After five months in Tahiti, during which time several of the men became closely involved with Tahitian women, and three sailors deserted – to be recaptured and flogged – the Bounty set sail for the West Indies. On 28 April 1789, half the crew mutinied under the leadership of sailing master Fletcher Christian, and set Bligh adrift in a 23ft open launch with 18 loyal men.
Bligh managed to navigate without charts or compass over 3,500 nautical miles from near Tonga in the Pacific to the Dutch colony of Kupang, Timor in south-east Asia. Some of the mutineers returned to Tahiti, where they were later arrested by a naval search party and taken back to face trial in England. The rest, including Christian, took a small group of Tahitians and started a new colony on the deserted Pitcairn Island. Christian and three other mutineers were killed in a dispute with the Tahitians in 1793.
The mutiny was the subject of several films, including Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, Clark Gable, Charles Laughton) and The Bounty (1984, Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins). John Boyne has recently published a novel about the mutiny: Mutiny on the Bounty (Black Swan, 2009).