On 17th March 1790, a small paragraph appeared in the Times announcing that William Bligh, fresh from his remarkable voyage across the Pacific, was expected in London later that afternoon. He had arrived in Portsmouth three days earlier’. John Toohey, Captain Bligh’s Portable Nightmare, 1998

1790 –  Portsmouth, March: Eager to give testimony to the Admiralty and put his side of the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story Captain William Bligh RN arrived in England on the 14th March 1790.

The small paragraph became a story of blazing headlines. The ‘daffodil effect’  there was much more than Bligh’s side to that story.

1789 – 28 April, mid-ocean: A year earlier, at gun-point in the early hours of the morning, Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh’s second-in-command on HMS Bounty,forced his commander with eighteen (18) fellow crew off the ship and into a small oared cutter.

Despite having little food and water, scorched by sun and wind, they survived forty-eight (48) days in the open boat.

Bligh made the lives of his fellow castaways a misery as they rowed and nudged their drifting craft towards land.

It must be said however, without Bligh’s excellent celestial navigating skills, none might have survived the 3600 miles (6400km) voyage to Dutch West Timor.

Only one (1) crewman John Norton did not make it to Timor. He was stoned to death when the group landed on Tofra Island to collect water.


1789 – Timor, 14 June: After seven (7) week the starving survivors reached Coupang west Timor in the early hours of the 14th June 1789.

William Van Este, the ailing Dutch Governor fed, clothed and cared for the stranded Englishmen. Nevertheless David Nelson, protégé of Sir Joseph Bank’s from Kew Gardens, died a few days after reaching Coupang.

When sufficient strength returned Bligh hired a Dutch vessel He renamed it HMS Resource and made for England via Surabaya, Batavia (present day Jakarta) and Cape Town.

1789 – Jakarta, 2 October: Bligh was so anxious to prosecute his case against Fletcher Christian and the mutineers he took passage on Vlydte a Dutch vessel taking only two (2) men, John Samuels his secretary and John Smith a cook, with him.

The remaining Bounty castaways were left to to make their own way home from Jakarta. Three (3) William Elphinstone master’s mate, Quartermaster Peter Linklater and Thomas Hall contracted malaria were buried there.

The remaining fourteen (14) managed to survive the malaria-ridden town and took passage to Cape Town. Two (2) Thomas Ledward and William Lamb died en-route to Africa.

1790 – Cape Town, February: John Fryer, William Peckover, William Purcell, Robert Tinkler and William Cole were among the twelve (12)  survivors who made the next hop to the Cape of Good Hope.

They were relieved to find Captain Bligh, their tormentor, had sailed from Cape Town for England a month earlier – January.

As they waited for a suitable ship to take them home a French frigate towed HMS Guardian, a disabled British warship – Australia’s Titanic – into Table Bay. See: The Twelfth Man Lieutenant Edward Riou RN


1790 – Portsmouth, 14 March: Captain William Bligh RN arrived in England in mid-March 1790. He hurried to London eager to regale the Admiralty, press and public, without fear of contradiction.

He was determined that his version of the infamous mutiny and its aftermath would dominate.

1790 – England, November: So incendiary was his testimony, towards the end of 1790, the Admiralty gave Captain Edward Edwards command of HMS Pandora.

A decade earlier Edwards characterised as  ‘a cold, hard man devoid of sympathy and imagination’ had dealt brutally with a mutiny on his own command HMS Narcissus.

It is possible Bligh had a say in his selection. Edward’s orders were to hunt down, arrest and bring Lieutenant Fletcher Christian RN and all the Bounty mutineers to England for court-martial. Bligh believed it inevitable all would  die on the gallows.


1791 – Tahiti, 23 March: Edwards reached Tahiti towards the end of March 1791. But by then Fletcher Christian, who always knew the Navy would come after him, had fled.

Taking eight (8) crew members and, their Tahitian wives with him, Christian sailed ‘Bounty’ to Pitcairn Island where Bounty was scuttled.

Meanwhile Captain Edwards found and arrested fourteen (14) mutineers who had settled happily on Tahiti. Some had married into local families.

Two (2) John Millward and William Burkett fathered a child. Both were desperate the stay on Tahiti and resisted arrest.

Others, among them William Morrison and Peter Heywood, a young midshipman, surrendered willingly. But Edwards treated both groups with the same savage brutality.

‘He [Edwards] secured his captives in a structure about eleven feet [3.35 metre] long and eighteen feet [5.49 metre] wide…built [on] the quarter deck….Admission…to “Pandora’s Box”, as Edwards called it was by an iron lid in the top of it about 18 inches [45cm] square.

On the floor of it, midway between the walls, was a line of fourteen heavy ringbolts to which the leg-irons of the handcuffed men were secured’. C.H. Curry, The Transportation Escape and Pardoning of Mary Bryant, 1963.

1791 – 8 May, Tahiti: So when Pandora left Tahiti all Bounty prisoners were not only cruelly manacled and shackled to the floor of the box its ‘iron lid’ was shut and padlocked.

