John Barrow

The Plough Boy Journals

The Journals and Associated Documents

The Plough Boy Anthology

19th Century American Whaling

Bonin Islands

Pitcairn's Island

Dictionaries & Glossaries

Ashley's Glossary of
Whaling Terms

Dana's Dictionary of
Sea Terms




The Life of James Bruce, Esquire;

Maurice Griffith's

Discovery of a Nation of Welshmen



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Printed and Published by C. Hulbert,



Account of the Mutineers of the Bounty.


      It is well known that, in the year 1789, his Majesty's armed vessel the Bounty, while employed in conveying the bread fruit tree from Otaheite to the British colonies in the West Indies, was taken from her commander, Lieut. Wm. Bligh, by part of the crew, who headed by Fletcher Christian, master's mate, mutinied off the island of Tofoa, putting the Lieutenant, with the rest of the crew, consisting of eighteen persons, into the launch, which, after a passage of 1200 leagues, providentially arrived at a Dutch settlement on the island of Timor. The mutineers, twenty-five in number, were supposed, from some expressions which escaped them, when the launch was turned adrift, to have made sail towards Otaheite. As soon as this circumstance was known to the Admiralty, Capt. Edwards was ordered to proceed in the Pandora to that island, and endeavour to discover and bring to England the Bounty, with such of the crew as he might be able to secure. On his arrival, in March 1791, at Matavai bay, in Otaheite, four of the mutineers came voluntarily ou board the Pandora to surrender themselves, and from information given by them, ten others (the whole number alive upon the island) were, in the course of a few days, taken and subsequently brought to England.

      No information respecting Christian or his companions reached England for twenty years; when about the beginning of the year 1809, Sir Sidney Smith, then commander-in-chief on the Brazil station, transmitted to the Admiralty a paper which he had received from Lieut. Fitzmaurice, purporting to be 'Extracts from the log-book of Capt. Folger, of the American ship Topaz,' and dated 'Valparaiso, Oct. 10, 1808,' communicating the discovery of an island in the Pacific, peopled by the descendants of the crew of the Bounty.


First Interview with the Inhabitants.

      About the commencement of the year 1815, a further account of these interesting people was received from Vice-Admiral Dixon, in a letter addressed to him by Sir Thomas Staines, of his Majesty's ship Briton; and we doubt not, the particulars will interest our readers as much as they have ourselves. -- As the real position of Pitcairn's island was ascertained to he so far distant from that in which it is usually laid down in the chart, and as the Captains of the Briton and Tagus seemed to have still considered it as uninhabited, they were not a little surprised on approaching its shores, to behold plantations regularly laid out, and huts or houses more neatly constructed than those on the Marquesas islands. When about two miles from the shore, some natives were observed bringing down their canoes on their shoulders, dashing through a heavy surf, and paddling off to the ships; but their astonishment was unbounded on hearing one of them, on approaching the ship, call out in the English language, "won't you heave us a rope, now?"

      The first man who got on board the Briton soon proved who they were. His name, he said, was Thursday October Christian, the first man born on the island. He was then about five and twenty years of age, and is described as a fine young man, about six feet high; his hair deer black; his countenance open and interesting; of a brownish cast, but free from that mixture of a reddish tint which prevails among the Pacific islands; his only dress was a piece of cloth round his loins, and a straw hat ornamented with the black feathers of the domestic fowl.' With a great share of good humour,' says Capt. Pipon, 'we were glad to trace in his benevolent countenance all the features of an honest English face.'

      If the astonishment of the Captains was great on their hearing their first salutation in English, their surprise and interest were not a little increased on Sir. Thomas Staines taking the youths below, and setting before them something to eat, when one of them rose up, and placing his hands together in a posture of devotion, distinctly repeated, and in a pleasing tone and manner, 'For what we are going to receive, the Lord make us truly thankful.'

      They expressed great surprise on seeing a cow on board the Briton, and were in doubt whether she was a great goat, or a horned sow.


Number and State of the Colony.

