Bligh's Open Boat Voyage Survival Story

Bligh’s Open Boat Voyage Survival Story

If you have never heard of William Bligh or his endeavors as captain of the HMS Bounty. His real-life survival story which he recorded in his log book A Voyage to the South Sea: The logbook of the HMS Bounty. Is a story of true grit and determination in the face of adversity. Bligh’s open boat voyage survival story began as a result of mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty in 1879. Set adrift Bligh survived a voyage of more than 3,500 nautical miles in an open boat to reach safety.

Bligh’s Survival Story

Bligh’s Survival story began when disgruntled crewman aboard the HMS Bounty, set him and 18 other crewmen adrift in an open boat. They were given limited supplies of no more than five days of food and water. A compass and nautical tables, a sextant and a tool chest.

Bligh immediately set sail for the nearby island of Tofua, where he hoped to find enough supplies of food and water to allow them to set sail for Tongatapu.  Where they planned to seek help from King Poulaho who Bligh had met on a previous expedition. They planned to get enough supplies from the king to continue their journey to the safety of the Dutch East Indies where they would report the mutiny and secure safe passage back to Europe.

However, after a few days on Tofua, they realized they were about to be attacked by natives. Realizing this they loaded what supplies they had onto the boat and escaped to the open sea. Reconsidering their options Bligh decided that it would be safer to attempt to sail directly to the Dutch settlement of Coupang in Timor, using the rations presently on board.

Bligh and his crew had to travel 6,500 kilometers, 4,000 miles. Daily food and water rations were set to an ounce of bread and a quarter-pint of water for each man. From the outset, the weather was stormy, with mountainous seas that constantly threatened to overwhelm the boat. It took 47 days to reach Coupang where the mutiny was reported to the authorities and passage home was obtained.

TV Shows & Books

The above introduction to Bligh’s open boat voyage survival story is a brief run-through of the story. If you’re unfamiliar with Bligh’s story and want to know more, you can do any or all the following:

Read Bligh’s Journal A Voyage to the South Sea: The logbook of the HMS Bounty

Watch one of the following Movie adaptations of the mutiny on the bounty story.

  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – Starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) – Starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, and Richard Harris.
  • The Bounty (1984) – Starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins.

Recently a Uk TV show recreated Bligh’s journey in the form of a documentary called Mutiny. In which Ant Middleton a former member of the Special Boat Service (SBS), the UK’s naval special forces unit and sister unit of the SAS. Recreated Bligh’s journey in a similar boat with only the tools and supplies that Bligh and his crew had.

To give you an idea here are some Mutiny Clips & Extras from the show.

What We Can Learn From Bligh’s Story

Although Bligh’s story dates back to 1879, we can learn a lot from his experiences. Bligh’s Open Boat Voyage Survival story demonstrates the importance of having the will to survive. Preppers naturally have the will to survive, it’s what drives us to plan and prepare to face extreme emergency situations.


In his, Journal Bligh recorded that their situation was miserable; always wet, and suffering extreme cold without shelter from the weather. Yet they succeeded in surviving such extreme conditions and achieved their goal of reaching safety. This didn’t happen by accident, yes there was probably a little luck involved but luck is often a factor in survival situations. It happened because they had the right mindset, which is a major factor in matters of survival. By keeping calm and visualizing their end goal they used their skills to overcome adversity.

Skills & Knowledge

Your skills and knowledge will see you through and allow you to adapt to the situation you find yourself in. You can find a way even if at first there doesn’t seem to be one. Remember to refresh your knowledge and practice your skills on a regular basis. Keeping these up to date can be the difference between survival success or failure.


Keeping an open mind and being resourceful is another key part of survival. If an emergency situation presents itself your survival gear and supplies will help you. If for any reason you don’t have any kit with you, resist the feeling of despair. Instead look around your environment, ask yourself what do I have on me or near me that I can use and adapt? Many survival success stories have been as a result of being resourceful in the face of adversity.


Mutiny in itself is a lesson, working as part of a group is not always without its difficulties. Different people naturally have different opinions. Things can quickly boil over when facing extreme situations as they did in Bligh’s story.

At one point strains were showing following a heated disagreement with a fellow survivor. To keep his authority and lead the group to safety Bligh grabbed a cutlass and challenged him to fight. Another survivor called for Bligh to be arrested, but backed down after Bligh threatened to kill him if he interfered.

I’m not suggesting you should take Bligh’s course of action if you ever find your self in such a situation. But it demonstrates that being mindful of the group dynamic allows you to see problems arising and avert them.


Bligh’s survival story is just one of many historical survival stories that have happened. There is always something we can learn from each and every one of them.

Recommended Reading

Mutiny on the Bounty – Wikipedia Page

William Bligh

Critical Essays Movies Based on The Mutiny on the Bounty

Meet the men recreating the Mutiny on the Bounty for Channel 4

Prepper Knowledge Is Key To Survival

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