Sure, he was a brilliant seaman. His feat after the Bounty mutiny in 1789 – when Fletcher Christian put Bligh and 19 loyalists in a tiny open launch with six inches of free board and limited water and supplies – to travel 4000 miles to Timor in 47 days with the loss of only one man to misadventure, is only rivalled by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s miracle of guiding his own men to safety in an open boat, after being wrecked in Antarctica in 1915.
But Bligh was also the best navigator of his age, you say? Yes, in my view he was better than his first mentor, Captain James Cook. While in that open boat, Bligh, with primitive instruments, recorded the position of islands to the west of Cape Cornwall off Queensland, which Cook, while on the Endeavour in 1770, with state-of-the-art instruments and great comfort, had already charted. When Matthew Flinders was circumnavigating the continent in 1803, he noted the difference in the co-ordinates the two Captains had provided, and was stunned to find that Bligh was correct.
So you see, I readily concede the points most often made by Bligh’s defenders: he really was a brilliant seaman and navigator. But let’s look to the evidence for my claim that, while a brilliant bastard, the only thing outweighing his brilliance was his bastardry, or villainy, if you will. Can we examine what the people under his actual command felt? See, if he had just one mutiny on his record – at a time when mutiny, a hanging offence, was exceedingly rare – you might conclude there were extenuating circumstances. But what about five mutinies, book-ended by the Bounty at the beginning and Sydney’s own Rum Corps Rebellion in 1808 at the end? Do you think there might be something of a pattern forming here?
https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/the ... 52rpb.html