National Library of Australia

William Bligh’s notebook

William Bligh (1754–1817)Notebook 1789

manuscript; 17.1 x 10.7cm

Manuscript Collection, MS 5393

National Library of Australia
Notebook 1789

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On 28 April 1789, Captain William Bligh (1754–1817), commander of HMS Bounty, and his followers were set adrift by mutineers led by the captain’s second-in-command, Fletcher Christian. For 47 harrowing days they travelled from Tonga to Timor and safety.

The cause of the mutiny is uncertain, but is thought to have stemmed from an explosive mix of Christian and Bligh’s conflicting personalities, confined conditions and the drudgery of ship-board duties after an extended stay on Tahiti.

Appropriating a notebook from one of his crew, Bligh detailed the voyage, also listing on three separate sheets of paper the names and descriptions of each mutineer (14 were later captured and 10 brought to trial in England; three were hanged).

While Governor of New South Wales (1806–10), Bligh suffered a second mutiny, which led to the Rum Rebellion.

It could be argued that Bligh was not responsible for either mutiny, but his temper and need for rules certainly hindered his effectiveness.

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