the course of the film, and I think they were pretty accurate as far as naming different people who were part of the crew.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:08:36] Okay. They just picked a, okay, Richard Harris is playing this guy, so he’s going to be the main guy.
Brandon Huebner: [00:08:41] Yeah. That’s probably how it went.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:08:45] Now we don’t really see any sort of dates or anything like that in the movie after they leave England, but almost immediately we start to get a sense for captain leadership. And this happens when mills is accused of stealing two 25 pound wheels of cheese by another crew member.
And initially he denies this, but then below decks with the crew mills admits that he took the cheese, but he insists that he took the cheese because captain Bligh wanted him to take the cheese to his house. It was a direct order. And then. He calls captain Bligh a thief, and just about that time, of course, as it would happen, Bly happens to walk by and he hears this, and then Bly orders mills to receive two dozen lashes.
I mean, any time watching a torture like this is, it’s difficult, but it’s also insane to think about how this is a, in least according to the movie, it’s happening over some cheese. That according to one side was. The order from captain Bligh, but then there’s even some dialogue in there as if that wasn’t enough of an indication of his style of leadership.
But there’s a, I think it was Lieutenant Christian mentions the, this infraction is minor, you know, stealing some cheese and the punishment is way too severe. But then captain Bligh says something to the effect of that may be true, but cruelty with purpose is not cruelty. It’s efficiency. And so we get the idea from the movie that captain Bligh wants to lead his crew through fear.
How well did the movie do showing captain Blind’s mentality for how he wanted to lead his crew?
Brandon Huebner: [00:10:29] That is a good question. That’s a bit of a tough one too, because again, like I mentioned a minute ago, his journal, his records are a large basis of. What we know about what happened on the expedition. We have some after the fact accounts by people who were implicated in everything.
As it plays out, you know, you can almost look at it like, by the time we get to the part where we’re looking at everybody’s story of what happened, we’re in a court trial almost, so you take people’s testimony with a grain of salt at that point a little bit. I guess. So we do know that Bly was pretty strict as a captain.
The whole cheese block incident, I guess is Christian tried to pass it off as it was a minor thing, but Bligh was coming and most of the crew, almost the entire crew were coming from this tradition of, they were part of the Royal Navy. They’d all served on ships before, and they’d been under various captains during the tenure of their careers.
Respecting the structure of authority in in the Navy especially, was a huge deal. So the cheese incident, I guess captain Bligh, if it played out that way, he was looking at it as not so much that he wanted to rule them through fear, but more that he just needed to assert his authority, I guess, and make sure that he was viewed as the captain and there was no questioning his integrity.
That’s part of it, I guess. As far as blinds, personality, there are quite a few accounts from this expedition from later expeditions that he was part of too. He had quite a few run ends with various people over the course of his life and career in the Navy and as an authority figure, once you get along enough string of.
People having run ins with the same guy over and over. You start to wonder if
Dan LeFebvre: [00:12:24] common denominator.
Brandon Huebner: [00:12:27] Exactly, exactly. So there is some of that going on beneath the surface. I guess Bly was, he was pretty strict. Even aside from his personality, he had served on previous voyages with the captain cook. Captain cook was also very strict.
He believed in keeping his crew set to a rigid. Schedule, keep them disciplined, keep them in shape, especially because when you’re going on these long voyages to the Pacific where you don’t exactly know where you’re going to wind up or when. He really believed in keeping everybody exercised and fit, eating a regular diet, and a lot of the sailors could get on board with that, but of course you always have some sailors on the crew who are just there for the rom or whatever.
They don’t want to listen to the authority figure that came into it. I think there’s a scene in the movie where he has the crew dancing up on the deck. At one point there’s the guy playing the fiddle, and I thought that was a pretty good scene to include because we know from the journals that captain Bligh, he was so insistent that they had to get four hours of dancing in.
Every night. Like he had a set schedule from four to 8:00 PM he’d have the fiddle player play and they all had to dance on deck as a way to get exercise cause there’s nowhere else to go when you’re stuck on a tiny ship. So that was reported to have gotten old rather quickly with the crew. They, they made fun of it, you know.
But black cuttingK if you just had to keep them to it, if you want it to maintain its authority. So it was things like that. He tried to keep them all in line and in order. And it does seem like the crew got tired of it kind of quickly.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:14:12] Earlier you mentioned that he wasn’t really a captain, but he was trying to prove himself.
Do you think some of it had to do with that, where he’s trying to prove himself as a captain so that when he returns home from this voyage, people in the Navy will see how good a job he did and actually give him the official title?
Brandon Huebner: [00:14:32] I do. I think that’s a very good point. And. You know, the historians that have done work on this and done the research and to everybody’s accounts and journals and whatnot.
That’s something they point to quite a bit as maybe being part of the underlying psychological basis for why BLI acted the way he did. There were letters going back and forth between him and the Admiralty in London before the voyage left. That kind of show. He was pretty concerned that they’d make him a captain before they set sail.
It was a big deal to him, so you can kind of assume from that, that it was always there on the back of his mind. He may be was frustrated because the Admiralty didn’t come through and make him a captain before the voyage to that sale, even though they were supposed to. He probably did then feel like he had to go out of his way to prove a point.
And maybe that did play a role. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:15:27] As you’re mentioning that, and then tying that back into most of what we know about this still comes from him, and so thinking of the things that he may not have included that he might’ve thought might’ve been a little bit too much or something, I don’t know. It putting in the logs again, like you said, he can control what goes in those logs.
And so just think about how, how many things we don’t know about that might’ve happened that he just decided to omit from history.
Brandon Huebner: [00:15:55] Yeah. It’s an interesting discussion. I, I tend to think there aren’t a ton of things that he left out. He was conscientious as a captain. It seems. To try to keep as accurate of a record as possible, but it still does raise questions there.
There was a time where after they leave England, the movie set, it was some time in December, if I remember correctly,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:16:20] December 23rd, 1787
Brandon Huebner: [00:16:22] okay. So they initially were trying to leave England a couple, like two months before that in October. The Admiralty slowed them down a bit, just because this expedition wasn’t a huge priority, which is reflected in the fact that they didn’t try that hard to make BLI and actual post captain.
So there were kind of a chain of events that set them behind schedule a little bit. They got stuck by weather in the English channel, so by the time they finally make it out into the Atlantic in December, you know, he’s already annoyed. Like we’re behind schedule. Then he wants to show, he’s still the captain.
Keep his authority, go on and get everybody in a strict regimen. So, you know, there’s a way you can look at it. Like maybe things got off on a bad foot from the very beginning, but then it just becomes a debate. Like how much of that was Blythe’s fault. He should’ve been able to handle that anyways, cause he’s the captain, he’s gotta be prepared for anything.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:17:22] Yeah. You mentioned the timeframe there, and that leads right into my next question because something that we get from the movie is how captain Bligh is so focused on getting to their destination as soon as they can. And so he decides instead of taking the long way around, and I think they show a little map to kind of visualize this, but think of, you know, the, the Cape of good hope in Africa according to the movie, perceived as the safer route.
