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The Tall Ship 'Bounty'
The Tall Ship 'Bounty'

His Majesty's Armed Vessel (HMAV) Bounty was a British ship, most well known for the infamous mutiny aboard her in 28 April 1789. The mutiny was the subject of novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. A replica of the ship was built for the 1962 film of the same name, and remained active until sinking on October 29, 2012 is the wake of Hurricane Sandy - taking her captain Robin Walbridge and one of the crew with her.

And in a twist of history, the crew woman who died, Claudene Christian, was reportedly a direct descendent of Fletcher Christian, the lead mutineer aboard the original Bounty.

The original Bounty began her career as the collier Bethia, built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard near Hull. Later she was purchased by the Royal Navy for £2,600 on 26 May 1787 (JJ Colledge/D Lyon say 23rd May), refit, and renamed Bounty. She was a relatively small sailing ship at 215 tons, three-masted and full-rigged. After conversion for the breadfruit expedition, she mounted only four four pounders (2 kg cannon) and ten swivel guns. Thus she was very small in comparison to other three-mast colliers used for similar expeditions: Cook's Endeavour displaced 368 tons and Resolution 462 tons.

The ship had been purchased by the Royal Navy for a single mission in support of an experiment: she was to travel to Tahiti, pick up breadfruit plants, and transport them to the West Indies in hopes that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. The experiment was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, who recommended William Bligh as commander, and was promoted through a prize offered by the Royal Society of Arts. In June 1787, Bounty was refitted at Deptford. The great cabin was converted to house the potted breadfruit plants, and gratings fitted to the upper deck. Her complement was 46 officers and men.

On 23 December 1787, Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti. For a full month, she attempted to round Cape Horn, but adverse weather blocked her. Bligh ordered her turned about, and proceeded east, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and crossing the width of the Indian Ocean. During the outward voyage, Bligh demoted the ship's Sailing Master, John Fryer, replacing him with Fletcher Christian, whom he appointed acting Lieutenant. This act seriously damaged the relationship between Bligh and Fryer, and Fryer would later claim Bligh's act was entirely personal.

Though commonly portrayed as the epitome of abusive sailing captains, this portrayal has recently come into dispute. Caroline Alexander, in her book The Bounty, points out that Bligh was relatively lenient compared with other British naval officers. Bligh received the appointment because he was considered an exceptionally capable naval officer—an evaluation that would prove to be correct. He enjoyed the patronage of Sir Joseph Banks, a wealthy botanist and influential figure in Britain at the time. That, and his experience sailing with Cook and familiarity with navigation in the area and local customs, were probably prime factors in his appointment. Bounty reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788, after ten months at sea.

Bligh and his crew spent five months in Tahiti, then called 'Otaheite', collecting and preparing a total of 1015 breadfruit plants. Bligh allowed the crew to live ashore and care for the potted breadfruit plants, and they became socialized to the customs and culture of the Tahitians. Many of the seamen and some of the 'young gentlemen' had themselves tattooed in native fashion. Master's Mate and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian married Maimiti, a Tahitian woman. Other warrant officers and seamen of the Bounty were also said to have formed 'connections' with native women. After five months in Tahiti, the Bounty set sail with its breadfruit cargo on 4 April 1789.

Luis Marden discovered the remains of the Bounty in January 1957. After spotting a rudder from this ship in a museum on Fiji, he persuaded his editors and writers to let him dive off Pitcairn Island, where the rudder had been found. Despite the warnings of one islander - 'Man, you gwen be dead as a hatchet!' — Marden dived for several days in the dangerous swells near the island, and found the remains of the fabled ship. He subsequently met with Marlon Brando to counsel him on his role as Fletcher Christian in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty. Later in life, Marden wore cuff links made of nails from the Bounty. Some of her remains, such as her ballast stones, are still partially visible in the waters of Bounty Bay. Her rudder is still displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva.

The Royal Navy's Bounty has been reconstructed twice. MGM commissioned a replica of Bounty for their 1962 film, named the Bounty II. This vessel was built to the original plans and in the traditional manner in a shipyard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. However, all the dimensions were increased by approximately one third to accommodate the large 70 mm cameras used. Though the ship was scheduled to be burned at the end of the film, Marlon Brando threatened to walk off the set, so MGM kept this vessel in service. When Ted Turner bought MGM he used this vessel for entertaining. Eventually MGM donated the vessel to a charity.

Although lack of expensive maintenance caused the vessel to lose her United States Coast Guard license for a time, Tall Ship Bounty was restored, initially at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in 2002, with restoration of the vessel's bottom planking. Moored in its winter home in St. Petersburg, Florida, it again became available for charter, excursions, sail-training, and movies (most recently in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,. and the adult film Pirates). In April 2006, the Bounty again arrived in Boothbay Harbor for further renovation, a refurbishing of the ship's front end, and topside decking. Following this renovation, the Bounty is scheduled to repeat the famous voyage of the original Bounty

On 9 August 2007, the Bounty made an unscheduled stop at Derry, Northern Ireland. The ship has just completed a $3m restoration and is making a seven week UK tour prior to embarking on a world tour via South Africa and New Zealand to Pitcairn and Tahiti. The UK tour begins with her arrival at the birthplace of mutiny leader Fletcher Christian in Maryport, Cumbria, at midday on Tuesday 14 August 2007. The ship was about three days ahead of schedule which is why it sought out Derry for a 'quiet' stopover before completing the journey to Maryport. On 23 August 2007 the ship docked in Torquay, Devon, for several days.

The second Bounty replica, named 'H.M.A.V. Bounty', and informally known as 'Bounty III', was built in New Zealand in 1979 and used in the 1984 Dino De Laurentiis film The Bounty. The hull is constructed of welded steel oversheathed with timber. For many years she served the tourist excursion market from Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, before being sold to HKR International Limited in October 2007. She is now a tourist attraction at Discovery Bay, on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, and has an additional Chinese name 'Chi Ming'.

The Bounty was never referred to as 'HMS Bounty' or 'HMAV Bounty' while she was afloat. The abbreviation H.M.S. only came into common usage around the 1790s, transforming into the initialism HMS in the twentieth century. Although she was ship-rigged, and commonly referred to as a ship, in the formal vocabulary of the Admiralty the Bounty was not called a ship because she was unrated. Equally, there was no organisation formally called the Admiralty -- that name is a colloquialism for 'The Commissioners for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain and Ireland, etc.'. In the transcript of the 1792 trial of the ten crewmen returned on HMS Pandora the Bounty is referred to as His Majesty's Ship 'Bounty' or His Majesty's Armed Vessel 'Bounty' three times each, and twice as His Majesty's Armed Vessel the 'Bounty'. In the drawings for the 1787 conversion she is referred to as the 'Bounty Armed Transport'. The Contents page of the Bounty's medical book is inscribed 'His Britannic Majesty's Ship Bounty: Spithead 29th December 1787'. The title of William Bligh's 1792 account of the mutiny refers to 'His Majesty's Ship the Bounty'. Sir John Barrow's 1831 publication refers to 'H.M.S. Bounty'. Academic institutions such as Britain's National Archives ,National Maritime Museum, Royal Naval Museum, and Australia's State Library of New South Wales generally use 'HMS'.

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