It’s the type of survival story they make movies about. And the against-all-odds voyage by Captain William Bligh and loyal crew members after they were cast adrift from the HMS Bounty has indeed been the subject of several films over the years.
But no one’s ever been foolhardy enough to try and recreate the treacherous trip… until now. Well, almost no one. Within a week (of at least six total), the crew are freezing, drenched and starving; their skin is waterlogged beyond use and tempers are frayed. Welcome to the next level of survival TV...
In 1789, Captain Bligh had no choice but to make a trip of around 6,500 km to the friendly port of Timor after Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers took control of the Bounty. Along with 18 loyal crew members, Bligh was set adrift in a 23-foot open launch that was completely exposed to the elements. A slightly smaller group did reach Coupang in Dutch-controlled Timor 48 days later, having sailed past Fiji (without stopping for fear of the cannibalistic practises of the inhabitants at the time) and through the Great Barrier Reef on their journey.
The reality TV update
In Mutiny, nine men participate in a recreation of Bligh’s journey. They will travel along the same route in a boat that’s a replica of the original launch with identical equipment. As for food, what they can find along the way will supplement the minimal rations they’ve been given, which match the original supplies and are described by one participant as “like dog food”. The boat has no shelter, no toilets and no way of escaping the other crew members. As one man quips, “On this boat, your face is only ever two feet max from another man’s bottom.”
The nine strangers are captained by Ant Middleton, who viewers of SAS: Who Dares Wins will know from his hard-arse role in that series. “In my head I can do it, but it’s going to push me to my limits,” he admits. Joining Ant are men who have been chosen for their similarity to the original crew. There’s carpenter Ben, who’s 27 and from South London, like the Bounty’s carpenter, William Purcell, as well as Luke, the ship’s doctor, and Rishi, a chef who fulfils the role of quartermaster. Two of the nine are cameramen, who tough it out along with the rest of them.
You know the cliché “come hell or high water”? Well Mutiny has both in abundance. Besides the weather (stormy, windy) and waves (large, stomach-churning), there are the men’s own bodily functions – or, sometimes, the failure of them – to cope with. And don’t think you can stick nine men on a tiny boat together for weeks on end without some friction, especially when yacht-dwelling former prison inmate Chris, who doesn’t like being told what to do, is one of the nine.
Bligh’s journal says that day 20 was when the men really started to suffer – will this lot even get that far?
Mutiny premieres on SBS on Monday 10 July at 8:30pm.