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Bligh Encyclopedia


A bay on the eastern shore of Bruny Island off Tasmania, thirty miles south of Hobart.

Adventure Bay was discovered in 1773 by Tobias Furneaux, commander of the Adventure on Cook's second voyage, who named it for his ship. . . .

Bligh visited Adventure Bay three times in his life: in the Resolution on Cook’s third voyage in 1777; in the Bounty in August 1788; and in the Providence in February 1792.


The Assistant accompanied HMS Providence as tender on Bligh’s second breadfruit expedition (August 3, 1791, to August 7, 1793). She was a brig of 110 tons burden, armed with four 4-pounders and eight swivel guns, and carrying a complement of twenty-seven. Her commander was Lieutenant Nathaniel Portlock.

BANKS, Sir Joseph 

Patron of science, explorer, naturalist, principal instigator of the breadfruit expeditions and life-long supporter of Bligh. . . .

In 1778, Banks became President of the Royal Society. He had always been interested in botany and especially in plants that were useful. This – together with his business interests in the West Indies – was why he was enthusiastic about transporting the breadfruit from the South Seas to the West Indies. He considered Bligh as the best person to head such a project, since Bligh had had experience in Tahiti (on Cook’s third voyage) as well as in the Caribbean (while being in the employ of Duncan Campbell). Being highly influential in Court circles and having access to the king, Banks had no difficulties in getting his desires realized as far as his projects – of which the breadfruit expedition was only one – were concerned. . . .

Banks remained a faithful patron of Bligh’s throughout the captain’s career and was instrumental in arranging for Bligh’s appearance as governor of New South Wales in 1805.

Banks died at Isleworth on June 19, 1820.

BANKS Group 

The northern part of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) consisting of Vanua Lava, Mota, Valua, and Ureparapara. Bligh saw the group on May 14, 1789, from the Bounty’s launch on the voyage from Tofua to Timor and revisited the islands on his second breadfruit expedition. Not knowing that Pedro Fernandez de Quiros had seen the islands in 1606, he thought himself the discoverer and named them after his benefactor, Sir Joseph Banks.


Admiral of the Blue; Second Officer in Command of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels at Portsmouth and Spithead; presided over Bligh’s court-martial for losing the Bounty, October 22, 1790. 


Now called Djakarta (Jakarta); city on the north coast of West Java. . . .

Bligh arrived in Batavia on October 1, 1789, having sailed 1,800 miles from Coupang in Timor in the schooner Resource. He lost four men to the tropical fevers of this settlement (one died at sea on the homeward voyage).

Djakarta today is a booming metropolis with a population of over four and a half million.


A 74-gun ship commanded by Captain John Fergusson; the first ship in which Bligh served as a commissioned officer (fifth lieutenant) from September 5, 1781, to the end of December the same year. 

BLIGH, Elizabeth (see Betham) 

Elizabeth Betham was born in 1754, the second daughter of Richard Betham, LL.D., who was Collector of Customs and Water Bailiff at Douglas on the Isle of Man. Painting of a woman in old-fashioned attireFor a woman of her times she received an excellent education and has been described as “a cultured and accomplished lady.” When she met William Bligh in 1780, soon after his return from Cook’s third voyage, there seems to have been an immediate mutual attraction between the two. They were married on February 4 the next year (1781) at the Parish Church of Onchan in Douglas on the Isle of Man. 

Through her family connections, Elizabeth was a tremendous help to Bligh in his career. Her uncle was Duncan Campbell who employed Bligh in his fleet of merchant ships and used his acquaintance with Sir Joseph Banks to either recommend or suggest Bligh for the position as commander of the breadfruit expedition. 

It was also through Elizabeth’s family that Bligh came to know the Heywoods. Peter Heywood, as well as Thomas Hayward and John Hallett, all came to the Bounty on her suggestion (Hallett’s sister Ann was a bosom friend of Elizabeth’s). The fact that Bligh was to hate Peter Heywood and his family for the rest of his life (being convinced that he had not only been a mutineer but one of the instigators of the mutiny) did not reflect on Elizabeth. Nor did the fact that her family knew the Christians (the Isle of Man is small) and that this connection had been a factor in Bligh’s accepting Fletcher on board the Britannia for two voyages before the breadfruit expedition. 

