Ship Bounty, Mutiny, Pitcairn's Island, Landing, Massacre, Distillation, history from 1788 to 1808.
The ship Bounty, having been fitted out with the intention of transporting the Bread Fruit tree to the West India Islands, sailed from England on the 23d of December, 1787, and after a long passage arrived at Tahiti in October 1788, via Cape of Good Hope. Having taken on board the plants &c. the ship weighed anchor and sailed for their destined port. Through the ill treatment manifested by Capt. Bligh towards his officers, particularly to Christian, the latter meditated self destruction, and for that purpose had provided himself with a deep sea lead with the intention of drowning himself. But having made known his intention to another officer, he persuaded him to try the crew, saying, "you know the crew are not well affected towards the captain." Christian took the hint, and having secured the key of the arm-chest, revealed his object to the crew, a number consented and mutinied. Such is the account I received from Adams, and he informed me that he was sleeping in his hammock, but as soon as he heard the proposal he exclaimed "Hurrah for Otaheite," so that the mutiny was not premeditated but the work of a moment. The captain and a part of the crew were then put into the boat, and after an almost miraculous voyage arrived at Timor.
Christian with the remainder of the crew returned to Tahiti, and having taken some females on board, sailed for Tabaina, where they purchased a piece of land from the natives for some red feathers and commenced building a fort. Before it was completed a dispute arose between them and the natives, in which several of the natives were slain. Finding they could not remain in peace they again returned to Tahiti, where some of the females went on shore. Christian, mate, Young, midshipman, Brown, gardener, Mills, gunner's mate, and five seamen, viz.: John Adams, Matthew Quintal, William M'Coy, John Williams, and Isaac Martin, took them Tahitian females, and each one a native male servant, and the servants were allowed to take four or five women, and having procured hogs, yams, and seeds, they sailed for, and in a few weeks arrived at Pitcairn's Island.
This Island is situated in Lat. 25° 48, and 130° 12, west of Greenwich. It was discovered by Cap. Carteret, and named Pitcairn's from first being seen by a midshipman of that name. The island is about 1200 feet above the level of the sea, and is about 4 or 4½ miles in circumference, and in clear weather may be seen at the distance of fifty miles.
The Bounty having arrived off the Island, Christian and a boat's crew landed on the west side, and finding it uninhabited, and having a good soil they concluded to make it their home. Christian returned on board, and brought the ship to the north side where they came to an anchor, and got "stern fasts" on shore. Having moored her they commenced landing provisions, and other useful articles; but before they had finished unloading, Quintal went into the store room and set the ship on fire.— The other mutineers were very angry with him for so doing. When asked why he did so, he replied, "I am afraid we shall be discovered." Seated on the shore they watched the progress of the devouring element with tearful eyes.
They soon erected tents with the sails &c. living chiefly on the ship's provisions, with sea birds and fish which were very abundant. The place of encampment was near the landing place, and was called by them "Ship Landing," now called "Bounty Bay." Shortly after landing, the wife of Williams died, and was buried at the "landing place."
The island was so thickly wooded they could not proceed far into the interior.— One day when exploring the island to find if it produced any thing eatable, they found some water, and two of the woman in one of their rambles, found some bread fruits which they cooked, and continued to do so for some time before they made it known to the rest. They soon found that the island had been inhabited. Idols made of red lava, stone hatchets, fish bones, foundations of houses, and on the top of the mountain burying places were found.— Cocoa nuts were growing, likewise some bananas, yams, sugar cane, &c. An abundance of rats were discovered. They destroyed their remaining boat, that none of the party might escape from the island, or be the means of making known their retreat, should a vessel approach in the vicinity.— They soon left their encampment, and erected huts which they thatched with the leaf of the Ti plant, the root of which by baking, and the juice expressed, affords a kind of molasses. Having brought with them some yams of a superior quality, they cleared land for cultivation. They had also brought fowls and hogs with them.
They erected a hut on the top of one of the mountains as a look-out house, which was occupied by a man and his wife, (who were relieved weekly,) that they might not be taken by surprise, but have sufficient time to secrete themselves if a vessel hove in sight. The mountain on which this hut was erected is still called "Look-out ridge."