      The two Captains of his Majesty's ships accompanied these young men on shore. With some difficulty and a good wetting, and with the assistance of their conductors, they accomplished a landing through the surf, and were soon after met by John Adams,* a man between fifty and sixty years of age, who conducted them to his house. His wife accompanied him, a very old lady, blind with age. He was at first alarmed lest the visit was to apprehend him; but on being told they were perfectly ignorant of his existence, he was relieved from his anxiety. -- Being once assured that this visit was of a peaceable nature, it is impossible to describe the joy these poor people manifested on seeing those whom they were pleased to consider as their countrymen. Yams, cocoa nuts, and other fruits, with fine fresh eggs, were laid before them; and the old man would have killed and dressed a hog for his visitors, but time would not allow them to partake of this intended feast.

      This interesting new colony, it seemed, now consisted of about 26 persons, mostly grown up young people, besides a number of infants. The young men, all born on the island, were very athletic, and of the finest forms, their countenances open and pleasing, indicating much benevolence and goodness of heart: but the young women were particular objects of admiration, tall, robust, and beautifully formed, their faces beaming with smiles and unruffled good humour, but wearing a degree of modesty and bashfulness that would do honour to the most virtuous nation on earth; their teeth, like ivory, were regular and beautiful, without a single exception: and all of them, both male and female, had the most marked English features. The clothing of the young females consisted of a piece of linen reaching from the waist to the knees, and generally of a sort of mantle thrown loosely over the shoulders, and hanging as low as the ankles; but this covering appeared to be intended chiefly as a protection against the sun and the weather, as it was frequently laid aside -- and then the upper part of the body was entirely exposed; and it is not possible to conceive more beautiful forms than they exhibited. They sometimes wreath caps or bonnets for the head in the most tasty manner, to protect the face from the rays of the sun; and though, as Captain Pipon observes, they have only had the instructions of their Otaheitan mothers, 'our dress-makers in London would be

      * His real name was Alexander Wilson.


Modesty and Morality of the Colonists.

delighted with the simplicity, and yet elegant taste of the untaught females.'

      Their native modesty, assisted by a proper sense of religion and morality instilled into their youthful minds by John Adams has hitherto preserved these interesting people perfectly chaste, and free from all kinds of debauchery. Adams assured the visitors, that since Christian's death there had not been a single instance of any young woman proving unchaste; nor any attempt at seduction on the part of the men. They all labour while young in the cultivation of the ground; and when possessed of a sufficient quantity of cleared laud and of stock to maintain a family, they are allowed to marry, but always with the consent of Adams, who unites them by a sort of marriage ceremony of his own.

      The greatest harmony prevailed in this little society; their only quarrels, and these rarely happened, being, according to their own expression, quarrels of the mouth; they are honest in their dealings, which consists of bartering different articles for mutual accommodation.

      Their habitations are extremely neat. The little village of Pitcairn forms a pretty square, the houses at the upper end of which are occupied by the patriarch John Adams, and his family, consisting of his old blind wife and 3 daughters from fifteen to eighteen years of age, and a boy of eleven; a daughter of his wife by a former husband, and a son-in-law. On the opposite side is the dwelling of Thursday October Christian; and in the centre is a smooth verdant lawn on which the poultry are let loose, fenced in so as to prevent the intrusion of the domestic quadrupeds. All that was done was obviously undertaken on a settled plan, unlike to any thing to be met with on the other islands. In their houses too they had a good deal of decent furniture, consisting of beds laid upon bedsteads, with neat covering; they had also tables and large chests to contain their valuables and clothing, which is made from the bark of a certain tree, prepared chiefly by the elder Otaheitan females. Adams's house consisted of two rooms, and the windows had shutters to pull to at night. The younger part of the sex are, as before stated, employed with their brothers, under the direction of their common father Adams, in the culture of the ground, which produces cocoa nuts, bananas, the bread-fruit tree, yams, sweet potatoes, and turnips. They have also plenty of hogs


Their Government and Religion.

and goats; the woods abound with a species of wild hog, and the coasts of the island with several kinds of good fish.

