HMS Pandora in pursuit of the Bounty

Bligh's epic journey after the mutiny on the Bounty aroused immediate concern in England. The mutineers were thought of as the lowest scoundrels and common pirates. Bligh was expected to face a court-martial and answer for the loss of his ship, but this would be delayed for several months pending the arrival of the remaining survivors from Timor.

Mutiny was then, and still is, a very serious breach of Royal Navy discipline; mutineers were not left unpunished. The ship that was eventually to be commissioned for the purpose of hunting down the mutineers and bringing them to justice was HMS Pandora, a frigate of 24 guns. On 6th August 1790, Captain Edward Edwards received his commission to take command of the ship (Admiralty Class & Piece List 1/1763). Edwards' formal orders are dated 25th October 1790, and although there was talk of a second breadfruit mission, the orders only mention swift and hard justice: the capture of Fletcher Christian, the mutineers and the Bounty (Admiralty Record 2/120 S BP 491).

The Pandora sailed from Portsmouth on 7th November 1790 with a crew of 134 men (Gesner 1991). The importance of the mission was, at the very least, to make an example of the mutineers and so give warning to anyone in the Royal Navy who would even think about mutineering against one of His Majesty's ships. Such acts would not be tolerated under any circumstances, and the Admiralty was prepared to go to extremes to capture and bring the offenders to justice (Gesner 1991).

Pandora rounded Cape Horn on 2nd February before plotting a direct course for Tahiti. During this time the Pandora was to come within a day's sail of Pitcairn Island where Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers were concealed. The Pandora arrived and dropped anchor in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on 23rd March 1791 (Admiralty Records 1/5330).


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Last updated: Thu Mar 28 2002