William Bligh (September 9, 1754 - December 7, 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navy with final rank of Vice Admiral, who is best known for the famous mutiny that occurred against his command aboard HMAV Bounty.
Bligh was born in Plymouth, a seaport in south-west England, and went to sea at the age of eight. In 1776, he was selected by Captain James Cook for the crew of the Resolution and, in 1787, selected as commander of the HMAV Bounty. He would eventually rise to the rank of Vice Admiral in the British Navy.
William Bligh's naval career consisted of a variety of appointments and assignments. A summary is as follows:
July 1, 1762: Ship's Boy and Captain's Servant, HMS Monmouth
July 27, 1770: Able Seaman, HMS Hunter
Feburary 5 1771: Midshipman, HMS Hunter
September 22, 1771: Midshipman, HMS Crescent
September 2, 1774: Able Seaman, HMS Ranger
September 30, 1775: Master's Mate, HMS Ranger
March 20, 1776: Master, HMS Resolution
Febuary 14, 1781: Master, HMS Belle Poule
October 5, 1781: Lieutenant, HMS Berwick
January 1, 1782: Lieutenant, HMS Princess Amelia
March 20, 1782: Lieutenant, HMS Cambridge
January 14, 1783: Joined Merchant Service as Lieutenant
1785: Commanding Lieutenant, Merchant Vessel Lynx
1786: Lieutenant, Merchant Vessel Brittania
1787: Returns to Royal Navy active service
August 16, 1787: Commanding Lieutenant, HMS Bounty
November 14, 1790: Captain, HMS Falcon
December 15, 1790: Captain, HMS Medea
April 16, 1791: Captain, HMS Providence
April 30, 1795: Captain, HMS Calcutta
January 7, 1796: Captain, HMS Director
March 18, 1801: Post Captain, HMS Glatton
April 12, 1801: Post Captain, HMS Monarch
May 8, 1801: Post Captain, HMS Irresistible
May 2, 1804: Post Captain, HMS Warrior
May 14, 1805: Governor of New South Wales
September 27, 1805: Post Captain, HMS Porpoise
July 31, 1808: Commodore, HMS Porpoise
April 3, 1810: Commodore, HMS Hindostan
July 31, 1810: Appointed Rear Admiral of the Blue
June 4, 1814: Appointed Vice Admiral of the Blue
The voyage of the Bounty
In 1787, Bligh took command of the Bounty. He first sailed Bounty to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit trees, then set course for the Caribbean, where the Breadfruit were wanted for experiments to see if breadfruit would be a successful food crop there. The Bounty never reached the Caribbean, as mutiny broke out onboared shortly after leaving Tahiti. In later years, Bligh would repeat the same voyage that the Bounty had undertaken and would eventually succeed in delivery breadfruit to the West Indies. Bligh's mission may have introduced the akee to Caribbean as well, though this is uncertain. (Akee is now called Blighia sapida in binomial nomenclature after Bligh).
The mutiny, which broke out during the return voyage, was led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian and supported by a quarter of the crew. The mutineers provided Bligh and the eighteen of his crew who remained loyal with a 23-foot launch, provisions sufficient to reach the most accessible ports, a sextant and a pocket watch, but no charts or compass. Bligh disdained the obvious course of action, which would have been sailing for nearer Spanish ports where they would be repatriated to Britain after delays. Bligh was confident in his navigational skills and considering his first responsibility to be getting word of the mutiny as soon as possible to British vessels that could pursue the mutineers, so he embarked instead on a 3200-mile voyage to Timor. In the successful 41-day voyage, the only casualty was one crewman killed by hostile natives.
To this day, the reasons for the mutiny are a subject of considerable debate. Some feel that Bligh was a cruel tyrant whose abuse of the crew led members of the crew to feel that they had no choice but to take the ship from Bligh. Others feel that the crew, after having been exposed to freedom and sexual excess on the island of Tahiti refused to return to the "Jack Tars" existence of a seaman. They hold that the crew took the ship from Bligh so that they could return to a life of comfort and pleasure on Tahiti.
After the Bounty
After a court of inquiry, Bligh went on to serve under Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen.
He became governor of New South Wales in 1805. There he suffered another mutiny, this time the Rum Rebellion, and was imprisoned from 1808 to 1810.
In 1811, having been exonerated, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, and 3 years later, in 1814, promoted again, to Vice Admiral of the Blue.
Bligh designed the Bull Walls at the mouth of the Liffey in Dublin, to ensure the mouth of the Liffey did not silt up and prevented a sandbar forming.