We are sailing in the very waters where Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers seized control of Her Majesty’s Ship Bounty commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh.
Set adrift with the non-mutinous crew, Bligh managed the most improbable, most remarkable, and most incredible small boat voyage in history. He sailed the Bounty’s pinnace, an open boat of some 26 feet length overall with 19 souls aboard more than 3300 nautical miles to Timor, the nearest friendly European controlled port.
When Bligh had been forced into the launch together with eighteen loyalists, the freeboard remaining was less than the length of a man’s hand. The boat was designed for a maximum of fifteen men and for short distances, not for nineteen men with belongings and supplies and destined to sail close to four thousand miles.
Given no navigational instruments, no food, and no water he was given no chance of survival. It was the cruelest death sentence imaginable and, at least to the mutineers, every bit as final as walking the proverbial plank.
They underestimated their Captain.
Look closely at the horizon in the picture. What you will discover is a glimpse of the island paradise Aitutaki. It is a stunningly beautiful coral atoll. In fact, it is one of the many that make up the Cook Islands. Cast adrift between Aitutaki and Tahiti to the East, Bligh sailed through here. Seeking food and water on one of these atolls, perhaps even this atoll, he was attacked by the inhabitants and forced back onto his boat and to sea. Defenseless, he barely escaped with his life. One of his men did not. Paradise it may have been, but Bligh resolved not to set foot on any other islands lest he lose any more lives or the boat itself.
Bligh outlived all the mutineers. They mutinied amongst themselves until there was no one left to murder. Discovered on Pitcairn Island some 18 years after the Bounty mutiny, only the Tahitian wives, the children, and male remained alive. The fate of the rest, the original mutineers including Fletcher Christian, a mystery.
Sailing past this place at dusk, I can feel the pull of paradise. It must have been a thousand-fold stronger for Bligh and his charges. What would they have given to be on Seaburban, my palace compared to their pinnace. They would have seen the same sunsets, the same palms, the same verdant mountains promising water.
History has a way of humbling if you let it. First Shackleton footsteps in Port Stanley and now this. The two greatest, unfathomable small boat voyages of all time. And me between. Nothing remotely close, or even comparable in any way, shape, or form to be certain. But at least I can say I came by way of the sea to look.
Follow my tracks in real-time: