23-year old Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian led a mutiny on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty.
Bounty had departed England in late 1787 to collect and transport saplings of the breadfruit tree from Tahiti to various British colonies in the West Indies as a cheap source of food for slaves on the plantations. The ship, a three-masted cutter, was commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh who had previously accompanied Captain James Cook on his third and final voyage.
Bounty arrived in Tahiti on 26 October 1788, but the outward voyage had seen relations between Bligh and his crew gradually deteriorate. Having arrived at their destination many crewmen began relationships with the local women, while Bligh began to impose increasingly harsh discipline that only served to worsen relations between him and his men.
The ship and her crew departed Tahiti on 5 April 1789 and, according to later testimonies, it was Bligh’s increasingly angry outbursts that led to the mutiny. Christian was a particular target and by the evening of 27 April he was considering desertion. Instead, after encouragement from other members of the crew, he led a mutiny. Bligh was frogmarched to the upper deck at musket point shortly after 5am on 28 April. Together with 18 crewmen who refused to join the mutineers, Bligh was forced onto an overloaded launch with enough food and water to last around five days.
Some of the mutineers were returned to Tahiti while Christian and the others established a settlement on the remote Pitcairn Island. Meanwhile Bligh’s crew sailed their open boat approximately 4,000 miles to the Dutch settlement of Coupang in Timor where the survivors boarded a ship to England, arriving on 14 March 1790.