Expedition recreates 'Bounty' survival-at-sea saga

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (AP) — Four adventurers set sail in an open boat from Tonga in a bid to re-enact the epic 4,400-mile (7,040 kilometer) survival voyage of Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame when he was cast adrift by mutineers in 1789.

Bligh, widely acknowledged as an expert seaman, sailed a 45-foot (14 meter) open longboat with 18 crew from near Tonga to West Timor in 48 days, surviving partly by catching fish and seabirds and drinking rain water.

The feat — achieved without charts or compass — has been portrayed in novels, poems and in several "Mutiny on the Bounty" films starring Hollywood luminaries such as Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Charles Laughton, and Anthony Hopkins.

The new expedition is sailing in a 25-foot (7-meter) open deck boat, the Talisker Bounty, which sports two small sails. The team expects to take seven weeks to cover the distance.

Led by Australian Don McIntyre, the expedition includes experienced Antarctic sailor David Bryce from Australia, Hong Kong businessman David Wilkinson and 18-year-old Briton Christopher Wilde.

"It is going to be really an adventure," McIntyre told reporters as they set sail late Monday for open sea near Tonga's Ha'apai group of islands. "Our boat is half the size of Bligh's boat, so the challenge is trying to survive on board. Our biggest fear is capsizing."

On April 28, the crew expects to be at the location of the mutiny to mark its 221st anniversary before striking out on their journey across the South Pacific to Timor.

The boat will head west to Fiji, Vanuatu, and then to Restoration Island, before sailing north inside Australia's Great Barrier Reef to Thursday Island and through the Torres Strait to West Timor.

McIntyre said the group is trying to get close to what Bligh encountered by taking with them only what he had on board in 1789.

This included 150 pounds (67 kilograms) of ship biscuits, 16 pounds (7 kilograms) of pork, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine and 28 gallons (106 liters) of water. Like Bligh, the crew has no modern navigational equipment such as charts, compass or lights.

The team will film their re-enactment of Bligh's saga of survival for a documentary.

The mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian, eventually settled on Pitcairn Island, where they burned Bligh's ship, the Bounty, sinking its hull so they could not be found.

About 50 of their descendants still live on the remote island, now overseen by Britain, which governs it as its last remaining territory in the Pacific.