But then captain Bligh decides to take the more dangerous routes. Down around South America, which is Cape horn, but that’s shorter distance wise, but it’s more dangerous because of weather. Now, if they’re able to do it, the movie implies that they can save five months, shape five months off of their voyage, but this decision in the movie proof’s disastrous.
There’s horrible weather. Eventually. Forces them to turn around and in the process, instead of saving five months, they lose five months time, which of course makes captain Bligh not very happy at all, but was the movie correct? And showing that captain Bligh initially commanded the bounty to go around Cape horn instead of the Cape of good hope.
Brandon Huebner: [00:18:37] Yeah. I that’s, that’s another point where I think in general that is accurate. That was their initial plan was to go around South America, around Cape horn, just like you said, because it saves them so much time and so much distance traveled. The rub is that you’re going further South than you would if you had to go around.
The Cape of good hope around the tip of South Africa. So the bad weather comes into play as you’re getting close into the Antarctic regions there. They knew it was going to be a gamble, I suppose, but enough ships had gone that route. By this point in history, they knew with pretty fair certainty that if they got there early enough in the sailing season, they’d have a high likelihood of being able to make it around the Cape of good hope.
That was the initial orders from the Admiral. T2 definitely try to go that way if you can, because it saves us time and money, so it, it seems like captain Bligh, but even his superiors all were of the same mindset that that was the first way to try to go, as I mentioned a little bit. They were behind from the beginning through not really captain bias faults.
So by the time they finally got out of the English channel and into the Atlantic, he probably had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t going to make it there in time. I suppose maybe that’s another thing that, you know, might’ve gotten under his skin, made him have a worse attitude than he was inclined to have to begin with.
So yeah, that was their first. The attempt was to go that way, but they did wind up getting stopped by weather, like you said.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:20:21] Okay. Yeah. That’s a good little tidbit about them being delayed from the onset because that’s not something they really show in the movie, and so it just, the impression I get from the movie is he is just so focused on getting there.
He wants to shave five months off. Regardless. It doesn’t really show that, Oh, they’re already starting off a little bit behind, and so wanting to save, make up some of that time is a little more of a understandable, I can understand that a little bit more. Trying to make up a little bit of that time rather than when I was watching the movie again this last time, it just seems like, Oh man, he just.
He just wants to, it’s all about making a good impression and getting there really fast and that not necessarily we just want to get there on time and we’ve already lost some time.
Brandon Huebner: [00:21:07] Yeah, that’s a good point. I think he, he was very driven to make the good impression. So maybe there’s elements of both, but that kind of muddies the waters a little bit.
If he tried to show that it wasn’t just his fault. I can see why the movie set it all up the way that it did.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:21:23] Yeah. Yeah. Well, one thing they do show in the movie was that after this happens, captain Bligh actually blames the crew for costing them five months as if it was the crew’s decision to go around Cape horn first.
Even though just a little bit earlier in the movie, they show that it captain blinds decision and they didn’t want to do it, but did he really blame the crew for that decision?
Brandon Huebner: [00:21:45] Oh, that’s a good question. I kind of wanted the same thing when the movie portrays it that way. I tend to think that that’s a bit more of a stretch than maybe some of these other points.
I’ve never read anything to that effect, but again, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there is a kernel of truth there. Not so much that he was truly angry at the crew, but I could see he was kind of renowned to have a temper in trying circumstances that he. Didn’t try to restrain at all, and he would just, you know, let his worst thoughts fly.
Whoever tended to be closest at the moment. So I could see they got to the Cape, to Cape horn, and they were held up by weather for a few weeks. He kept trying to push them to make. The turn around to try to get over onto the Pacific side. There were plenty of ships who could fight against the prevailing winds and they could make it around, but it’s also a renowned area of the world where there’s tons of shipwrecks because it’s so dangerous.
He was very driven to try to get them to make it around because they spent several weeks trying to fight against the winds, but he wound up just having to tell the crew. We tried, we’ll turn around. It seems like some of that decision was probably because all of the crew was sick of it at that point, and I could see in the heat of the moment and then him getting so frustrated.
He probably did lash out at crew members. I just haven’t seen anything concrete to show like what he said necessarily or anything like that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:23:23] You make a good point though that if he was already frustrated because they were behind and then this happens. Yes. It’s just not going to help somebody who sounds like has a short fuse anyway, to begin with.
And so he’s going to lash out further. Even some of the smallest things after that,
Brandon Huebner: [00:23:39] I guess it sounds kind of like an excuse when I put it that way. I don’t mean to portray it as an excuse for him.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:23:46] No, but it rational. I it it, I’m like, I’m just trying to put myself in that mindset of why would he do the things that he’s doing and not, not to excuse them by any means.
Brandon Huebner: [00:23:55] Right, right.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:23:56] But just to try to. Try to understand it, I guess is no better way to put that than that. That’s fair. That’s fair. I wonder if while they were stuck trying to go around Cape horn in the bad weather, did they still have to do their nightly dancing?
Brandon Huebner: [00:24:10] They would have really struggled, I think. Yeah.
I mean, it’s freezing cold down there. Maybe he gave him a break. I don’t know.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:24:17] Well, going back to the movie, once the bounty reaches their destination in Tahiti. They’re welcomed by the natives. There’s singing, dancing, feasting. It’s what I pretty much would assume a Hollywood sixties movie would show on a tropical Island.
Right, and of course the crew loves this. How were they actually received when they arrived in Tahiti?
Brandon Huebner: [00:24:41] From all the accounts we have, it seems like they were received with open arms by the technicians. Like you said, I’m sure the movie romanticizes it a little bit in that sixties style that it does. it’s still fun to watch though, for sure.
But we know from the records, like captain cook had been to Tahiti before. There have been some other expeditions that have made land there. So the people of Tahiti were fairly well familiar with people coming from Europe and from the outside world by this point. And. They were glad to have people visit.
They especially loved all the wealth and the goods that the ships brought with them from the European world. So I think that was part of it. But culturally, Tahiti was also a very welcoming society, kind of like the movie portrays too. So I think it’s been about 10 months since the ship left England, by the time they make it to Tahiti here.
We said that cook had been to Tahiti. So there’s that one scene where captain Bligh sees, I’m assuming as the King of this tribe on Tahiti, and I thought that was a really cool scene. I’m not sure how accurate is it? Don’t know a ton of boat, the cultural aspects of Tahiti and all that stuff. But we do know from Blind’s records that he recognized the King.
He had known him since Bly was on the final expedition that Cooke made to the Pacific. So captain Bligh knew personally some of these people who’ve still lived on Tahiti. I think some of the other crew members were also on the expedition. Some of the bounty crew members were, so there were probably a handful of those.
On the bounty who we’re meeting old friends almost in a sense, which is pretty interesting. The Island was familiar to them for that whole point. Then I think they set up their camp on the same side. The captain Cook’s camp had been on, so it’s a little weird to think about, but they almost were coming back to a familiar environment a little bit.
And then of course he had an up decent portion of the bounty crew who had never been there. And it was just like they were all struck with the Pacific Island and all the people there. So it’s interesting to read the accounts of how taken the crew men were with the Island and the life there. The women were very open as the movie portrays, like a lot of the sailors on the bounty voyage.