1791 – Great Barrier Reef, 28 August:  Edwards, regarded by some peers as ‘a stupid, brutal officer and an ever worse sailor’, had their observations borne out when, at dusk in fading light, he took his ship too close to shore and ran aground on a coral reef.

Torn below the water-line Pandora began to sink. Thirty-one (31) of one hundred and twenty-one (121) crew drowned.

The armourer’s mate [Hodges] leapt into the “Box” to remove their irons. Three, one with his handcuffs still on, had got out, when the exit scuttle was again slammed down and barred. The remainder would have drowned like rats, in a trap had not the boatswain’s mate [Moulter] hearing their urgent entreaties, not risked his own life…to unbar this man-hole and thus given them a chance’.C.H. Curry. ibid.

But for the heroic efforts of two (2) crew, Joseph Hodges and James Moulter who defied Edward’s orders not to rescue them, the Bounty prisoners locked in the cage would certainly have gone down with the ship.

‘Ten [10] of them were picked up, parched, and exposed almost naked to the pitiless sun, they were treated with even more naked barbarity by Edwards, before being put to the oars in one or other of the four [4] boats in which the exacting crossing to Timor was made’. C.H. Curry. op.cit.

Naked exhausted the Bounty mutineers, four (4) had been lost and, others near death along with Pandora’s surviving crew, faced a formidable task. Ahead of Captain Edwards and Pandora’s survivors lay a thousand (1000) miles of ocean.

1791 – Timor, 17 September: Against the odds they fetched up at Coupang, West Timor in the middle of September 1791.

Governor Timotheus Wanjon, took care of them as his recently deceased father-in-law Governor William Van Este had done for Captain Bligh when, in June 1789, those cast adrift from HMS Bounty arrived at Coupang in similar condition.

Wanjon had a surprise for Captain Edwards. There were some English convicts living freely on the island. See: The Great Escape – From Botany Bay

Nine (9) convicts and two (2) children Charlotte and, baby brother Emanuel, had escaped from Sydney Cove with help from Deter Smidt the  master of a Dutch ship Waaksamheyd. See: The Flying Dutchman and the Botany Bay Escapees

The 300 ton Dutch brig chartered at Jakarta by Lieutenant Ball of HMS Supply was to bring to Sydney Town the urgently needed supplies and medicines he had purchased with Governor Phillip’s British Bills of Exchange in order to save the starving settlement from near certain death. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve at Sydney Cove From January 1788 to July 1790


Timor: Captain Edwards interrogated the Botany Bay Escapees. One, James Martin wrote; ‘we told him we were prisoners and had made our escape from Botany Bay. He told us we were his prisoners’.

From then on Captain Edwards kept them in irons and closely confined.

1791 – Coupang, October: When strength allowed, Edwards chartered Remberg a Dutch vessel to take ten (10) surviving Bounty men,  eleven (11) ‘First Fleet’ escapees and seventy-eight (78) Pandora survivors to Jakarta.

1791 – Flores, 6 October: Remberg sailed from Timor on 6 October 1791. The ship encountered fierce storms and turbulent seas. Off the island of Flores, battered by a cyclone she came near to capsizing.

The mutineers chained and locked in a cage on Remberg’s deck, were exposed to the fury of the sea. Every minute the convicts, in the dark below deck, feared for their lives.

1791 – Batavia, 7 November: After a tough month at sea Remberg reached Jakarta, where all Edward’s captives remained heavily shackled. At that time the Dutch trading post was notorious for its ‘fatal climate’. See: Captain Cook Caught Short

1791 – 1 December, Jakarta: So it proved for two (2) Botany Bay ‘escapees’. Baby Emanuel, Mary and William Bryant’s youngest child, died at the beginning of December 1791. By the end of the month William his father too was dead.


Africa: Captain Edwards chartered three (3) Dutch vessels – Hoonwey, Horssen, Vreedenberg – to take his surviving crewmen and assorted prisoners to Cape Town.

Mary Bryant and Charlotte, now four (4) years old, along with James Cox and William Allen aged fifty-five (55) years, the oldest of the escaped convicts, boarded Horssen.

At sea, somewhere between Jakarta and Cape Town James Cox, Mary’s long-time Cornish friend, either jumped or was washed overboard.

The other convicts John Simms, William Morton, John Butcher, James Martin, William Allen and Nathaniel Lilley, boarded Hoonwey. Simms and Morton died at sea.

Captain Edwards with Pandora’s remaining crew and surviving Bounty men sailed to Cape Town in Vreedenberg.

1792 – Cape Town,11 to 23 March: Between 11th to 23rd of March 1792 survivors of these three (3) remarkable voyages HMS Bounty, HMS Pandora and a boat  with no name, Governor Phillip’s stolen cutter, reached Cape Town.

Cape Town: Where unbelievably they found  HMS Gorgan  preparing for an imminent departure for Portsmouth.

