I watched the 1962 version of this film with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard, winner of best picture that year. There are two others, 1935, with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and 1984, with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. Each film is still rated fairly high 7.2, 7.7, and 7.0, respectively. This movie is based on a true story and though the movies add sensationalism, reality takes no back seat to it.
The story surrounds a voyage of His Majesty’s ship, Bounty, on a mission to Tahiti in order to secure breadfruit trees to be taken to Jamaica for cultivation as a potential new staple food. I wondered what happened to the breadfruit theory and found that it is still being pursued today. “Planting more breadfruit trees could help make food supplies more stable as the planet warms, as climate models suggest they will grow well across the tropics for many decades to come.” (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2293171-breadfruit-could-be-the-food-of-the-future-as-the-climate-warms/.)
The Bounty voyage began in April, 1787, after the mutiny, First mate, Fletcher Christian, sailed back where a group of Tahitians joined them. Captain Bligh had been put into a life boat with 18 loyal crew members. He sailed 3600 miles to a port, eventually reaching Britain in 1790 where he was vindicated by a Naval Court, who dispatched the War ship Pandora after the Bounty and mutineers. The movies are mostly accurate on the details, but there is an untold story perhaps as amazing as the mutiny.
Fearing the British navy’s pursuit Christian’s group remained undiscovered on Pitcairn island which had been misallocated on British charts. The Bounty was burned and it’s remains left on the reef. Pitcairn was an ideal haven for the mutineers—uninhabited and virtually inaccessible, with plenty of food, water, and fertile land. For a while, the mutineers and Tahitians existed peaceably. Christian settled down with Isabella; a son, Thursday October Christian, was born, as were other children. Gradually, the community of fugitives experienced tensions and rivalries arose over the increasing extent to which the Europeans regarded the Tahitians as their property. In September 1793, matters degenerated into extreme violence, when several of the mutineers— possibly including Christian, Williams, Martin, Mills, and Brown—were killed by Tahitians in a series of murders. Both Adams and one of the Tahitian women later claimed that Christian was killed in this massacre, but other stories exist and his grave was never found. In-fighting continued and by 1794, the six Tahitian men were all dead, killed either by the widows of the murdered mutineers or by each other. Only one mutineer, John Adams, remained alive. in 1800, Adams took responsibility for the education and well-being of the nine remaining women and nineteen children. Using the ship’s Bible from Bounty, he taught literacy and Christianity, and kept peace on the island. This was the situation in February 1808, when the American sealer Topaz came unexpectedly upon Pitcairn, landed, and discovered the by-then thriving community. In 1814, two British warships, HMS Briton and HMS Tagus, chanced upon Pitcairn. The captains reported finding a population of 46 mainly young islanders led by Adams, upon whom the islanders’ welfare was wholly dependent. The Admiralty decided to take no action.
Adams died in 1829, honored as the founder and father of a community that became celebrated over the next century as an exemplar of Victorian morality. I wondered if he ever read Robinson Crusoe, (1719) whose fictional character also retrieved a Bible from his wrecked ship to his greatest benefit. Descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian captives live on Pitcairn Island still today.