The Bligh Museum is located at the southern end of Adventure Bay, on the main road close to the Captain Cook Creek. The museum has a comprehensive selection of artefacts and documents relating to Pacific exploration. Also in the Bligh Museum are a selection of articles and maps etc related to other explorers including Captain Cook. On the left hand side of the page is an image of a very famous artifact: a tree trunk on which was carved “Cook 1777”.
The museum also has a section related to native peoples of the pacific area, including one very famous native of Bruny Island called Trugannini (pictured left) VICE ADMIRAL WILLIAM BLIGH
William Bligh was born at Tinten Manor St. Tudy on September 9th1754 and first went to sea in 1762, at the age of 9 as a Captain’s personal servant on board HMS Monmouth. He became a Midshipman in 1771 serving on HMS Crescent and HMS Ranger. He was an intelligent man, well-versed in science and mathematics and was also a talented writer and illustrator. At the age of 22 he was appointed Sailing Master on the Resolution and visited Adventure Bay with Cook in 1777.
In 1787 aged 33, he was given command of ‘The Bounty’ with a commission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies and set sail on December 23rd 1787. In April 1789, following a further visit to Adventure Bay, the famous mutiny took place, led by Bligh’s one-time friend, Fletcher Christian.
Bligh and 18 other crew members loyal to him were set adrift on April 28th in the Bounty’s launch, an open boat, 23-foot long by 6’9” wide. In most cases such an act would have led to certain death for the men aboard, but Bligh was a magnificent seaman and he sailed from Tofua to Timor, Java, without any loss of life. The journey of 3618 nautical miles took them 47 days.
Bligh eventually returned to England and his career in the Navy continued, seemingly unaffected by the mutiny. In 1790 he became Captain of the sloop HMS Falcon, followed by service on HMS Medea and HMS Providence. In 1792 he again visited Tahiti and successfully transported breadfruit to the West Indies.
Following the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 he was commended for his bravery by Admiral Nelson and elected a fellow of the Royal Society, in consideration of his distinguished services in navigation, botany etc.
In 1805, Bligh was sent to New South Wales as Governor, but once again his oppressive manner contributed to an uprising, in Sydney in 1808 – the Rum Rebellion – he had attempted to end the use of rum as a form of currency. The rebellion was led by one John Macarthur, who became a leader of settlers in New South Wales. The British soldiers mutinied and Bligh was forcibly deposed by Major George Johnston of the 102nd foot and imprisoned for two years. On his release he returned to England where he was cleared of all blame and Major Johnston was tried at Chelsea Hospital in 1811 and cashiered. Bligh was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue and in 1814 became a Vice Admiral of the Blue.
(This information has been gleaned from several internet sources – particularly a compilation by Sue Dibble May 2001)
Bligh of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame – visited Bruny Island several times and is said to have planted the first fruit trees in Australia at Adventure Bay. He first arrived as sailing master on Cook’s ship the ‘Resolution’.
The Bligh Museum is a very good place to visit if you have the time whilst visiting Adventure Bay. Here are some more images of the inside of the museum. If you also wish to see more history, please visit the History Room run by the Bruny Island Historical Society.