Choke up with their Island wives, I guess you could call them as kind of how the movie portrays it, and that’s pretty well established and all the records that we have to all the men had their wives on the Island while they were there. I’m pretty sure captain Bligh did keep himself apart from all of that, which the movie also alludes to, but yeah, from the logs, we tell that, well, a lot of the crew members had to be treated for transmitted diseases.
So it’s pretty well established that that’s how it all operated. While they were on the Island, they were there for a period of months and they didn’t have too much to do. He wanted to keep them on lands so they could get more exercise and all that kind of stuff. So they had some duties during the day, but they had a ton of free time compared to what they would have on the ship.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:27:59] You mentioned how long they were on there for, and the movie implies. That when they get to Tahiti, the breadfruit plants that they’re going for were in their dormant season. So that means basically. They can’t transport them safely without these plants dying before they reach their destination. So this is the reason why the bounty crew has to stay on Tahiti for months because they have to stay there until the dormant season is over.
And that’s an extra five months. And you did mention that they stayed there for a few months. Was that part of the plan or was it like in the movie it’s unplanned? It was not necessarily part of the plan to stay there for that long.
Brandon Huebner: [00:28:40] Yeah, I think it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t part of their original plan.
If everything would have gone according to the plan that they had on paper before they left England, they’d have made it around Cape horn on time. They’d have made it to Tahiti several months before they did. Their stay would have been a lot shorter and then they’ve, they would have gotten the plants and gotten out of there.
The simple way is that it didn’t go according to plan, but the plan broke down before they even got to Tahiti, like we said. So. Part of the reason they had to stay there longer was that the breadfruit had gone into that dormant period, but it seems pretty likely that captain blind and everybody, especially the gardeners that they had brought on board who did know about breadfruit, by the time they were in the vicinity of Tahiti, they probably had a good idea that they were going to have to wait it out just because they were knowledgeable about the timeline and all that stuff.
The only other reason I can think of for why they had to wait in that region of the world, they are pretty dependent on the monsoon winds that are seasonal in nature. So that was the other part of the delay. By the time they got to Tahiti, it was in the time of the year. Which one did we sit and got there 10 months after they left?
They got there in the fall, so they had to wait until spring time came back around basically, which I guess would be about five months. The winds in the fall time are blowing from the West to the East towards Tahiti coming out of like Southeast Asia in the springtime. They shift, they’re blowing the opposite direction, and that’s the direction that the bounty wanted to leave once they left Tahiti.
They were going to bring the breadfruits on board and then go through Southeast Asia, North of Australia, and then cut across the Indian ocean, go back around the Cape of good hope, but go in the opposite direction and then caught up to the Caribbean. So they needed the winds to help them do that.
Otherwise, they really wouldn’t have been able to make that journey in that direction in the fall time. So I guess that’s two parts. The breadfruit, they had to wait out, but they also had to wait for the winds to shift.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:30:58] Backing up from that. I’m curious because we were talking about the initial delay in the English channel and then the delay around South America and all of these causing that, and then of course this one here, once they actually reached their destination in Tahiti.
Yeah. Things aren’t going according to plan, but I would have to assume that things don’t go according to plan. A lot of the time and that, so that I would assume that things not going according to plan would have to be part of the plan, I guess, and kind of the norm for a lot of these expeditions. So I would assume that whoever is tracking this back in England or whoever is in charge of planning these missions and these explorations are probably pretty familiar with that and pretty lenient with that.
And so it wouldn’t necessarily. Be a reasonable reason why it would make happen blind that much more anxious and angry and upset. I dunno, that’s the way to phrase that, but does that make sense?
Brandon Huebner: [00:32:02] No, it does and I, it’s a very reasonable question. It does, you know, get us more into that. Area where we’re kind of trying to psychoanalyze Bly and why, why he was making decisions he was and had kind of the attitude he did towards things.
And I, I think you raise a good point because the Admiralty, they had there original game plan, but like you said, they had a wealthy guy bankrolling the whole thing. They had a bunch of people in the Royal society who had interests in this. And technically it was an expedition that was part of the Navy.
It wasn’t a civilian expedition. So Bligh had his orders from the Navy, and all of the men on his crew were part of the Navy who, you know, we’re oath bound to follow him and to do everything the Navy way, which is, you know, according to orders and according to the plan, once it became clear that they weren’t going to make it around Cape horn.
Maybe they knew early enough, but they had been able to send word back to England and the Admiral understood they were going to have to reroute around Cape horn and they signed off on that. So everybody in the whole chain of reporting knew that they had to adapt. They knew that the bounty put in, you know, in South Africa for a period of weeks to restock and everything, and they’d put in at various ports before they got to Tahiti and been sending letters back to England the whole time.
So yeah, Bly should have known that the Admiralty was informed of all these adaptations of the plan. And you would think that that would inform his whole perspective on everything. As best as I can tell, a lot of the. Character studies just seem to conclude that he was a, he was an Uber perfectionist. He wanted everything to be perfect according to the original plan, and he doesn’t seem like he adapted to change.
Well, he, he wasn’t quick on his feet and th it seems like over this period of months it really kept digging further and further under his skin. And you know, pushing his already sour personality even further that way.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:34:18] Yeah. It sounds like being a perfectionist and also a captain of a ship in the 17 hundreds where things don’t go according to plan, it’s probably not a good combination.
Brandon Huebner: [00:34:29] Yeah. The other thing I have heard that I suppose makes sense is I’ve alluded to captain cook a few times and how Bly was on captain Cook’s final expedition. Some people go so far as to say. Captain cook was this famous Explorer. He was the first guy to explore the Pacific and discover all this stuff.
He was a celebrity in England, basically, and captain Bligh seems to have had a desire to be viewed the same way, and Cook’s voyages had all gone, you know, really smoothly. Cook was a good disciplinary and he kept everything in line. It seems like maybe Bly with shooting for that Mark and every time that something happens where he, he felt like he wasn’t reaching up to that Mark.
It just contributed to his bad attitude, I guess. I don’t know.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:19] That makes sense. That’s another aspect of, I didn’t think about it. Cook being, I’m assuming kind of a mentor type. Roll in his eyes at least in wanting to live up to that as well. Yeah. Well, if we go back to the movie after they’re in Tahiti for a few months, but then after they leave Tahiti, captain Bligh just continues torturing his men.
There’s one of them that is just. Super brutal. And it’s called hauling. It’s one of the crew. Mr. Young. He claims it’s illegal, but they do it anyway. And the way that the movie depicts this is they tie a man to ropes, drop him into the water, and then the crew takes the other end of the ropes and drag him along the hall of the ship.
So he’s actually the bottom of the ship being dragged along the hall. And in this case. The man is eaten by sharks before the punishment is even done. So captain Bligh doesn’t even really seem to care. He’s like, okay, just drop the ropes in the water. Then I guess was keelhauling a real punishment and did it actually take place on the bounty
Brandon Huebner: [00:36:21] that this whole scene was?
I probably had my, Josh dropped a little bit when I was watching it. It’s definitely a real punishment. And the way that they carried out the punishment was accurately portrayed in the movie. That’s how it worked. The only issue is that we have no record of the bounty having carried out a punishment like this and the crew men who said that it was illegal.
He was right. It was highly illegal. The Royal Navy would never have put up with captains, punishing crew members like this. I don’t think there are too many records of captains even attempting to do a punishment like this. At least captains in the Navy where you see this punishment coming into the historical record more so is back way far in ancient times.
I think there were some Roman ships where they punished. I’m assuming maybe it would have been more slaves who were chained to the rowing or is back on those types of ships. They were punished like this. But the common image of this punishment is that it’s what pirates did too. Punish people because it’s such a cruel form of punishment, right?
Like you’re being dragged under the ship and. A ship that’s been in the ocean for so long has barnacles and stuff all growing on it. You’re basically getting a slow, stabbing death while you’re like submerged in salt water. I, yeah, it was a super cruel punishment. I don’t think that they used it on the bounty, but in the version of the story that the film presents.
It does make captain Bligh look like a really bad guy.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:37:58] Well, yeah. I mean, anybody that wouldn’t do that with me.
Brandon Huebner: [00:38:01] Yup. Yup. I think it’s a bit of a stretch though.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:04] Okay. Well I’m, I’m happy to hear that at least. I mean, not that any of the punishments that he put on people were good, but I’m happy to hear that keelhauling at least was not part of the picture.
Brandon Huebner: [00:38:16] Yeah. Yeah. There were plenty of other punishments. I think that one is just too extreme. But I guess we’re to the point in the story now where they showed that lashing related to the cheese wheel incident early on, and there were plenty of lashings that took place for various things. There were some crew members who just mouth off to the captain and that’s deserving of
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:39] punishment.
Would lashing be the default punishment almost of whatever the infraction is, if there’s not something specific than lashing is kind of just the, the GoTo.
Brandon Huebner: [00:38:48] Yeah. As far as I know, that that was the pretty standard one, and then just the degree of the punishment to match the degree of the crime would just depend on how many lashings you actually got.
I think while they were on Tahiti, there were some incidents of sailors trying to escape and go to a different Island. I think they showed that in the movie. I don’t remember where at in the timeline. Some of those sailors did got locked up for a while on top of getting lashings and getting punished like that.
Otherwise, I think maybe some of the other punishments was just reducing rations for people who broke the rules in some way. Whether that would be to take away their grog rations, which is like their alcohol allotment for the day. That was a pretty common punishment too.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:39:39] Well in the movie, captain Bligh kind of leading up to the actual mutiny itself, he orders restrictions on the men’s water because they don’t have enough water for the plants.
The movie says that they actually took twice as many as were needed because captain Bligh wanted to impress the people in Jamaica when they get there, but that means that they need twice as much water for these plants and then captain by essentially. Takes that from the men’s water supply. The idea that captain Bligh had was he would store a ladle at the top of the mast and then whoever wanted a drink would have to go up there and get it, and then they would get one ladle of water.
And we see actually one of the men falling to his death, onto the deck trying to get that ladle up there. Then a little bit later, we see Lieutenant Christian, he tries to give the man who drank some, he actually drank some seawater and so he was going through, I’m not a hundred percent sure what it’s called when you drink too much seawater, other than not a good idea.
But, Lieutenant Christian was trying to give him some fresh water in order to save his life, but of course, that pulls from the water supply. Captain Bligh is not happy with that. So he kicks the water from his hand. She doesn’t save the water either. It just splashes it all over the deck. And then that’s when Lieutenant Christian has had enough, so he and his sailors take over the ship, and that is the actual mutiny itself.
That was the final straw as it were. How well did the movie do showing these events leading up to and during the mutiny itself?
Brandon Huebner: [00:41:16] That’s another good question, and I didn’t sync about how captain plow is just wasting all the water. He was so worried about by doing it. That’s a good irony to point out there, but yeah, I feel like kind of a broken record a little bit.
I like how the movie builds the tension and they have their good guy and the bad guy, the hero and the villain. I guess. But when it comes to what we actually know about how everything played out, they get the big
Dan LeFebvre: [00:41:43] picture
Brandon Huebner: [00:41:44] fairly accurate, but a lot of the details, they kind of twist or they change entirely to serve the narrative, I’m sure.
And it works really good in the movie. It’s probably less exciting how it actually played out in reality, but. You know, that is what it is.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:00] That’s usually
Brandon Huebner: [00:42:01] how it goes. It is. Yeah. so there were a couple of incidents after they left Tahiti, I think I had alluded to, and no, there’s no need to get into the particulars.
It all kind of came to a head when captain Bligh, he directly accused Lieutenant Christian of stealing something. Was, you know what, what appears set things over the edge. It doesn’t seem to have been tied to the water supply. Maybe indirectly they did bring more plants on board than maybe wasn’t necessary.
I don’t know if that’s because he wanted to impress where they were getting or just because he knew they were going to lose some along the way. And they need to make sure they had enough aye. I don’t recall too much about that. I’m sure it would have taken a lot of water to keep them all alive, so I bet he did decrease their water ration a little bit, but I don’t think it was so extreme to be to the point that the film depicts.
They had brought on a lot of other supplies when they left Tahiti too, so they, they weren’t necessarily hurting for water for supplies like that at this point yet. So the incident that set things off was captain Bligh had a stack of coconuts out on the deck that he had told everybody, don’t touch these.
These are mine. And his plan was at some point a couple of days down the road, he was just going to hand them out to the crew is kind of a treat. I guess he thought, you know, that was be nice, or something like the boss bringing in donuts or whatever. The story goes that Fletcher Christian knew this, but overnight, one night, one of the coconuts disappeared and everybody knew that it was Christian who had taken it.
It led to a confrontation where captain Bligh accused him of stealing it and things blew up from there. Some of the eyewitness accounts after the fact tend to make it look like Christian might’ve done this on purpose because he wanted to push things into a confrontation and that over a course of days and weeks, he’d been like slowly getting more and more irked with captain Bligh.
She’d been getting really moody and depressed. It seems like from the way he was acting according to other crew members anyways. And the speculation is that he was just tired of captain Bligh berating him for one, it seems like when they were on Tahiti, BLI singled him out too, you know, lecture for not working hard enough.
And he just really kept on Christian’s case the whole time. And you can imagine how over a course of months that would start the great honor. You probably get sick of the guy. So it seems like that’s maybe what happened. After this whole coconut incident that must’ve pushed Christian over the edge whether he wanted it to or not, who knows?
But the mutiny actually happened at nighttime. captain Bligh was asleep in his cabin. He had a pretty small cabin because the typical captain cabin that was, you know, the whole rear part of the ship, like you see in movies, they’d turn that into like the greenhouse basically. So captain Bligh was relegated to this little small section.
And supposedly according to the, the sailors who were on the ship, he trusted everybody so much. She just slept with the door open. He wasn’t worried about anything. It doesn’t seem like so. You know, that tends to indicate that he did not see the mutiny coming at all, whether that’s because he thought his authority was safe or he was just so oblivious to his own irritating personality.
It’s hard to tell. It probably is the latter, because he seemed to think that he was a great guy and he could never understand why people were so annoyed at him. But that is what it is. So Fletcher Christian got sick of it. He planned to do the mutiny on his own, but then some other crew members got wind of it somehow over the course of a night, and they too must have been tired of the situation.
