Excerpt from The Bounty by Caroline Alexander, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Bounty

The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

by Caroline Alexander

The Bounty
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2003, 512 pages
    May 2004, 512 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Consequently, only a week after landing at Tubuai, the Bounty sailed back to Tahiti, where they had lived and loved for five memorable months while gathering Bligh's breadfruit. Here, as the men knew, their loyal friends would give them all they required. The story they prepared was that they had fallen in with the great Captain Cook (in reality long dead), who was planning to make settlement on the island of Whytootackee (Aitutaki), and that Bligh had remained with his old commander and delegated Christian to sail with the Bounty for supplies. The Tahitians, ever generous and overjoyed at the news that Cook, whom they regarded with worshipful esteem, would be so close to them, gave freely of hogs, goats, chickens, a variety of plants, cats and dogs. More important, nine women, eight men, seven boys and one young girl left with the Bounty when she returned to Tubuai.

For three months the mutineers struggled to make a settlement on the tiny island. Construction was begun on a defensive fort that measured some fifty yards square, surrounded by a kind of dry moat or ditch. A drawbridge was planned for the entrance facing the beach, while the walls were surmounted by the Bounty's four-pounder cannons and swivel guns. Patriotically, the mutineers had christened their for-tress Fort George, after their king.

Again, there were early signs that this would not be a successful experiment.

"On 5th July Some of the people began to be mutinous," according to an extract made by Edwards from Peter Heywood's journal. "& on 6th 2 of the Men were put in Irons by a Majority of Votes--& drunkenness, fighting & threatening each other's life was so common that those abaft were obliged to arm themselves with Pistols." The following day, an attempt was made to heal the growing breach and "Articles were drawn up by Christian and Churchill specifying a mutual forgiveness of all past grievances which every Man was obliged to swear to & sign," according to an extract from Stewart's journal. "Mathew Thompson excepted who refused to comply." Despite this gesture, an inner circle evolved around Christian. When John Sumner and Matthew Quintal spent the night onshore without leave, declaring that they were now their own masters and would do as they pleased, Christian clapped the pistol he now always carried to the head of one, and had both placed in leg irons.

Violence also escalated without as well as within this fractious company, erupting as the Bounty men fought with the Tubuaians over property and women. In one particularly bloody encounter, Thomas Burkett was stabbed in the side by a spear and Christian wounded himself on his own bayonet. When the dust settled, sixty-six Tubuaians were dead, including six women, and the Bounty men were masters of the field. One of the gentle Tahitian youths who had journeyed to Tubuai with his English friends, according to James Morrison, "desired leave to cut out the jaw bones of the kill'd to hang round the quarters of the Ship as Trophies," and was much displeased when this request was denied.

In September, in recognition that the different factions could not coexist, a collective decision was made to return once more to Tahiti. Here, the ship's company would divide. Those who chose to remain on the island could do so; the rest would depart with Christian, taking to sea once again in the Bounty. Each man remaining onshore was given a musket, a pistol, a cutlass, a bayonet, a box of cartridges and seventeen pounds of powder from the ship's arms and lead for ball--everyone save Michael Byrn, that is, who, as Morrison stated, "being blind and of a very troublesome disposition it was thought that arms put into his hands would be only helping him to do some mischief."

On anchoring for the third and final time in Matavai Bay, Christian and many of the eight men who had cast their lots with him did not even bother to go ashore. Arriving on September 21, 1789, they departed secretly the same night, quietly cutting the Bounty's anchor cable. Joseph Coleman, the most relentless loyalist, had been once again held against his will for his skills as an armorer; but as the ship slipped away, he dived overboard and swam to land. At dawn, the sixteen men deposited onshore saw their ship hovering off Point Venus; by midmorning she was gone.

From The Bounty by Caroline Alexander. Copyright Caroline Alexander 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or stored in an form without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book, Viking Penguin.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.