Previous Page  11 / 29 Next Page
Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 11 / 29 Next Page
Page Background

11

The legendary story of a mutiny

In the 16th and 17th century, mutinies occurred quite regularly on board large sailing vessels. The mutiny on the Bounty

however, on 28th April 1789, became world famous and turned out to be the most well-known revolt in the history of ship-

ping. What actually happened? In 1787, Her Majesty's Ship Bounty departed Spithead (near Portsmouth) under the command

of captain William Bligh, en route to Tahiti, where it was to collect bread fruit plants which had to be transported to the

Caribbean. Bread fruit was a cheap staple, suitable for slaves. After a journey without any noteworthy problems, the ship

arrived in Tahiti a year later. A temporary stop-over was decided on, to recover from the hardships of life at sea. The crew

soon got used to the wonderful lifestyle on the paradise-like island. The sailors enjoyed the attentions of the willing local girls

with their silky skins and long, flowing locks. Even the recently appointed first mate, Fletcher Christian, fell for the charms of

a Tahitian beauty and went so far as to marry her. After five months, the Bounty raised anchor to continue on the second leg

of its mission. Less than three weeks later, a section of the crew under the leadership of Fletcher commandeered the ship

and mercilessly put the captain, together with some of those closest to him, out to sea in a sloop. Often, the cause of the

mutiny is put down to the unjust and tyrannical behaviour of captain Bligh, but more probably it was the dissolute life on Tahiti

and the longing for this pleasure garden of free love, that drove the mutineers to seizing control of the ship and turning back.

The film

The story of the Bounty sparked the imagination and became the subject of no fewer than fifteen books. Sir John Barrow was

the first to publish a book in 1831 in which he carefully chronicled the adventures on board the Bounty. The chronicle was also

made into a film at least three times, even if not all the versions were true to life. In the film versions, directors always opted

for the romanticised version in which William Bligh was portrayed as a grumpy, unreasonable man, while Christian Fletcher

was awarded the part of the virtuous hero who became the saviour of the tormented crew members. A gentleman-mutineer.

This role was therefore always performed by charismatic Hollywood legends, including Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel

Gibson. The second person to play the role, Marlon Brando, portrayed such a lifelike version of Fletcher in 1962, that he fell

in love with his 19-year-old Tahitian co-star Tarita Teriipia for good measure and promised her eternal devotion on the spot.

In the meantime, he had also fallen under the spell of the Polynesian culture and as well as falling for Tarita, he also gave

his heart to Tetiaroa, the island he had discovered while searching for suitable locations for the film. The film became an

enormous success, but because of the exuberant production costs, it was a financial disaster.

Young hearts which languish'd for some sunny isle,

Where summer years, and summer women smile,

Men without country, who, too long estranged,

Had found no native home, or found it changed,

And, half uncivilized, preferr'd the cave

Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave

From the book Mutiny on the Bounty by John Barrow