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This review is from: The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty (Paperback)
This is a tale of exploration, adventure and mutiny on board the navy cutter Bounty, commanded by Lieutenant Bligh (for he was only nominally a captain) and under orders to sail to Tahiti and thence to transport indigenous breadfruit plants from that south Pacific island 'paradise' to the plantations of the West Indies via the channel between New Holland (Australia) and New Guinea (Papua New Guinea) which they were to explore and chart for the Admiralty as the true objective.
But the captain is unceremoniously relieved of his command and cast adrift in the ship's launch with a handful of loyalists to a certain death on the high seas (or so the mutineers believed) when things turn nasty not far from Tahiti. But, the captain and his band of fellows makes his way to a Dutch trading post-cum-settlement in Timor where they are received honourably and given safe passage to Batavia, Java, the principal trading station in the Dutch East Indies. After the mutiny one faction on board the Bounty is returned to Tahiti where they settle. The remainder, including Fletcher Christian, eventually wash up in Pitcairn where the survivors were found decades later (a story in itself).
The first seeds of rebellion were sown nine months from port, and six months previously, in Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) when Bligh ticked off his carpenter - not the first of his officers to be lashed by his tongue during the voyage - William Purcell during a "wooding" expedition on shore. Apparently his billets of timber were "too long" and he responded "insolently" to Bligh's criticisms (the captain should have left well alone if you ask me) ... But Bligh is generally bad tempered and the mutiny is eventually precipitated one night after Bligh harangues his officers about the theft of coconuts and calls them "dogs", "scoundrels" and "villains".
Alexander takes us effortlessly from the south seas, via provincial England and its intrigues and intricate web of family connections which binds many of the protagonists in this saga, to the court-martial aboard the HMS Duke in Portsmouth Harbour where the mutineers apprehended at Tahiti are tried for their lives. There follows probably one of the best and most lucid courtroom dramas that has appeared anywhere in print. Alexander writes beautifully and substantiates her claims and hypotheses quoting from primary sources such as the captain's log and various other contemporary memoirs and diaries written by the mutineers, their families and other contemporaries with a connection to the story.
This book is so much more than just the Bounty and the mutiny; it's an evocative look at the ordinary life of a seafarer of the day, and a history of that era of exploration and adventure when Britain's navy was emerging to rule the waves and establish the first outposts of what would become a great empire.