A replica of the infamous HMS Bounty docks in Fall River, Massachusetts. The real Bounty was burned for fuel by former mutineers after they set their captain adrift and fled to the remote island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific Ocean.
Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, courtesy Library of Congress

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    On April 28, 1789, crewmembers of the British trade ship Bounty mutinied against their captain while sailing in the remote South Pacific. The mutiny has been chronicled in books, theatrical productions, and movies.
    The Bounty had left England almost two years earlier. The ship was on a voyage to collect breadfruit saplings from the tropical island of Tahiti, in the South Pacific. The saplings would then be delivered to British plantations in the West Indies, where they would be a cheap source of food for slaves. 
    Collecting the saplings in Tahiti took longer than expected. During the five months it took the breadfruit cuttings to grow into sturdy saplings, the Bounty’s crew became part of the local community. They enjoyed the easygoing Tahitian culture, which was a dramatic contrast to the strict—and sometimes violent—command of the Bounty’s captain, William Bligh. 
    About a month into the Bounty’s voyage to the West Indies, a group led by Fletcher Christian abducted Bligh from his quarters. Although most of the crew remained loyal to Bligh, they were overpowered by the armed mutineers. Bligh and 18 sailors were set adrift in a rowboat, without navigational aids such as charts or compasses.
    Bligh then proceeded to complete a spectacular feat of navigation. Using only his watch and a quadrant, he successfully navigated 6,600 kilometers (3,500 nautical miles) across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the island of Timor, now part of Indonesia.
    The mutineers endured different fates. Some returned to Tahiti, where they were arrested. Some died on the way back to England to stand trial, some were executed there, and others were pardoned. Christian, the leader of the mutiny, fled British authority and established a struggling community on the isolated island of Pitcairn. Today, most of the few dozen residents of Pitcairn Island trace their ancestry to Christian and other Bounty mutineers.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    abduct Verb

    to kidnap or illegally take a person away.

    adrift Adjective

    drifting or floating without control.

    ancestry Noun

    family (genealogical) or historical background.

    authority Noun

    person or organization responsible for making decisions.

    cargo Noun

    goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

    chart Noun

    type of map with information useful to ocean or air navigators.

    Encyclopedic Entry: chart
    chronicle Verb

    to report.

    community Noun

    group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

    compass Noun

    instrument used to tell direction.

    Encyclopedic Entry: compass
    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    endure Verb

    to survive.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    execute Verb

    to put to death by order of the law or in a well-planned manner.

    feat Noun

    accomplishment or achievement.

    isolate Verb

    to set one thing or organism apart from others.

    mutiny Verb

    to overthrow authority.

    navigation Noun

    art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

    Encyclopedic Entry: navigation
    pardon Verb

    to release from responsibility for a crime or other offense.

    plantation Noun

    large estate or farm involving large landholdings and many workers.

    quadrant Noun

    navigational instrument similar to a sextant, used to measure the altitude of stars relative to the horizon.

    rebellion Noun

    organized resistance to an authority.

    remote Adjective

    distant or far away.

    sapling Noun

    young tree.

    slave Noun

    person who is owned by another person or group of people.

    spectacular Adjective

    dramatic and impressive.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    tropical Adjective

    existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

    voyage Noun

    long journey or trip.