Photographer's Note


It seems quirky to assign this photo's location as "London, UK," when Pitcairn Island is a territory of the United Kingdom, and administered out of New Zealand by a Governor appointed in London, 13,623 km (8465 miles) away. With the Crystal Symphony anchored off the southern shore of Pitcairn Island I shot a series of five images and stitched them together to create the long panoramic strip.

Pitcairn Island was named after a young boy, the son of a sailor accompanying his father on-board a British ship in the early 18th century. He had been the first to spot the deserted island. With an area of only 5.2 square kilometers (2 square miles), it is much smaller than the 117 square kilometers (45 square miles) of Easter Island. Subsequently, navigation maps of the 18th century reported its latitude correctly as 25° south; but its longitude as 133° west, instead of its correct location of 130° — an inaccuracy that translated to 180 miles.

The notoriety of the island is traced back to the most famous mutiny on the high seas, when in 1789 the British ship HMS Bounty was seized by a group of mutineers led by Master Mate, Fletcher Christian, and his vagabond group of 15. The master of the ship, Captain William Bligh, and the group of his loyalists were set adrift on a 30-foot boat with minimal provisions. The mutineers, with their common law wives from Tahiti, along with a small group of male Tahitians in tow, settled the island, and began to multiply… and also began to quarrel among themselves. The 158 nm discrepancy in the navigation maps and the miniscule size of the island, they hoped, would be more than enough to throw British Naval ships off their trail, especially after they went on to set fire and scuttle the Bounty. Meanwhile, Bligh succeeded in steering his boat to East Timor, 6500 km (4000 miles) to the west. Subsequently, he returned to England, reported the mutiny, and unleashed the British Navy’s worldwide hunt for the mutineers.

During the 20th century five different versions of the film, “Mutiny on the Bounty,” were produced. In the more memorable versions (1935, 1962 and 1984) Christian Fletcher was played by the immensely talented and dashing Hollywood idols, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson; and William Bligh, by an equally talented trio of character actors, Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard and Anthony Hopkins, respectively. (The last of the films even had the aging Sir Lawrence Olivier playing the presiding judge in the absentee court martial of the mutineers.) In all three versions of the film Christian is characterized as a young gentleman naval officer, kind and caring to his men, forced to practice noblesse oblige. To save his men he is forced into taking over command against a ruthless and cruel captain who relished the application of torture. And he has already revealed to his fellow officers his personal modus operandi, infect the men with fear, “Fear is your best ally!”

In an alternate interpretation of the incident, the mutineers, including Christian, find the tropical beauty of Tahiti and its beautiful women irresistibly seductive. They do not want to leave Paradise, and Christian is the young and reckless adventurer acting impetuously. Moreover, it is Bligh’s extraordinary navigational skills that saves every one of his loyalists as he leads them to safety against impossible odds. And it remains that the British Navy rewarded him by promoting him to the rank of Admiral, and gave him a new ship to command. The truth behind the mutiny may never be fully known. After retiring from the Royal Navy, Bligh returned to Australia and became a politician in New South Wales, serving as the 4th Governor of the State of New South Wales.

The meticulously crafted replica of the Bounty, created expressly for the 1962 film — and used again in the 1984 version, as well as in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” starring Johnny Depp (2003) — was still sailing fifty years later. But the replica of the 18th century rigger became a casualty of Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012, capsizing in 5.5 m (18-foot) waves as it was being repositioned from New England to the relative safety of North Carolina. One of the two drowning victims of the 15-man crew sailing the ship was Claudene Christian, a great-great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian.

I recently learned from Chris Jules that a direct descendent of Captain Bligh, Anna Maria Bligh (born 14 July 1960), is an Australian politician. She served as the 37th Governor of the State New South Wales (in a post that her distant ancestor had served as the 4th Governor). I also heard from Noel Bryne that another of Captain Bligh's descendents actually lives in his home town near Dublin: "... he was once the owner of a local bar called the 'Bounty bar!' One of the most popular in the town!" 

In the near future I will post a photo of the 50 or so descendants of the mutineers who still live on the island. On 16 January 2014 they visited the Crystal Symphony in a longboat.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6774 W: 470 N: 12149] (41261)
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