The English ship Bounty, commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh, journeyed to the South Pacific in 1787 to collect plants of the breadfruit tree. Sailors signed on gladly, considering the voyage a trip to paradise. Having no second-in-command, Captain Bligh appointed his young friend Fletcher Christian to the post. The Bounty stayed in Tahiti six months, and the sailors, led by happy-go-lucky Fletcher Christian, enjoyed paradise to the full. When time came for departure, some of the men wanted to stay behind with their island girls. Three men, trying to desert, were flogged. The mood on ship darkened, and on April 28, 1789 Fletcher Christian staged the most famous mutiny in history. Bligh and his supporters were set adrift in an overloaded lifeboat (which they miraculously navigated 3,700 miles to Timor).
The mutineers aboard the Bounty began quarreling about what to do next. Christian returned to Tahiti where he left some of the mutineers, kidnapped some women, took some slaves, and traveled 1,000 miles to uninhabited Pitcairn Island. There the little group quickly unraveled. They distilled whiskey from a native plant. Drunkenness and fighting marked their colony. Disease and murder eventually took the lives of all the men except for one, Alexander Smith, who found himself the only man on the island, surrounded by an assortment of women and children.
Then an amazing change occurred. Smith found the Bounty’s neglected Bible. As he read it, he took its message to heart, then began instructing the little community. He taught the colonists the Scriptures and helped them obey its instructions. The message of Christ so transformed their lives that 20 years later, in 1808, when the Topaz landed on the island, it found a happy society of Christians, living in prosperity and peace, free from crime, disease, murder—and mutiny. Later, the Bible fell into the hands of a visiting whaler who brought it to America. In 1950 it was returned to the island. It now resides on display in the church in Pitcairn as a monument to its transforming message (The Bounty Bible pictured at left – Article adapted from the April 28th entry in Robert J. Morgan. On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs & Heroes. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000.
Also On This Day In Christian History:
1553: The Nestorians chose Sullaqa, superior of the monastery of Rabban Hormizd, to reunite them with the Catholic Church. He made his profession of the Nestorians’ intent to Rome on this day.
1841: The Roman Catholic missionary Pierre Chanel died a martyr in Tonga, where he had gone despite strong Protestant resistance. He was working on an island that had been unreached by Protestants.
1911: Thousands of Genevans demonstated for five hours against a religiously inspired ban on gambling. A shocked Karl Barth was appalled at their mindless slogans and came out in support of the ban.
1955: Christian and Missionary Alliance pilot Albert Lewis died when his seaplane crashed in the pass leading into the Baliem Valley in Irian Jaya (the known as Nederlands, New Guinea). Ten thousand souls came to Christ, owing in part to Lewis’ supportive ministry.
Adapted from the April 28th entry in This Day In Christian History, edited by A Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications.