Mutiny on the Bounty - A Cornucopia of Fruits and Invectives
On April 28, 1789, the most infamous of mutinies occurred in the South Pacific Ocean within sight of an erupting volcano on Tofua. Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian deposed “Captain” William Bligh and eighteen men in the Bounty’s 23-foot launch to an almost certain death. After an unsuccessful settlement attempt on Tubuai, 350 miles south of Tahiti, Christian and eight mutineers, together with 19 Polynesians (six men, twelve women, and one infant girl), circuitously rediscovered Pitcairn Island on January 15, 1790. Being 212 miles east of its recorded position, this remote, isolated, and deserted island was an ideal outpost for renegades of the British Admiralty. Miraculously, Bligh sailed the launch successfully to Coupang, Timor, and eventually returned to England on March 14, 1790. Whereas Christian established a nascent settlement on a level patch of land above Bounty Bay accessible via an arduous path that became known as the “Hill of Difficulty.” While the story of the mutiny on the Bounty is well known, this version focuses on fruits as backdrop and springboard to conflict occurring during and after the mutiny. Bounty enthusiasts know that the original purpose of this voyage was to secure breadfruit saplings for the British West Indies as a cheap food source for plantation slaves. Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society in London and life-long supporter of William Bligh spearheaded this economic-botanical expedition. Beyond breadfruit, other fruits including coconuts and pumpkins became the impetus for igniting Bligh’s explosive temper. This account of the mutiny on the Bounty and its aftermath uses fruits as an unusual framework to view this romance on the high seas. Just note Richard Crane and David Essex’s concept album and musical about the H.M.S. Bounty in 1983 and 1985, respectively, which supports this notion. The album/musical included songs and scenes titled “Breadfruit” and “Pumpkin,” so the fruits motif is not an entirely an off-the-wall association.