      Their agricultural implements are made by themselves from the iron supplied by the Bounty, which with great labour they beat out into spades, hatchets, crows, &c. This was not all. The good old man kept a regular journal, in which was entered the nature and quality of work performed by each family, what each had received, and what was due on account. There was, it seems, besides private property, a sort of general stock, out of which articles were issued ou account to the several members of the community; and for mutual accommodation exchanges of one kind of provisions for another were very frequent, as salt for fresh provisions, vegetables and fruit for poultry, fish, &c.; also when the stores of one family were low, or wholly expended, a fresh supply was raised from another, or out of the general stock, to be re-paid when circumstances were more favourable: all of which was noted down in John Adams's journal.

      But what was most gratifying of all to the visitors was the simple and unaffected manner in which they returned thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings they enjoyed. They never failed to say grace before and after meals, to pray every morning at sun-rise, and they frequently repeated the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. 'It was truly pleasing' says Captain Pipon 'to see these poor people so well disposed to listen so attentively to moral instruction, to believe in the attributes of God, and to place their reliance on divine goodness.'

      The good old man was anxious to know what was going on in the old world, and they had the means of gratifying his curiosity by supplying him with some magazines and modern publications. His library consisted of the books that belonged to Admiral Bligh, but the visitors had not time to inspect them.

      They enquired particularly after Fletcher Christian. This ill-fated young man, it seems, was never happy after the rash and inconsiderate step which he had taken; he became sullen and morose, and practised the very same conduct towards his companions in guilt, of which he and they so loudly complained against in their late commander. Disappointed in his expectations at Otaheite, and the Friendly Islands, and most probably dreading a discovery, this deluded youth committed himself and his remaining confederates to the mere chance of being cast upon some desert


Description of the Island.

islands, and chance threw them upon that of Pitcairn. Finding no anchorage near it, he ran the ship upon the rocks, cleared her of the live stock and other articles which they had been supplied with at Otaheite, when he set her on fire, that no trace of inhabitants might be visible, and all hope of escape cut off from himself and his wretched followers. He soon, however, disgusted both his own countrymen and the Otaheitans, by his oppressive and tyrannical conduct; they divided into parties, and disputes and affrays and murders were the consequence. His Otaheitan wife died within a twelvemonth from their landing; after which he carried off one that belonged to an Otaheitan man, who watched for an opportunity of taking his revenge, and shot him dead while digging in his own field. Thus terminated the existence of this miserable, deluded young man, who was neither deficient in talent nor energy, nor in connexions, and who might have risen in the service, and become an ornament to his profession.

      This island is about six miles long, by three broad, covered with wood, and the soil very rich: situated under the parallel of 25 S. latitude, and in the midst of such a wide expanse of ocean, the climate must be fine, and admirably adapted for the reception of all the vegetable productions of every part of the habitable globe.

      The visitors supplied the inhabitants with some tools, kettles, and other articles, such as the high surf would permit them to land.

      We understand that the relations of Fletcher Christian, are highly respectable in the North of England, and are warmly interesting themselves in behalf of their young relatives, so unexpectedly discovered as above related.


      This account is digested from John Barrow's widely printed and circulated 1815 extract from his review of Captain David Porter's Journal of a Cruize ... The lists of mutineers apprehended in Tahiti, the letters of Captain Mayhew Folger of the Topaz, and Sir Thomas Staines of H.M.S. Briton which appeared in the original have been excluded here.

authorname, dates


      This transcription has been made from the following:

"Discovery of an English Colony on Pitcairn's Island." in
      John Barrow and Maurice Griffith,
            Interesting narratives and discoveries: including The life of James Bruce, Esquire, Travels in South Africa, by J. Barrow, Esq., Discovery of an English colony on Pitcairn's Island in the South Sea ... Shrewsbury: C. Hulbert, 1817, pp.51-56.