Main content area

Series 71: Papers concerning the discovery of Pitcairn Island and the mutineers of HMS Bounty, 1808-1809, 1813-1815, [1845]

Number of documents

9

Provenance note

Document 1 in this series was previously located at ML A84. It was part of an accession of Banks papers purchased for the Mitchell Library from Sotheby's, London, in May 1929.

The remaining documents in this series, documents 2-9, were previously located at ML A77. They were purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales and transferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910. They were part of the accession which became known as the Brabourne collection.

Background note

Following the mutiny on HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789, William Bligh and his followers were forced off the ship into a longboat in which they successfully navigated their passage via Torres Strait to Timor. The mutineers, lead by Fletcher Christian, returned to Tahiti to collect livestock and other provisions. Then sailed to the Tubuai Islands returning to Tahiti after some weeks. Here 16 of Christian's party elected to remain where they were picked up by Captain Edward Edwards in the Pandora in March 1791.

Christian and his followers determined to leave Tahiti for a less obvious and therefore safer destination. Taking with them a group of Tahitians, mostly women, they sailed from Tahiti in September 1789.

Nothing further was known of the mutineers who had remained on the Bounty until the arrival at Pitcairn Island in 1808 of the American ship Topaz, Captain Mayhew Folger. When Folger landed at Pitcairn Island he was surprised to meet the English and Tahitian speaking descendants of the mutineers and the one surviving member of the Bounty crew, Alexander Smith, now known as John Adams. Adams was able to relate the fate of the mutineers on Pitcairn who had remained undetected for so long because of an error in charting the location of the island.

After arriving at the island and removing anything that could be useful, the Bounty was burnt to help avoid detection and, presumably, defection. All the mutineers had been killed, including Christian, by the jealous male Tahitians about four or five years after settling on the island. Adams alone survived despite injuries. The Tahitian men in turn were killed by the women in vengeance for the deaths of their English husbands.

Despite this loss, the Pitcairn community had grown to around 35 or 40 people under the benevolent guidance of Adams.

On 17 September 1814 the ships Briton, Captain Sir Thomas Staines, and Ingus, Captain P. Pipon, arrived unexpectedly at Pitcairn Island. Staines and Pipon were equally impressed by the state of the community and by its patriarch John Adams. Staines, in reporting the visit to the Admiralty, recommended that Adams be allowed to remain on Pitcairn for the good of the people under his care.

Subjects: Bligh, William, 1754-1817
  Bounty (ship)
  Christian, Fletcher, 1764-1793
  Pitcairn Island (Pacific Ocean)
  Pitcairn Island (Pacific Ocean) - Colonisation