He gets a gun and then a couple other crew members were able to grab some guns and they just stormed into Blind’s cabin, grabbed him while he was asleep and marched him up on the deck holding a Cutlass to his throat and saying that they were going to take over the ship and nobody should. You know, fight back or the captain’s going to die type of situation.
It seems like a lot of it was they were personally annoyed at captain Bligh. Like I said, it seems after the fact, maybe some of them joined in the mutiny because they missed Tahiti too, which I think the movie gets into that aspect of it a little more so. but that does seem to have been an underlying factor for some of them.
Maybe not for all of them.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:46:59] Well, the movie does imply that not all of the crew were involved in the mutiny. And you mentioned that as well. It seems like from what you were saying, maybe even less of less people were involved in the mutiny then the movie shows, I’m, I don’t, I should have counted. I didn’t actually count how many people it shows involved in the mutiny in the movie.
But we do see a split with some people following can a Christian and some people following captain Bligh, but then captain Bligh and his followers are set free in the open ocean and the bounty just sails on. Is that what happened after the mutiny?
Brandon Huebner: [00:47:39] Yeah, that’s a pretty fair summary of how it played out.
I’m trying to remember. I think there were 46 people on board the bounty total. The mutiny plays out, like you said, and there were a smaller handful who were immediately on board. They wanted to take over the ship and kickoff. The captain. There were a portion of the remainder who weren’t sure what to do either they couldn’t believe what was happening or they just weren’t sure who was going to come out on top.
So they were waiting to, you know, see what side they’re
Dan LeFebvre: [00:48:13] beyond the right side.
Brandon Huebner: [00:48:14] Exactly. Which you know, is kind of tacitly joining the mutiny, I guess. And then there was another minority who weren’t going to be part of it no matter what. And they. Would have defended their captain, except they had no weapons at hand, and you know, they’d have immediately been killed if they tried to fight back.
So the mutineers, they took the ship’s launch, which was just this tiny boat. It was like 20 some odd feet long. Maybe six or seven feet wide, a very small boat. They took captain Bligh and they took 18 other crew members who didn’t want to take part in the mutiny, and they forced 19 guys into this tiny boat, put them over the side and just like you said, dropped them off in the open ocean.
There were a few crew members who, even when the boat was that full, they wanted to get off the bounty because they didn’t want to be part of the mutiny, but there was no room left like they literally have been consigned themselves and everybody else to die because of the boat would sink. It just was too heavy at that point.
There were 25 men who stayed on board the bounty afterwards and 19 who left. Most of the 25 were fine with being there. There were a small handful who were forced to stay. I think they made the carpenter stay on board even though he wanted to leave because they needed his skills to keep the bounty afloat.
So self interested for sure. Then when they put the tiny boats launch over the side, those 19 guys had about five days worth of food and water, and then they were just left out in the open ocean. So even though they didn’t kill BLI immediately, it seems like they were hoping that’s what would happen, and they did their best to speed it along.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:50:05] They didn’t want to be responsible for actually doing it, but pretty much doing it.
Brandon Huebner: [00:50:09] Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:50:10] Well in the movie, we see captain Bligh is on the boat with his followers, as I’ll call them. He orders his men to go some 3,600 miles away to Bangalore, and from there then his plan is to head to England. We never really see their voyage.
We don’t see that in the movie, but we do see captain Bligh later on in England. So I guess we can assume that they survived. He stands trial before a court for his actions. But they absolve him of his deeds. They make it a point to say that captains, they appoint captains from gentlemen because there will never be codes that cover every situation.
And in this case, the appointment of captain Bligh was a failure. So how well did the movie show what happens to captain Bligh after the mutiny.
Brandon Huebner: [00:51:05] Yeah. Again, they, they really fast forwarded through a lot of the details and I get it for time sake cause they were compressing this whole long saga down into the movie format.
So it makes sense. Being set adrift in that tiny launch, there was a pretty harrowing experience for a lot of those guys. It really is one of the greater feats of navigational history just because of the situation they were dropped into. They weren’t planning on it. Somehow it seems like blinds personality was more well suited to that really tenuous situation where somebody just had to be in control.
No matter what, make all the shots, and nobody else really was in a position to talk back or to question his authority given you know, where they were. He somehow, he seems to have shown more in that situation than he did as captain of the bounty. They had to travel those 3,600 miles to Bangor. That wasn’t quite the initial plan, but it’s what they wound up doing.
They tried to put in at some smaller islands along the way. But there were native populations that were hostile to them, so they were able to snatch some food and run basically, but they weren’t going to get help that way. They weren’t going to get to any kind of actual safety. I think one of the crewman was killed by natives as they tried to escape one of the islands there.
So they wound up having to travel those. It’s about 4,000 statute miles, like miles on land. So it’s a little longer than we would think even although 3,600 miles is difficult to conceive of. They were on starvation rations cause they had no food, which is one ounce of bread and a quarter pint of water per day.
Effectively nothing. So just the fact that they survived this whole thing is amazing. They did make it though. They had to navigate through some uncharted territory to get there because where the bounty dropped them off and then making it over to the nearest. European settlement, I guess. I think it was a Dutch settlement and Bangor where they knew they could find safety.
They had to travel through some of those uncharted territories that the bounty was initially planning to travel through on their way back home. So since they had to go that way, Bly tried to salvage as much as he could. One of the crew men, when they put them over the side of the bounty, had given him logbooks and given him pen and paper.
So as they’re in this tiny open boat with no room, so even like breathe or turn around captain blinds, taking charts, taking logs, he’s like documenting everything they find and see on this 3,600 mile journey, which is also strange to think of. They did make it eventually, I think it was about 48 days. It took them to go from being put over the sides to making it to this Dutch settlement, and somehow or other, all of the men survived except for that one who was killed by natives on on an Island.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:54:21] Wow. With five days of water and it ended up being 48 days. And they serve. I mean, granted, you know, I’m sure water was also a top priority on some of those islands as well.
Brandon Huebner: [00:54:33] Yeah. They, they were able to supplement the supply a little bit, but not to any degree. That was, it just was enough to barely keep them alive
Dan LeFebvre: [00:54:41] and still be able to navigate.
I mean, not just barely alive, but barely alive and navigating thousands of miles of water.
Brandon Huebner: [00:54:50] Yeah. I think one of the crewman. Who was stuck on the bounty but still was on the side of captain Bligh managed to get them a compass too. I believe that was the one of the items that they got and the launch. So without some of those items, yeah, they probably wouldn’t have been able to navigate like they did.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:55:10] Well, it’s interesting that you. Talk about how little water they had, because you know, thinking of the way the movie portrays it, even before leaving the bounty, there was this ration on the water. And some of the men seem like they were almost dying on the bounty because they weren’t allowed water. and granted you, you mentioned that wasn’t necessarily the case, but it’s interesting they show that because based on what happens after that.
If they were down to that little amount of water per day on top of, even before leaving the bounty, having almost dying there and then, you know, that would surely put them over the edge. I don’t know. It’s just, it’s tough to, to fathom.
Brandon Huebner: [00:55:53] That’s a good point. I’d say for me it is impossible to think about, cause now we don’t really have to even think twice about how much water you want to drink.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:56:03] Oh, well, that’s captain blindside. But then in the movie, after the mutiny, we see the amount on the bounty. Take her back to Tahiti. That’s the first place they go. They go there to get more supplies, but then through some dialogue we find out, or they can’t really stay there because they’re afraid that if captain Bligh does manage to survive, that’s the first place that he’s going to go is to go back to Tahiti and look for these men.
King’s daughter, that Lieutenant Christian didn’t really talk about this earlier, but earlier Lieutenant Christian kind of fell for her earlier in the movie. She tells him that since their last visit, there’s been a war. There’s a new chief, and then she asked if some of the two Haitian men and women can go with them on the bounty.
And on the bounty side, Lieutenant Christian now has a smaller crew because some of the men went with captain Bligh. So that’s kind of how the movie sets up that there’s going to be some to Haitians. Leaving on the bounty when they actually leave there. And when they do that, they end up finding an Island called Pitcairn.
And this an was an interesting little scene in the movie when Lieutenant Christian, he sees the lands. And then he goes to look at his maps and he realizes that this Island is chartered wrong. The official maps for the British Navy that they have show this Island being about 175 miles away from where it actually is.
Meaning it would be a great place to hide out because everybody thinks it’s in a completely different location, and once they actually get to this Island, they find out that the Island is uninhabited, which makes it even better. So is that the path that they ended up actually taking the movie shows, going from Tahiti, picking up some natives and then managing to find this uninhabited and incorrectly charted Island named Pitcairn?
Brandon Huebner: [00:57:55] Yeah, the broad strokes. That is about how it played out. There’s some, you know, intervening details that are slightly different that explain some of the details of how people ended up where they did. And I’ll try to fill those in somewhat concisely. So the main goal, they did wind up back in Tahiti. They tried to settle on a different Island that was about, I don’t know, a couple hundred miles South of Tahiti.
That was their first attempt. That didn’t work out partially because they didn’t have many supplies there. There were some natives on that Island already who also didn’t want guys setting up shop, so they got in some skirmishes. They wound up. You know, fighting some battles with these natives on, I think the Island was called
They set up a little Fort there, if I remember right. And then they went back to Tahiti with part of the crew staying on the Southern islands. They picked up two Haitians from the Island there. Some men, I think, who wanted to help them build on this other Island, but they also picked up all the women who had been their wives previously.
They brought some of them back to this other Island and they tried to set up a call on either effectively, but it still didn’t work. So then they all got back on the bounty and went back to Tahiti and I guess that’s kind of the movie cuts out that middle part. They tried to make some other attempts that just fell through.
They wind up back in Tahiti and it’s pretty clear at that point that Fletcher Christian doesn’t want to stay there. But others of the crew do want to stay there. It seems like Christian’s authority weakened pretty fast after the mutiny. He was able to hold it together, but this failed attempt on the other islands probably got people at odds and two camps developed out of those who had taken part in the mutiny.
Once they made it back to Tahiti, Fletcher Christian and the people who wanted to leave Tahiti were onboard the bounty at nighttime, they were at anchor somewhere in the Harbor there, and the rest of the men were on the Island. He let them go onto the Island with the understanding that they could stay there, but he had no plans to stick around.
At nighttime, a bunch of the technicians were on board, the bounty, some of them. You know, want it to be there. Other others of them where they’re just taking part in a feast or something. And Fletcher Christian cut the anchor and just left. So he basically absconded from the Island with a handful of, to Haitians who didn’t want to leave and he took them as captives almost.
So that’s a little bit of a window into how he operated that they didn’t necessarily show in the movie. 16 out of the original 25 mutineers wound up staying on Tahiti. So nine of them, including Fletcher Christian left. And then that’s where pet Karen comes into the story. And as you relate it that that is pretty accurate.
I, how did you say the movie depicts it?
Dan LeFebvre: [01:01:09] They see land and so he goes to the map to see what it is and he notices that at that point the Island is. 175 miles from where it actually is cause they can actually see the Island. And so that’s when he realizes there’s this mismatch.
Brandon Huebner: [01:01:27] That’s right. I think the way it played out in reality is maybe slightly flipped from that, but I guess it doesn’t make any effective difference because the Island was miss charted about 200 miles from where it actually was.
And the way that the charts had worked. I think only one expedition had drawn the original chart that put pick Karen in that position. Then every subsequent chart in all of Europe that any navigator would have had was based on that original, so literally every chart in existence, it was not where it should have been.
Fletcher Christian saw that there was this tiny Island out of the way on his version of the chart. They went to sail towards pit cause they thought it might be an option for a place to hide out. I think they knew by this point that there was a high likelihood bla had survived and that there might be.
You know, people from the Navy come looking for the people who had led the mutiny, so they wanted to get as far off the scene as they could pit. Karen was pretty far off, but then when they got to where Fletcher Christian thought it was going to be, there was nothing there. He’s a seasoned navigator though.
So he realized that the most likely mistake on charting an Island like that was that they had just gotten the longitude wrong. Latitude as a whole lot easier to calculate when you’re drawing a chart like that. So he just sailed East 200 miles along the same line of latitude, and once they got 200 miles to the East on that same mine, they ran straight into the Island.
So that confirmed that it was wrong on all the charts and they wound up staying there because they assumed nobody else would find that for quite a long time.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:03:16] You mentioned that they thought that perhaps captain blind might’ve survived. Was there any sort of indicator that might have given them that idea.
Brandon Huebner: [01:03:25] I don’t think there’s any indicator that they would have had themselves. I don’t think that they’d had any contact with the outside world still by this point, probably just trying to play it as safe as they could, I guess. I mean, they knew that captain Bligh was a very skilled navigator and they, when they put the launch over the side, they weren’t too far away from some of those smaller islands.
So it’s thought that maybe they, like we said earlier, they, they didn’t want to kill Bly and the other crew members outright, they set them adrift in the ocean, but they knew, were kind of close to land. They might just make it there and somehow or other, they’ll find their way back, even if it takes a long time.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:12] Okay. Yeah. And I imagine there’s going to be a fair amount of. Just the paranoia of knowing that you’ve done something like mutiny and always looking over your shoulder that is going to come with that.
Brandon Huebner: [01:04:22] Yeah, I, that’s probably a big part of it too, and the movie does portray that element of it pretty good.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:29] Speaking of the movie, at the very end, we see Lieutenant Christian, he’s thinking about going back to England. He suggest that if captain Bligh survived, the only way that he’s going to be charged for his actions is if. There’s another side to the argument right now, if captain Bligh is the only one there, then it’s only going to be his side of the argument.
And of course that’s going to be a pretty one sided and it makes sense the way that the movie portrays that, but then the crew doesn’t want to leave pit Karen, they found this paradise Island. So one night they go out and burn the bounty while it’s anchored in the Bay. Lieutenant Christian tries to stop the fire, but he’s burned badly.
He ends up dying on the beach just as the timing of this, and the movie, of course, I’m assuming is going to be Hollywood again. He dies on the beach just as the ship sinks to her final resting place as well. But what do we know about how the movie’s version of the story lines up with the way that the real story ended for the bounty and her crew.
