It was not on the outward voyage to Tahiti that trouble began on the Bounty, or even in Tahiti itself. It was on the little island of Anamooka, in Tonga – an island lying on our northeastern horizon – that the most famous mutiny in history was brewed.
Bligh wanted to make landfall at Anamooka. He had been there with Captain Cook in 1777, and remembered old friends. But it is not a wise move, for Cook had made a bad mistake on this island. He had kidnapped a chief, had him flogged, and then ransomed him back to his people, at the price of one hog. It was a mistake that the natives still remember.
Two work parties are sent ashore. One, numbering eleven men, has the job of filling casks with fresh water, and is led by Fletcher Christian. The men carry muskets and other arms, but these are left in the boats, to be used only in an emergency. Accordingly, when the natives crowd around, harassing and distracting the party, nothing is done to prevent the theft of an adze and an axe.
Bligh, when he hears the report, flies into a rage. He damns Christian, asking him if he was afraid of a set of naked savages. Shouting back, Fletcher Christian declares that Bligh’s orders were impossible to follow—on one hand he was told not to use the guns on unarmed natives, and now, on the other, he is being blamed for not using them to prevent trouble.
Simmering down, as usual with him, Bligh sends Christian and the party ashore again next day. This time, the party is attacked with stones and clubs. Running back to the boat, the party tosses nails, to delay their pursuers. They manage to get to the boat unharmed—to find that the grapnel anchor has been stolen from the line that held it to the bottom of the lagoon.
“You’re a parcel of good for nothing rascals,” Bligh storms when they get back on board. Copying Captain Cook, he kidnaps some chiefs, to hold them hostage until the grapnel is returned. But night falls, and still the anchor has not been returned. Weakly, Captain Bligh lets the Tongan chiefs go, giving them presents of nails to appease them. It was then that Bligh loses the last of the respect of many of his men.
The Bounty weighs anchor, and sails on, towards disaster.