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William Bligh

 

Date Born: 9/9/1754
Place of Birth: Cornwall, England

Date Died: 12/7/1817
Place of Death: London, England


William Bligh was an officer of the British Royal Navy and colonial administrator. He is best known for the famous mutiny that occurred against his command aboard HMAV Bounty. After the Bounty mutiny he became Governor of New South Wales, where his stern administration engendered another insurrection, the Rum Rebellion led by John Macarthur.

Bligh was born in Plymouth, a seaport in south-west England, and went to sea at the age of eight. In 1776, he was selected by Captain James Cook for the crew of the Resolution and, in 1787, selected as commander of the HMAV Bounty. He would eventually rise to the rank of Vice Admiral in the British Navy.

In 1787, Bligh took command of the Bounty. He first sailed to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit trees, then set course for the Caribbean, where the breadfruit were wanted for experiments to see if breadfruit would be a successful food crop there. The Bounty never reached the Caribbean, as mutiny broke out onboard shortly after leaving Tahiti.

In later years, Bligh would repeat the same voyage that the Bounty had undertaken and would eventually succeed in delivering the breadfruit to the West Indies. Bligh's mission may have introduced the akee to the Caribbean as well, though this is uncertain. (Akee is now called Blighia sapida in binomial nomenclature after Bligh).

The mutiny, which broke out during the return voyage, was led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian and supported by a quarter of the crew. The mutineers provided Bligh and the eighteen of his crew who remained loyal with a 23 foot (7 m) launch, provisions sufficient to reach the most accessible ports, a sextant and a pocket watch, but no charts or compass. Bligh disdained the obvious course of action, which would have been sailing for nearer Spanish ports where they would be repatriated to Britain after delays. Bligh was confident in his navigational skills and considering his first responsibility to be getting word of the mutiny as soon as possible to British vessels that could pursue the mutineers, so he embarked instead on a 3618 nautical mile (6701 km) voyage to Timor. In the successful 41 day voyage, the only casualty was one crewman killed by hostile natives.

To this day, the reasons for the mutiny are a subject of considerable debate. Some feel that Bligh was a cruel tyrant whose abuse of the crew led members of the crew to feel that they had no choice but to take the ship from Bligh. Others feel that the crew, after having been exposed to freedom and sexual excess on the island of Tahiti refused to return to the "Jack Tars" existence of a seaman. They hold that the crew took the ship from Bligh so that they could return to a life of comfort and pleasure on Tahiti.

After a court of inquiry, Bligh went on to serve under Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen. He became governor of New South Wales in 1805. There he suffered another mutiny, this time the Rum Rebellion, and was imprisoned from 1808 to 1810. In 1811, having been exonerated, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, and 3 years later, in 1814, promoted again, to Vice Admiral of the Blue. Bligh designed the North Bull Wall at the mouth of the River Liffey in Dublin, to ensure the entrance to Dublin Port did not silt up and prevent a sandbar forming.

Bligh was buried in a family plot at Lambeth. This church is now the Museum of Garden History. His gravestone is topped by a breadfruit. Bligh's house is marked by a plaque a block east of the Museum.

This article from wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bligh for the full wikipedia article.


Books by William Bligh on Riapress.com

A Voyage to the South Sea

By: William Bligh


Muntineers interrupt a breadfruit voyage, in a classic true tale of temptation, seamanship, and leadership.


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