As an account of the massacre has been published by Capt. Beechey, in his narrative of a voyage of discovery, and as my intention is to relate principally a continuation of events, I shall not be minute in my account of the massacre. I have before given the names of those who landed on the island, and mentioned the death of Williams' wife. After her death he wished to have one of the Tahitian's wives, at first the others were not agreeable, but proposed he should wait and have the daughter of M'Coy's wife when she should be of age, she being but an infant when they left Tahiti. To this he would not consent, and of course the Tahitians would not willingly give up one of their own wives. To prevent quarrels among the whites it was at last agreed to destroy the husband of the woman called Nancy. He suspecting it secreted himself on the west side of the island. Having found his hiding place they send him food by his wife in which they had put poison, but he would not eat of it unless his wife would also, She of course would not. She next went with a Tahitian who was armed with a pistol but it missed fire. A scuffle ensued, and the husband of Nancy fell. She took a stick to beat him with. on seeing which he said, "I shall contend no longer since you are against me." He was killed and Nancy became the wife of Williams. The name of the native was Tallalo, and the place where he was killed is called Tallalo's ridge.
It has been said by some, that after the mutiny Christian became sullen, and that he was not respected by his fellow mutineers, this was not the case. After landing on Pitcairn's Island, he devoted most of his time to cultivating the ground; was never idle, and generally respected, and always called "Mr. Christian." John Adams informed me that on one occasion he found the consequence of not showing him respect! The case was this; having allowed the hogs to run at large, it became necessary to fence in the cultivated land, and each man had his portion to keep in repair. Adams' part being out of order he was called upon to put it into repair which he refused to do. Christian told Adams that if he caught his hogs coming through the fence he would shoot them.— Adams replied, "Then I will shoot you." He had no sooner made this reply than they seized and bound him, and sentenced him to be set adrift on a plank in the ocean, which sentence would have been put into execution had it not been for Christian.— Quintal and M'Coy were very cruel to their servants, Quintal in particular.— Sometimes after coming home lat at evening with sea fowl, he would make his servant clean and cook them, and if not done to please him he would severely flog him, sometimes putting brine on his back! The Tahitian men being so oppressed, meditated revenge. Having the use of the master's fire arms for the purpose of shooting hogs, they would go into the woods and practice shooting at a mark, by which means they became tolerable good marksmen.
They soon commenced the work of death. Christian was the first to fall a victim to their revenge. He was killed while at work in his Kalo plantation; Mills was next shot coming to Brown's house. They asked him if he would like to see how they shot hogs, he replied yes. They then snapped the musket at him twice, and at length killed him. They fired at M'Coy when he was in his house but missed him, knocking one of them down while he made his escape. One of the women seeing the massacre informed Adams, he went to procure some yams, intending to secrete himself, but the natives found him and shot at him, the ball entered his shoulder and came out at his neck. He fell, but recovering himself got up and ran; they caught him, and aimed a blow at his head with the butt-end of the musket which he warded off with his hand, having his finger broken by the blow. He then ran down to the rocks, thinking to cast himself into the sea; but the natives called out to him that if he would return he should not be hurt—he returned and they troubled him no more. Adams has told me that he believed Young was aware of the massacre, as the Tahitians, told him when he came back, that they had forgot that Young told them not to hurt Adams. Young was at this time sick with the Asthma. M'Coy and Quintal had hid themselves in the woods. The Tahitians soon became jealous of each other, and began fighting among themselves until but two remained. Those found the retreat of Quintal and M'Coy, and persuaded them to come back to the village; but they would not until they had seen the arm of one of their greatest enemies, which the two Tahitians cut off and carried to them in the woods.
There were now left Young, Adams, M'Coy, and Quintal, two Tahitian men, and I believe seven women. The whites determined to destroy the Tahitian men, and while one of them was sleeping with his favorite woman, another female, the only one now living which came in the Bounty, at a preconcerted signal being given, struck him with an axe and killed him. Young at the same moment shot the other. Quintal who was a desperate character, frequently threatened to kill the remaining whites and their children, and they considered it best for their own safety to destroy him. At this time they used to distil a spirituous liquor from the ti root, and meet at each other's houses to drink together. At one of these meetings Quintal became intoxicated and was killed with an axe. Young did not long survive, but died of consumption or asthma. M'Coy who drank much of the ti rum became deranged, tied a stone to his neck, threw himself into the sea and was drowned.
At this time, there were about 19 children, descendants of the mutineers, two or three of whom recollected some of the circumstances of the massacre; and several now living recollect Young, and some, or one of them at least, saw M'Coy tying the stone round his neck, but most of them were quite young at the time. They continued to distil for some time, and Adams informed me that once being intoxicated, he dreamed of seeing a person coming to thrust him through with a dart, and he being much frightened exclaimed, "Ah, I know who you are, Michael the archangel." The dream made a strong impression on his mind, and he vowed that he would drink no more. As the children grew up, Adams taught some of them to read, and a form of prayer, and they again taught it to the others.