Brandon Huebner: [01:05:36] This one’s probably going to be a long answer because you know as, as we’ve gotten up to this point where we saw the mutiny play out, we’re almost to like three different strands of the story now, so it takes a little bit to wrap it up. There’s one random tidbit, as you mentioned, that Hollywood scene ending where he dies on the beach and the ship sinks in.
The background. I was reading a little bit after I watched the film again and I, I never realized, but they built a full replica of the bounty ship for the movie. I think MGM funded the whole thing and they built it according to the original plans that were still somewhere in England. It was scaled down a little bit to make it work for the camera crews and filming and everything.
But I read that the original plan was they were going to burn the actual replica for that final scene, which I guess that would have looked pretty cool. It would have been more accurate. But apparently over the course of filming the movie, Marlon Brando had grown pretty attached to the boat, to the ship, so he stepped in and said, you can’t burn this thing.
Like it’s way too important. And they wound up burning a model or something. I think it looks like from that. And scene. So, that was pretty interesting to me. I Brando like tried to buy the replica later on, but he didn’t have enough money to by it by that point in his life.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:09] Oh, don’t, don’t burn this. I want, I want it, but I can’t buy it because I don’t have enough money for it.
Brandon Huebner: [01:07:15] Yeah. There’s a whole weird, like saga of that ship replica that they built for the movie, but that’s totally unrelated.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:24] That’s interesting that, you know, he’s, he’s playing the character of Christian that obviously it doesn’t want the ship burned either, so it’s kind of a little bit of a parallels there.
Brandon Huebner: [01:07:33] Yeah, I didn’t think of that. That’s a good point. Okay, so I guess we’ll try to tie up the three strands. We said that Bly, they, they did eventually make it in that boat too, the Dutch settlement. So I didn’t really wrap up his strand too much. He made it back to England. And he underwent the court martial, like you said, but after he was acquitted, and I don’t know if the AdmiralT had any ill will toward him.
They do have that line in the movie where they said they appointed captains who were able to make decisions and not just follow the book. You read that one? I don’t know for sure if they had any ill will toward him. There probably was some, but probably, I would assume through the influence of Joseph Banks who funded the whole initial expedition after he’s acquitted, Bly gets entrusted with doing a second expedition back to Tahiti to do the whole thing over again.
Basically, since the first one had failed. So he’s acquitted and then he gets a second expedition ready and he goes right back to Tahiti. After that all happens, you’d made it back to England and the Admiralty was aware that there had been a mutiny, so they assembled the security force, you know, to go find the people who’d carry it out, the mutiny and bring them back to face justice.
This expedition went back to Tahiti. They searched some other places on the way out there, but they didn’t find any crew until they got to Tahiti. On the Island there. They arrested everybody who was left from the mutiny, so I think it would have been all 16 of those men and that ship. They never did find pick Karen.
So I guess going to that miss charted Island did work out pretty well for Fletcher Christian and those other guys because the Navy Beck’s finished and never found them. There’s some more poetic justice, I guess on the way back to England though, this Navy expedition who had the, the mutineers basically in a cage, they had them in prison in the front of the ship.
It wrecked on the great barrier reef. Coming North around Australia, so I want to say like five or six of the prisoners died by drowning because they didn’t open the cage fast enough. The captain on that ship was pretty harsh, which I guess is to be expected when you think everybody took part in the mutiny.
The problem is, like we said, not everybody was willingly part of the mutiny. Some of the guys were held there against their will. So there was poetic justice for some, there was maybe a miscarriage of justice for others. They did eventually make it back to England with 10 of these prisoners, and they all underwent a court Marshall the same that, Bly and the others did.
I think four of them were fully acquitted because there was enough testimony to prove they didn’t want to be part of it. Two of them were found guilty, but because they had some influential family connections, they received the Kings Royal. Pardon? So technically they were guilty. They didn’t get hung though.
There were four others who didn’t have those connections, I guess you could say. And they wound up sentenced to death by hanging, which was the punishment for mutiny. So they had some ships in Portsmouth Harbor there. With all the admirals who came in to be part of the court martial and for men who took part in the mutiny were eventually hung from the yard arms of a ship there in Portsmouth Harbor as punishment.
But as a. Symbol for all the people in the Navy to see like this is what happens if you mutiny against the Navy. I would assume that would
Dan LeFebvre: [01:11:27] be one of the big reasons why the Navy puts such effort forth to finding mutineers like that is to send a message.
Brandon Huebner: [01:11:35] Yeah. That that was definitely the, the whole goal of that for them.
Then I guess that leads to the third strand, which is Fletcher Christian who, no, it was maybe the main one who instigated the mutiny. Him and the eight other sailors who made it out to pit Karen. Nobody knew what happened to them for a long time. The Navy expedition never found them, and nobody else did for 18 years until the first outside European ship finally stumbled upon Pitcairn Island again.
And by the time they made it there, 18 years later, there was only one man from the original mutiny left alive. I don’t know the exact number, but by that point he’d been living on the Island for so long. And a lot of the others who had gone there, like Fletcher Christian, even they, they came there with women from Tahiti.
A lot of them had children with these women on the Island. There was a colony of probably 30 or 40 people living on Pitcairn Island by the time I think it was an American ship that stumbled on the Island. So let’s gotta be a weird thing to see when you’re expecting an uninhabited barren Island in the middle of nowhere.
They reported, you know, seeing smoke coming out from the trees, and then they get there and there’s this weird colony of English speaking people, but they look like they’re to Haitians. The story, according to this one guy who was left alive is that Fletcher Christian was pretty solid once they got to the islands.
So in some respects, I think the movie tries to portray that. Leading up to the mutiny and then the whole aftermath of the knee. It seems like maybe he was regretting what happened a little bit or wondering how it could have gone differently. A lot of the details they don’t have, but once these nine men and their entourage, I don’t know what to call it, all the people that they had taken to the islands once they made it there.
Things devolved pretty quickly. Maybe they were okay at first, but over a period of a couple of years, the men who they’d taken their unwillingly felt, and probably rightly so, they felt like the English crew men, we’re just using them like slave labor because they were, they also felt like they had just steal on the Tahitian women to use as wives and nothing else, which is also
Dan LeFebvre: [01:14:00] because they’ve had,
Brandon Huebner: [01:14:01] exactly.
So some of the things that played out, I think. Were foreseeable, there came to be a lot of conflicts between the English sailors, but also between the Tahitian men. it seems from what we can tell, Fletcher Christian just was murdered by one of the Tahitian men one day. They don’t know for sure, but that’s the story that this lone survivor told.
Then there were further conflicts where maybe there were a bigger. Battles, I guess, even though it’s just a handful of men on either side, but eventually it got pared down to whether it’s just one man remaining on this tiny Island. So it’s a little bit of a strange dynamic to how that all played out.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:14:41] Did they actually burn the ship then?
Brandon Huebner: [01:14:43] They did. They did. And that was another thing that this lone survivor said. It seems like that may have been the plan early on Pitcairn islands kind of. A Rocky small islands, so there wasn’t a good Harbor to keep the ships safe in from his account. They got there and pretty quickly after they got to the Island, they unloaded all the stores from the ship.
They left it sit at anchor there for a little bit, but they didn’t have any concrete plans to ever leave again. So he gave different stories at different times depending on who he was talking to. Whether they all agreed to burn the ship, whether it was accidental. He did tell the version of the story that two men snuck out there at nighttime and they burned it, and everybody else was surprised.
So I, it’s not entirely clear how the ship burned, just that it did. And they did actually find remnants of the ship. They’re off the Island in the 60s. The 50s or the 60s and they’ve pulled up, you know, there were a couple small cannons on board the ship. It wasn’t a big ship by any means, but they have found artifacts from it.
They’re off the coast of the Island.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:16:00] So it sounds like to kind of wrap that side of it up, that the ship dead burn. For one reason or another, but it sounds like the most inaccurate part of the way the movie portrays it is how Lieutenant Christian died trying to stop the ship from being burned. It sounds like there was more of a dynamic there with the others on the Island or that the Tahitians in particular that the movie of course just never even touches or never even gets into.
Brandon Huebner: [01:16:28] Yeah. Like we’ve been saying, it’s all a bit too complex for the movie to fit all of those different strands in and to have a narrative that that’s easy to follow. So I get why they didn’t get into it. I mean, maybe some of it is the. The sixties Hollywood perspective on some of these stories too, and you know, cutting out certain perspectives from native to Haitians or stuff like that.
They, they didn’t try to cast as wide of an angle on the different interests involved in, in a story like this. I think some of the way that the story comes down though, and maybe this is the last thing I’ll say without trying to make it too complicated. It’s a weird evolution of the story because of how the court Marshall’s played out and the way that the mutiny played out.
You get blind side of the story back in England to where he didn’t really do anything wrong. It was just these horrible sailors who didn’t want to listen to his authority and they just wanted to go back to Tahiti cause all the women seduce them and they wanted the easy life. That’s kind of how he portrays it.
But once these captives who had, or once the mutineers who had stayed on Tahiti, they were then captured by the Navy and brought back their side of the story is the side where Bly is the bad guy. He’s like punishing everybody so far above what the Navy allows for. He’s a tyrant and they were just trying to save themselves from his tyranny.
Right. The way that that story all emerged was because one of the mutineers who had the family connections, he was the one who got acquitted with the Royal pardon? His brother was a lawyer in England, and he had more connections with politicians and other wealthy people. So he did this whole year’s long campaign in the press writing books to like defend his brother.
And that’s really where emerges, that Fletcher Christian is the hero of the story and William Bligh is the villain. Some of the elements in that version are true. A lot of the underlying facts are true, but it’s more in the colors of how things are portrayed and the things that are left out of the story where you get a one-sided portrayal in one way or the other.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:18:48] Well, I’m curious, I mean, cause yeah, you’re going to have multiple sides to the story, but we know how it ended for some of those mutineers who were hung to set an example for others. Was there anything that the Navy found captain blinds did that they wanted to almost set an example for other captains to not be so torturous of their crew members.
Brandon Huebner: [01:19:15] That’s something I’ve been curious about too, and I really haven’t seen too much that the Navy at least officially indicated that they wish would have been done differently. Maybe that’s because they. Would kind of be admitting that they were at fault a little bit. If they admitted that captain Bligh played a part in what happened, preserving just that chain of authority, I guess a little bit.
So they have to back up their captain. That might be part of it. Nothing Springs to mind, honestly, where they said that he did anything wrong in any way. It’s more so the events later in his life that continued to keep occurring, that I. Really briefly alluded to at the beginning that those, I think have solidified that his personality was abrasive, that he was a hard man to get along with.
He could have made better judgment calls that might have avoided some of these incidents that later blew up into a mutiny. He was. On the second expedition back to Tahiti. Most everybody got along with him, but there was one sailor who, and did the expedition, like vowing to hate captain Bligh for the rest of his life, but I didn’t find much detail about what was beneath that whole animosity there.
He was involved in another mutiny later on. I think that wasn’t necessarily his fault. It was more of a political labor dispute almost between. A lot of crew men at at various porch and, but he was still a captain on a ship, so he got swept up in this whole bigger thing. But technically he was still involved in another mutiny.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:20:58] Well, technically this one wasn’t his fault either. Right. You hear his account,
Brandon Huebner: [01:21:03] right? Exactly. Well, then the final straw and his whole life saga, I guess is he, he did get selected to go be the governor of new South Wales, which was a colony in Australia. I think because he still had some political connections even later in his life.
This was like 20 years after the bounty thing. He gets down there and he’s there for a while, but that whole endeavor on his part ended poorly. The colonists and new South Wales, and then a whole contingent of soldiers in the colony wound up just arresting him and saying, you’re not going to be the governor anymore.
He basically, it’s not a mutiny, I guess, cause it happened on land and he was a governor. But it seems like some of the same tensions were beneath the, the whole way that that scenario played out. So long story short, I don’t know that the Navy ever admitted too much when it comes to the bounty mutiny, but there’s enough there in blinds later life that maybe they should have.
It might’ve avoided further incidents down the road.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:22:14] Yeah. It sounds like a lot of how much we believe the story itself there. We have multiple versions of the story from. Captain Bligh as well as the crew. But it sounds like looking back on it through a historical lens, a lot of which sides we believe have come from later expeditions and him being the common denominator with a lot of these things.
Brandon Huebner: [01:22:39] Yeah, I think that was a big factor in it. The only other thing that Springs to mind that I’ve read is, The timing of how the court Marshall’s played out. We said that GLI went on that second expedition back to Tahiti after he got acquitted. Well, he was gone for a period of years. That’s when the ship who had arrested the mutineers came back to England and they all underwent their trial.
So there is that element of all of the men who were found guilty of the mutiny. He wasn’t even around to give his side of the story. But there was just not that overlap where both sides could give their part and, supposedly impartial third party could try to get to the bottom of it. At the same time, it wound up being just their competing narratives got swept up in the popular press of the day almost.
And that kind of took things and ran with it to a large degree.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:23:35] Thank you so much for coming on to chat about mutiny on the bounty. I know you’ve got a ton more history on your podcast. Can you share a little bit of information about your show and where someone listening can find it?
Brandon Huebner: [01:23:46] Yeah, definitely.
And thank you for having me on. I enjoyed talking about all this bounty stuff. That’s pretty interesting. yeah, so the podcast that I put together, it’s called the maritime history podcasts. It’s a descriptive name. It’s not very. Original or exciting, I guess, but anything maritime history is what I try to cover.
So that’s casting the net rather broadly. My website is just maritime history, podcast.com you can just search for the name of the podcast on iTunes or Spotify or wherever it’s available. Pretty much all the podcast catchers that are out there whereabout 40 episodes deep right now and. I’m a sucker for the details and the deep facts of history.
So we’ve really been stuck in ancient history only right now we are talking about ancient Greece. So we just covered the battle of Salomon, the triremes, all that kind of interesting battle stuff. But we’ve, we’ve also talked about ancient Egypt and some of the icons and the various boasts that have been found by the pyramids.
Stuff like that. And we’ve also talked about the Phoenicians, so a lot of Mediterranean history so far.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:24:58] Great. I’ll make sure to add a link to your podcast in the show notes for this episode as well. Thanks so much for your time, Brendan.
Brandon Huebner: [01:25:05] Yeah, thank you. I had a good time.