‘They [escapees] had miscarried in a heroic struggle for liberty after having combated every hardship and conquered every difficulty’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench aboard HMS Gorgan at Cape Town, March 1792. Cited in Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, ed. F.L Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961


Surely their ‘heroic struggle for liberty’ was the most extraordinary of the three (3) voyages. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany ay Escapees

Earlier (December 1791) Gorgan had sailed from Sydney Cove with the First Fleet’s Major Robert Ross and the marines of the Sydney garrison returning home.

1792 – Portsmouth,18 June: HMS Gorgan reached Portsmouth the port from where five (5) years earlier – 13 May 1787 -the ‘First Fleet’  had sailed to invade the island continent of New Holland.

Then (1787) Marine Captain Watkin Tench had sailed aboard the transport Charlotte as had Mary and Will Bryant.

Mary and her companions were taken off and Gorgan and lodged in Newgate gaol. See: HMS Gorgan & the Botany Bay Escapees

Spithead: To Bligh’s intense satisfaction the (10) surviving mutineers appeared before a court-martial convened on HMS Duke at the Royal Navy’s base ,Spithead.

1792 – 12 September: Headed by Admiral Lord Hood and eleven (11) post-captains the court began taking evidence on the 12th of September 1792.

1792 – 18 September: Six (6) days later the judges delivered a mixed verdict that dismayed Captain Bligh. Four (4) men were acquitted, six (6) were condemned to death.

Only three (3) paid the ultimate price. Clearly it was a matter of not what you did but who you know.

1792 – 24 October: Although chief mutineer Fletcher  Christian’s family were not wealthy their advantage lay elsewhere. Weight must be given to the family’s connection with the literary Wordworths.

The Romantic Poet set, many of whom saw the world as did his close friend Samuel Colridge Taylor, through an opium mist.

Edward, Fletcher’s older brother, a lawyer and close friend of William Wilberforce from their student days at Cambridge, went on to become a Professor of Law.

Christain’s family were determined to defend their own. At Edward’s behest William Morrison with Peter Heywood were given first-class legal representation. Both had their death sentences forgiven.

Perhaps in an effort to make the result appear not so lopsided William Muspratt, a lowly cook’s assistant, was also ‘forgiven’ death.

An air of expediency and vindictiveness however swirls over the three (3) able seamen John Millward, William Burkett and Thomas Ellison whose  death sentences were upheld.

1792 – 29 October: Millward and Burkett had fathered a child on Tahiti. Thomas Ellison, aged fourteen (14) years, was the youngest of Bounty’s crew. At the end of October 1792 they ‘suffer[ed] Death by being hung by the Neck’[from] HMS Brunswick’s yard-arm.


It would be a massive understatement to say William Bligh was unimpressed by the decision of such a high profile court-martial that he no doubt attributed to William Wordsworth’s ‘daffodil effect’.

At first glance it may appear to be far-fetched to say the ‘daffodil’ impacted on the history of the Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. Lest conspiracy theory springs too readily to mind and, to save the hours required to wade through the Joseph Bank’s Papers and Bligh Archive, a short-cut is required.

‘Banks had ample need to satisfy himself about this new colonial phenomena…Macarthur was in arrest and under a cloud for shooting his commanding officer William Paterson…This was altogether a strange person to be advancing the floating of a large pastoral Company with English capital’. H.B. Carter, His Majesty’s Spanish Flock, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1964 

Of course John Macarthur was not to know when,  he shot his commanding officer Captain Paterson in a duel, that Sir Joseph Banks and Paterson had been in regular communication on subjects botanical.

Now, with Bligh determined to regain his hero status, Banks had the very man with which to kill two birds with one stone. A deflated William Bligh in search of advancement.

Over the years Bligh’s pleading letters arrived with regularity at Soho Square. After all Bligh had never forgotten it was HMS Gorgan that had taken Lieutenant Gidley King RN to Sydney as Britain’s third naval Governor of Australia.

Now in 1805 Banks influenced government to recall Governor Phillip Gidley King RN who could not stop the tsunami of alcohol flooding in from India to give Bligh the governorship of  New South Wales.

Banks would rid himself of Bligh and a grateful Bligh would keep a sharp eye on that very ‘strange person’ John Macarthur ‘the man who made enemies’.

Governor King was to be recalled in disgrace. About the same time Lieutenant ‘MacMafia’ Macarthur was itching to return to New South Wales with ‘English capital’ to begin his new wool enterprise and build his wealth.


‘In November 1977 the wreck of the Pandora was located – 186 years after the loss. Its rediscovery by Steve Domm, John Heyer and Ben Cropp was the result of a methodological search based on analysis of historical information compiled by John Heyer…It is one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern Hemisphere.

Moulter Cay…this sand cay is on the outer Great Barrier Reef, approximately 140 km east of Cape York, on the edge of the Coral Sea….first named “Entrance Cay” by Captain Edwards. But it was officially renamed in 1984, in recognition of William Moulter’s humane deed towards the trapped [Bounty] prisoners in “Pandora’s Box”.

A magnetometer carried by an RAAF [Neptune] maritime reconnaissance aircraft indicated the approximate location [and] dropped a flare’. Museum of Tropical Queensland,


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply