The most famous mutiny in the Pacific occurred in 1789 and has become inspiration for hundreds of books and several films. The British navy sent Lieutenant William Bligh to Tahiti in 1787. The purpose of the voyage was to collect breadfruit trees, which would then be taken to the English colonies in the Caribbean and transplanted to provide food for slaves working on plantations. Sailors and officers came to see Bligh as an undisciplined leader, criticizing him for allowing the Bounty to deteriorate to the point of its sails rotting during its five-month stay in Tahiti. On April 28, 1789, three weeks after leaving Tahiti to carry the trees to the Caribbean, the crew rose up against Bligh. Led by junior officer Fletcher Christian, the mutiny was bloodless. Bligh and men loyal to him were set adrift in a 23-foot boat. Remarkably, Bligh led his supporters across 3,618 miles of ocean, surviving to reach the island of Timor on June 14.
The Bounty returned to Tahiti. Most of the crew chose to stay in what they had come to regard as a tropical paradise. But Christian assembled colonists— nine Bounty crewmembers, six Tahitian men, and 12 Tahitian women—and set sail on September 22, 1789. In the course of searching for an isolated, habitable island, the Bounty became the first European ship to find the island of Rarotonga. Coming at last to Pitcairn Island, a mountainous island surrounded by treacherous surf, Christian landed his followers and brought ashore animals, plants, supplies, and anything usable from the Bounty. The Bounty was then sunk. Descendants of the Bounty mutineers still live on Pitcairn Island.
In 1791 William Bligh sailed in the Pacific on a second expedition to import breadfruit trees to Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean. After his exoneration by the Court Martial inquiry into the loss of the Bounty, Bligh remained in the British navy. From 1791-1793, as master and commander of HMS Providence and in company with HMS Assistance, he undertook again to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. The operation was successful, and breadfruit is a popular food in the West Indies to this day. During this voyage Bligh also collected samples of the ackee fruit of Jamaica, introducing it to the Royal Society in Britain upon his return. The ackee's scientific name Blighia sapida in binomial nomenclature was given in honour of Bligh.