Betsy, as Bligh referred to her, bore her husband six daughters: Harriet, Mary, Elizabeth, Frances and Jane (twins born after Bligh had left on the first breadfruit expedition), and Anne. She also bore him a pair of boy twins in 1795, named William and Henry, but they died within twenty-four hours. 

She was probably Bligh’s only friend in life. He had two patrons who stood by him: Betsy’s uncle Duncan Campbell and Sir Joseph Banks, but, as far as we know, he had no friends. Bligh did not have the kind of personality required to keep a friend; he was far too preoccupied with proving his own excellence and lack of faults to engage in the giving part of a give-and-take friendship. 

Betsy, however, was devoted to him and stood by him through thick and thin. When stories began to arrive from New South Wales that were uncomplimentary to Bligh, to say the least, she actively campaigned on his behalf writing letters right and left to persons with influence, especially of course to Banks. 

Most of their married life they had been apart from each other. When Bligh came back from New South Wales in 1810, his active career was finished and the two of them might have looked forward to spending his retirement years together. But Betsy’s health was broken – some say as a result of the agony she had experienced when faced with stories about her husband which she could not or would not believe. She died on April 15, 1812, at the age of fifty-nine, and was buried in the family grave in Lambeth Churchyard where Bligh was to follow her five and a half years later.


A break in Australia's Great Barrier Reef through which Bligh and the loyalists passed on May 29, 1789, on their open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor. The entrance is twelve miles north of the Second Three Mile opening in the reef and lies to the south of Providential Channel (12 degrees 34 minutes South) where Cook entered in the Endeavour on his first voyage. 


Part of the western side of Endeavour (Torres) Strait. 


A sea area in the Fijis north of Viti Levu bounded on the north and north-west by the Yasawa Group and on the east by Vanua Levu.

It was here that Bligh and his loyalists in the Bounty's launch were pursued by Fijians (who were cannibals at the time) in two fast sailing canoes. 


In the log books of Bligh and his officers on the second breadfruit expedition, the Fiji Islands are referred to as Bligh's Islands. It was not an innappropriate appellation – the Fijians of today consider Bligh the principal European discoverer of Fiji – but it never caught on. 

BOND, Francis Godolphin

First Lieutenant (Bligh’s second in command) in the Providence on the second breadfruit expedition (August 3, 1791, to August 7, 1793).

Bond was the son of Bligh’s half-sister Catherine and was his protege. In the history of the Bounty adventure, he is important for his candid and highly perceptive observations on Bligh as a commander. . . .

It is interesting to note that, upon his return from the expedition, Bond resolved never to sail with Bligh again. He had a successful career in the navy and distinguighed himself as commander of the schooner Netley, 1799-1801, when he captured several French and Spanish privateers and recaptured English ships from the enemy.


Thirteen small rocky islands located south of New Zealand at 47 degrees 44 minutes South, 179 degrees 09 minutes East, discovered by Bligh on September 19, 1788, when he was on his way from Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, to Tahiti. 


Merchant vessel owned by Duncan Campbell, the uncle of Elizabeth Bligh. William Bligh commanded the ship on at least two voyages to the West Indies.

It was on this ship that Bligh accepted the ten-year-younger Fletcher Christian on board for two voyages; on the first as an ordinary seaman, although he messed with the midshipmen and officers, and on the second as second mate.

Lawrence Lebogue, later the sailmaker on the Bounty, also sailed with Bligh in the Britannia


James Burney (1750-1821) was a member of Cook’s crew on the Resolution during the second voyage (1772-1775) and a lieutenant in the Discovery during the third voyage (1776-1780); he was transferred to the Resolution after the deaths of Cook and Captain Charles Clerke. It was during this voyage that he became well acquainted with Bligh who was sailing master in the Resolution.

Burney authored a major work in five volumes: A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean (published 1803-1817). He is best known in the Bounty story as the editor of Bligh’s A Voyage to the South Sea (1792). 

HMS CALCUTTA (ex Warley) 

The old merchant vessel to which Bligh was assigned in 1795 in order to supervise its conversion to an armed cruiser. 


One of the merchant ships which Bligh commanded while in the employ of his wife's uncle, Duncan Campbell. 


The first-rate ship in which Bligh, as sixth lieutenant, served from March 20, 1782, to January 13, 1783. The Cambridge took a minor part in Lord Howe’s relief expedition to Gibraltar in the end of 1782.

Interestingly, Fletcher Christian served in the Cambridge at the same time as Bligh, but it is not likely that the two would have known each other since Christian was enrolled as ship’s boy, and a first-rate ship of the line carried a complement of about 850 seamen and officers.


Duncan Campbell was the uncle of Elizabeth Bligh (her mother’s brother). He was a wealthy shipowner who traded with the West Indies and owned several plantations there. When Bligh was released from the navy on half pay in 1783, Campbell took him into his service and gave him command of his newest ship, the Lynx. Bligh remained in Campbell’s service until 1787, commanding the Cambrian and the Britannia.

Campbell also owned the Bethia (named for Elizabeth’s father’s family, the Bethams) which was purchased by the Navy Board for the breadfruit expedition and renamed the Bounty. He knew Sir Joseph Banks well and it is likely that he either suggested or recommended Bligh for the position of commander of the expedition.

Bligh wrote to Campbell frequently and the letters that have survived give us information that is not always recorded in Bligh’s log or journal.

COUPANG (Kupang, Koepang) 

Former Dutch settlement (founded in 1618) on Timor, located on the south-west coast of the island at 10 degrees 12 minutes South, 124 degrees 41 minutes East; now part of Indonesia.

Bligh and the loyalists reached Coupang on Sunday, June 14, 1789, after having spent forty-one days in the Bounty’s launch, traveling 3,618 nautical miles, according to their makeshift log (probably closer to 3,800 miles) They were well taken care of by Mynheer Timotheus Wanjon, the son-in-law of Governor van Este who was fatally ill.

The Bounty men spent over two months in Coupang trying to regain their strength. It was not a good place to recuperate, however, because of rampant tropical fevers. On July 20 David Nelson, the botanist, died, probably from malaria. One month later Bligh and his men sailed for Batavia in the schooner which he had bought in Coupang and named HMS Resource.

Two years later, on September 15, 1791, the inhabitants of Coupang were again treated to the spectacle of ghost-like British seamen, hardly able to walk, dragging themselves up from the harbor. This time it was Captain Edwards and his crew from the Pandora and the captured men from the Bounty that taxed the hospitality of the Dutch. Governor van Este had died and Wanjon was the new governor. He treated the new contingent as kindly as he had Bligh and his men. On October 6 the Pandora survivors sailed for Batavia in the Dutch East Indiaman Rembang.

Only one year later, on October 2, 1792, Bligh visited Coupang on his second breadfruit expedition in the Providence accompanied by the Assistant.

Today Kupang (modern spelling) has some 125,000 inhabitants and is the capital of Timor.


The 36-gun ship on which Bligh learned most of his seamanship. As a midshipman he served almost three years on the Cresecent (from September 22, 1771, to AUgust 23, 1774). 


Bligh's first important naval command. The Director was an old ship, rated 4th class, with 64 funs and 491 men. Bligh ws in command of the Director for over five years (from January 4, 1796, to March 13, 1801), during the mutiny at the Nore as well as at the Battle of Camperdown when Admiral Duncan defeated the Dutch under Admiral de Winter.


Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. It was on the quarterdeck of this ship that Nelson congratulated Bligh on his performance during the battle with the words: “Bligh, I sent for you to thank you. You have supported me nobly.”


A dangerous passage, one hundred miles wide, between the Australian continent and New Guinea. Today it is named after Luis Vaez de Torres who first sailed through it in 1606. It was called Endeavour Strait by Captain Cook who rediscovered it in 1770 on his first voyage (he did not know about Torres’ voyage, because the British were unaware of the Spanish Discovery.

The northernmost passage is called Bligh Channel; he discovered it on his second breadfruit expedition in 1792. . . .

Today we can only imagine the courage it must have taken to navigate through these treacherous waters in a sailing ship. The last one to do so was Captain Korzeniowski, better known as Joseph Conrad, who in 1888 sailed the Otago through the Strait. In his article, “Geography and Som Explorers” published in the year of his death, 1924, in National Geographic, Conrad pays tribute to the explorers of old – and unwittingly to himself:

What would the memory of my sea life have been for me if it had not included a passage through Torres Strait in its fullest extent . . . along the track of the early navigators?

It was not without a certain emotion that I put her head at daybreak for Bligh Entrance and packed on her every bit of canvas I could carry. Windswept, sun lit, empty waters were all around me, have veiled by a brilliant haze. The first thing that caught my eye was a black speck – the wreck of a small vessel. . . . Thirty-six hours afterwards, of which about nine were spent at anchor, as I approached the other end of the Strait, I sighted a gaunt grey wreck . . . and thus I passed out of Torres Strait before the dusk settled upon its waters.

The sea has been for me a hallowed ground, thanks to those books of travel and discovery which had peopled it for me with unforgettable shades of the masters in the calling which, in a humble way, was to be mine too. These were men great in their endeavour and in hard-won successes of militant geography; men who went forth, each according to his lights and with varied motives but each bearing in his breast a spark of the sacred fire.


The Fijis constitute the easternmost island group in Melanesia ranging from 15 degrees 40 minutes to 21 degrees 00 minutes South, and from 178 degrees 00 minutes West to 176 degrees 45 minutes East. The group comprises well over 300 islands, many of which are uninhabited. They are usually subdivided into four parts: . . .

Some of the Fiji islands in the extreme north-east were sighted by Tasman in 1643. Vatoa, an island in the far south was seen by Cook in 1774 on his second voyage. Bligh, however, was the first European to sail through the group (in May 1789) on his open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor. He is today considered, by the Fijians at least, as the principal discoverer of Fiji. . . .


Midshipman in the Providence on the second breadfruit expedition; later an important navigator and explorer who circumnavigated Australia in 1798; author of A Voyage to Tierra Australis.

Flinders was born in 1774 and entered the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen. Some authors claim that he learned his first lessons in navigation from Bligh. Actually Flinders learned navigation aboard HMS Bellerophon in which he had been midshipman since July 1790 before joining the Providence. . . .

Flinders did not gain a very high opinion of Bligh during the two years he served under him. George Mackaness, in The Life of Vice-Admiral William Bligh (1931), quotes a contemporary of Flinders as writing:

At the instance of Captain Pasley, he joined the Providence. Captain Bligh, appointed to convey plants of the bread fruit from the South Sea Islands to the West Indies. In this voyage he suffered much, especially from the short supply of water; he and others would lie on the steps and lick the drops of the precious liquid from the buckets as they were conveyed by the gardener to the plants. That he did not retain a respectful remembrance of his commander we may infer from the fact that, in after years, when they met at a soiree at the house of Sir Joseph Banks and Admiral Bligh asked Flinders to dedicate to him the important work on which he was engaged, the honour was declined. While on the Providence, he proved useful to Captain Bligh, being always ready to assist in the construction of charts and astronomical observations; the latter branch of scientific service and the care of the time-keepers were principally entrusted to our juvenile navigator.


The 54-gun ship which Bligh commanded at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. The Glatton received severe damage during the engagement and was the only British vessel to lose a topmast. 


A small 10-gun sloop, the ship in which Bligh started his naval career on July 27, 1770, shortly before his sixteenth birthday. 


Kotu island is the most western of the Kotu (Lulunga) group in the southwestern part of the Haapai group in the Kingdom of Tonga. It is situated at 19 degrees 57 minutes South, 174 degrees 48 minutes West. 

Kotu is a flat, densely wooded island two thirds of a mile long and one third of a mile wide. 

At the time of the mutiny, the Bounty was sailing on a north-westerly course from Nomuka and was approximately equidistant from Kotu and Tofua. When Bligh was set adrift in the launch together with the loyalists, he decided to head for Tofua rather than Kotu because Tofua was downwind and, being a volcanic island, was more likely to have fresh water and fruit-bearing trees (actually, he found very little of either). 


Merchant ship owned by Duncan Campbell, engaged in trade with the West Indies and commanded by Bligh before he was appointed master of the Britannia. 


British whaler under the command of Captain Matthew Weatherhead. The Matilda had sailed from England on March 27 1791, and had touched at Port Jackson and Peru before arriving in Tahiti on February 14, 1792, anchoring in Vaitepiha Bay. For some inscrutable reason Captain Weatherhead stayed only three days at Tahiti.

On the night of February 24, 1792, the Matilda foundered on Mururoa atoll, 640 miles south-east of Tahiti (see the March 1792 commentary in Part I). All of the crew were saved and reached Tahiti on March 5. Soon afterwards the schooner Jenny from Bristol arrived in Tahiti, and when she sailed for America Captain Weatherhead and four members of the crew went with her. Instead of waiting for another ship, three of the men took one of the four whaleboats of the Matilda, fitted it with sails of native matting, and sailed for Port Jackson. They were never heard from again.

If they had waited only a few weeks, they could have sailed back to Europe with Captain Bligh in the Providence. Bligh arrived on April 10 and when he left a little over three months later, he took fifteen of the Matilda’s crew with him. The remaining six wanted to stay on Tahiti. One of them, the Swede Anders Lind, became a kind of military advisor to Pomare I.

In February 1826 Captain Frederick Beechey in HMS Blossom found parts of the wreck of the Matilda on the northern shore of Mururoa. 

MOALA ("Mywolla") 

Island on the western side of the southern Fijis, considered part of the Lau group and situated at 18 degrees 34 minutes South, 179 degrees 51 minutes East. It is a volcanic island about seven miles long by five miles wide.

Bligh discovered Moala on the voyage in the launch in May 1789 and identified and charted it on the second breadfruit expedition, August 5, 1792.

HMS MONMOUTH On paper, this was the first ship on which Bligh ever served. He commander, Captain Keith Stewart, consented to enter Bligh on the ship’s rolls nominally as his “servant” at the age of seven in order to give Bligh an advantage in seniority later on. The practice was common in the British Navy.


Mortimer was a lieutenant on board the Mercury and wrote a narrative of the expedition entitled Observations and Remarks made during a Voyage . . . in the Brig Mercury which was published in London in 1791.

(In August 1789 the Mercury came close to discovering the Bounty mutineers as they were attempting to settle at Tubuai.)

Mortimer returned to England on October 25, 1790, so it is just possible that he might have had a chance to tell Captain Edwards what he had heard about the Bounty in Tahiti (Edwards sailed on November 7). He almost certainly must have told Bligh about it (Bligh did not leave on his second breadfruit expedition until August 3, 1791).

Mortimer later served under Bligh on HMS Warrior as Captain of the Marines and testified at Bligh’s court-martial in 1805 that the latter “was frequently very violent and passionate and that his conduct was tyrannical and un-officer-like.”


Bligh's spelling of MOALA, name of an island of the Lau group. 


Bligh's spelling of VAITEPIHA. 


Point Venus is the peninsula forming the eastern shore of Matavai Bay in the old district of Haapape (today’s Mahina). It is the northernmost point in Tahiti and lies about six and a half miles east of Papeete. It was here that Captain Cook made his observation of the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769.

It was also here that Captain Bligh established his first shore station for the gathering of breadfruit plants (in November, 1788).

PORTLOCK, Nathaniel 

Lieutenant Portlock was the commander of the Assistant on the second breadfruit expedition. He had sailed as master’s mate on the Discovery under Captain Charles Clerke on Cook’s third voyage; when Cook was killed by the Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779, Portlock was transferred to the Resolution to serve under Bligh who was sailing master. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1780.

As commander of the King George (1785-1788) Portlock made valuable observations of the islands he visited, especially the Sandwich (Hawaiian) group.

It was difficult for Bligh to praise any of his officers, but he did value Portlock. When Bligh got a recurrence of his malaria (contracted in the East Indies after the open-boat voyage), he had Portlock – rather than his first lieutenant and step-nephew Francis Bond – assume command of the Providence.

Portlock was highly regarded by the Admiralty: on the return of the expedition he gained an audience long before Bligh and was promoted to commander. In 1799 he assumed command of the Arrow and captured the Dutch ship Draack. He died on September 12, 1817. 


The Providence was a sixth-rate frigate of 420 tons burden, with three decks, armed with twelve carriage guns and fourteen swivels, and carrying a crew of 134 on Bligh’s second breadfruit expedition, August 3, 1791, to August 7, 1793. She was brand new, having been launched at Blackwall on April 23, 1791. The principal officers in the Providence were William Bligh (captain), Francis Godolphin Bond (first lieutenant), James Guthrie (second lieutenant), George Tobin (third lieutenant), William Nichols (sailing master).

Among the eight midshipmen on board was Matthew Flinders who was to achieve fame a decade later by circumnavigating Australia. The botanists on the expedition were James Wiles and Christopher Smith, both recommended by Sir Joseph Banks.

Commanding HMS Assistant, the tender of the Providence, was Lieutenant Nathaniel Portlock. 

. . . The key dates of the voyage of the Providence are:

August 3, 1791 - Sails from Spithead.
April 9, 1792 - Arrives at Tahiti.
July 19, 1792 - Sails from Tahiti.
January 22, 1793 - Arrives at St. Vincent.
February 5, 1793 - Arrives at Jamaica
August 7, 1793 - Anchors at Deptford.

The Providence made a second voyage to Tahiti under the command of Captain William R. Broughton who had visited Tahiti earlier (December 27, 1791 to January 24, 1792) as commander of Vancouver’s tender HMS Chatham. She stayed in Tahiti from November 28 to December 11, 1795.


The ship in which Bligh served as a midshipman (at first he was officially entered as an able-bodied seaman) from September 2, 1774, to March 17, 1776. Three days after his discharge from the Ranger Bligh was appointed sailing master of HMS Resolution.

HMS RESOLUTION (square-rigger)

Originally a Deptford collier, 462 tons. With a crew of 110 she served as Cook’s flagship on his second and third voyages. On the third voyage, Bligh was sailing master of the Resolution.


A 34-fot schooner bought by Bligh in Coupang on Timor and armed with four swivel guns and fourteen stands of small arms in order to defend against pirates. Bligh and the surviving loyalists sailed to Batavia in the Resource where it was sold together with the Bounty's launch which they had had in tow. 


An islet within the Great Barrier Reef close to the Cape Yorke peninsula in Queensland. On the open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor this was the first island on which Bligh and the loyalists landed. The date – May 29, 1879 – happened to be the anniversary of the restoration to the throne of King Charles II in 1660. Both for that reason, and in order to celebrate their own salvation, Bligh named it Restoration Island. 


Bligh's court-martial, presided over by Admiral Samuel Barrington, took place on this ship, moored at Spithead, on October 22, 1790. The court-martial of William Purcell, the Bounty's carpenter, followed on the same day. 

SAMARANG (Semarang) 

Harbor on the north coast of Java, Indonesia, 255 miles east of Djakarta (formerly Batavia), the administrative capital of Central Java. Samarang had been a Dutch settlement since 1748 when Bligh and his loyalist crew stopped here in September 1789 on the way from Coupang to Batavia in the schooner Resource. Some time in the late summer of 1791 the schooner Resolution which had been separated from the Pandora arrived with nine members of the latter ship’s crew. In October of the same year the survivors of the Pandora arrived on their way to Batavia.

One can only wonder what the governor of Samarang must have thought of this steady stream of emaciated and destitute British sailors passing through his domain. It was a sleepy little town then; today Semarang (modern spelling) has over 800,000 inhabitants.

SPIKERMAN (first name unknown)

Captain of a British ship at Coupang on Timor; the first officer to greet and help Bligh and his crew on their arrival Sunday, June 14, 1789, after the epic open-boat voyage from Tofua. 


The main base of the British home fleet at the time of the Bounty expedition - and for many years before and after. Spithead anchorage is a stretch of water in the east Solent shielded to the north and west by the mainland and Portsmouth and to the south and west by the Isle of Wight. 


The name given by Bligh to a rocky and barren islet within the Great Barrier Reef on which he and the loyalists landed on Sunday, May 31, 1789, on their open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor. Some oysters and shellfish were found among the rocks.

It was on this islet that Bligh challenged Purcell to a duel (see the June 1789 commentary in Part I of Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas. See Book Recommendations for more information.).

SURABAYA (Surabaja, Sourabaya, Soerabaja)

The capital of East Java and the principal naval base of Indonesia, situated on the north-eastern coast of Java, 420 miles east-south-east of Djakarta. It is separated from the island of Madura, only one and a half miles to the north-east, by the western end of he Madura Strait.

. . . Surabaya came under Dutch contol in 1743. Bligh and the loyalists stopped at the settlement on their voyage in the schooner Resource from Coupang to Batavia. It was here that Bligh again faced a mutiny by some of his men (see the September 1789 commentary in Part I).

TAHITI or TAHITI-NUI MARE’ARE’A (Great Tahiti of the Golden Haze) Tahiti is the main island in the Society group in French Polynesia and is situated at 17 degrees 38 minutes South, 149 degrees 25 minutes West. In size it is 388 square miles – about one tenth of Greater Los Angeles – 33 miles long north-west to south-east and 140 miles in circumference. Its shape resembles a figure eight. . . .

(The principal dates of The Bounty Saga relating to Tahiti are:) 

October 26, 1788

Bligh arrives in the Bounty.

September 22, 1789

Bounty mutineers and loyalists debark and stay for one and a half years.

1790 - 1791

Tu (Teina, Mate, Pomare I) conquers most of Tahiti with the help of the men of the Bounty.

March 23, 1791

Edwards arrives in the Pandora.

April 10, 1792

Bligh arrives in the Providence.


James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff arrive.


First American film of the Bounty mutiny is made on on the island.


James Norman Hall dies in Arue


The second American film on the Bounty mutiny is made in Tahiti.

. . . The foremost expert on Tahiti today, Bengt Danielsson, has written extensively about the island, but unfortunately his monumental work, the definitive history of Tahiti – published in French – still has not appeared in the English language. When it does, it is hoped that everyone interested in the Bounty saga will read it, because without an adequate insight into the history of Tahiti, the story of the Bounty cannot be fully appreciated. Meanwhile, all will find all of Danielsson’s writings on the South Seas interesting, especially his What Happened on the Bounty (1962), and for the visitor to Tahiti, his highly informative book – a fascinating history of the island in itself – Tahiti: Circle Island Tour Guide.

Finally, A. Grove Day, the prolific writer and editor of books on the South Seas, has given us a delightful summary of what Tahiti symbolizes:

Ever since I can remember, the name of this island has been one of the most romantic words in the language. Tahiti! The very word is like a bell, tolling the unwary to dreams of an exotic Eden in the far South Seas, where humdrum cares are forgotten and men and women live only for today and each other.

TEMATANGI (Bligh's Lagoon Island)

Tematangi is a low-lying atoll in the Tuamotus about ninety miles west of Mururoa at 21 degrees 40 minutes South, 140 degrees 40 minutes West. It was discovered by Bligh in the Providence on April 5, 1972. Bligh thought it was uninhabited, but Beechey saw inhabitants there in 1826. The explanation is simply that it sometimes is inhabited and sometimes not. Today, Tuamotuans live on the island periodically while gathering mother-of-pearl. 


At the time of the Bounty's visit to Tahiti, Tapahu was the chief of Te Fana, the district immediately west of Pare. It was Tepahu who helped Bligh capture the three deserters by pointing out their locations. He was a good friend of Peter Heywood and later became the father-in-law of midshipman George Stewart. 


Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”) is actually the main island at the southern tip of South America, but the name is usually applied to the whole archipelago. The most southern island is Isla de Hornos with Capte Horn. Tierra del Fuego was discovered by Magellan in 1520; it is separated from the mainland by the Straits of Magellan.

Bligh sighted the coast of Tierra del Fuego on March 23, 1788, and almost immediately ran into contrary winds, forcing him to eventually abandon his attempt to round Cape Horn.


Tofua (Bligh spelled it Tofoa) is the most western island in the Haapai group in the Kingdom of Tonga, situated at 19 degrees 41 minutes South, 173 degrees 0 minutes West. It lies 45 miles north-north-west-by-north of Nomuka – where the Bounty stopped before the mutiny – and less than 100miles from Tongatabu. It measures four by five miles and has a volcano rising to 1,600 feet which was active at the time of the mutiny and still gives off a plume of steam today.

The mutiny took place ten leagues (thirty nautical miles) to the south-west of Tofua and Bligh and the eighteen loyalists sought refuge in a cave on the sheltered north-west coast of the island in an attempt to augment their meager provisions.

In the March 1968 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, Luis Marden claims to have found not only Bligh’s cave, but also the grave of John Norton, the quartermaster of the Bounty who was killed by the Tofuans when the launch made its escape from what surgeon Hamilton in the Pandora later described as “Murderers’ Cove.”

In an article published in the June 1985 issue of the Pacific Islands Monthly, Bengt Danielsson shows that Marden was mistaken and describes the actual cave used by Bligh and his men. Marden’s cave lies on the exposed south-east coast, whereas Bligh clearly states that the cave was on the sheltered north-west coast (where Danielsson identified it). Moreover, Bligh’s description and measurements of the cave and its surroundings match exactly the location bound by Danielsson. Finally, it is highly unlikely that the Tofuans would have allotted any grave site to Norton and, even if that had been the case, it would hardly have been preserved for two centuries. The current inhabitants of Tofus had never heard of the Bounty when Danielsson visited the island.

Tofua currently has a population of about fifty who are there primarily to grow kava (Piper methysticum) for export to Tongatabu.

TONGATABU (Amsterdam Island) 

The main island in the Kingdom of Tonga; located at 21 degrees 07 minutes South, 175 degrees, 12 minutes West.

Tongatabu is slightly less than 100 miles south of the island of Tofua where the Bounty mutiny took place. When Bligh was set adrift in the Bounty’s launch together with the loyalists among the crew, he had originally planned to sail there. However, when he witnessed the savagery of the Tongans at Tofua, he decided against it and set a course for Timor. . . .

TUAMOTU (Paumotu, Dangerour Archipelago, Low Islands) 

The Tuamotu archipelago lies east, east-south-east of Tahiti. It comprises seventy-eight islands extending over fifteen degrees of longitude. It has a total land mass of 356 square miles. All the islands, except Makatea and Tikei, are low-lying coral atolls. . . .

Captain Bligh discovered one of the islands in the group, Tematangi, on his second breadfruit expedition. . . .

van ESTE, Willem Adriaan 

Governor of Timor at the time Bligh and his men reached Coupang on the voyage in the Bounty’s launch. Van Este received the British sailors with great hospitality, but he was at the time dying of “an incurable disease” and most of the arrangements were handled by his son-in-law, Mynheer Timotheus Wanjon.


Second largest island in the Fiji group, situated at 16 degrees 40 minutes South, 179 degrees 04 minutes East. On May 6, 1789, Bligh and his men sailed south of Vanua Levu on their voyage from Tofua to Timor in the Bounty's launch. 


The name of the Dutch East Indiaman, commanded by Captain Peter Couvret, which took Bligh, John Samuel, and John Smith from Batavia to South Africa and on to England.

WAIA Island in the Yasawa group in the Western Fijis, situated at 17 degrees 24 minutes South, 176 degrees 52 minutes East. On May 7, 1789, two large sailing canoes from Waia, filled with warriors (who were cannibals at that time) unsuccessfully pursued Bligh and his crew in the Bounty’s launch on their voyage from Tofua to Timor.

WANJON, Timotheus 

When Bligh and the loyalists arrived at Coupang on June 14, 1789, it was Mynheer Timotheus Wanjon acting for his father-in-law, Governor van Este, who welcomed them and tried his best to make their stay as comfortable as possible. Wanjon did the same for Captain Edwards and his men and their prisoners from the Bounty in September 1791. And he was still there when Bligh returned from his second breadfruit expedition and stopped at Timor on October 2, 1792. Bligh wrote in his log:

Wednesday, October 3rd. It was a pleasant circumstance to me to find Mr. Timotheus Wanjon, the gentleman who had assisted me so kindly when here in the “Bounty’s” Launch, to be now Governor. Out of the little society then living, four were now dead, among whom was the surgeon Mr. Max, who had attended our sick and dressed our sores.


Cook’s artist on the third voyage. . . . (At the request of Tu [Pomare] for whom he had earlier sketched a full-length painting of the Tahitian, Webber made a portrait of Captain Cook.)

When the Lady Penhryn visited Tahiti in 1788, the first ship to do so since the portrait was painted, the painting was still in perfect condition. Bligh, who arrived three months later in the Bounty, signed the portrait with these words:

Lieutenant Bligh of His Britannic Majesty’s ship Bounty anchored in Matavai Bay, October 25th, 1788, but owing to bad weather was obliged to sail to Oparre, December 25th, where he remained until March 30th, 1789. Was then ready for sea with 1,015 breadfruit plants besides many other fruits, and only waiting an opportunity to get to sea, at which time the picture was given up. Sailed April 4th, 1789.

Bligh signed the painting again on his second breadfruit expedition in 1792, a few months after Vancouver (had seen it). It seems to then have become lost; the missionaries who arrived in 1797 do not mention it.


Group of islands in the western Fijis. Bligh traversed the group in early May 1789 on his open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor, narrowly escaping some pursuing native war canoes. 

Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book. 

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