Replica brings drama of infamous Bounty mutiny into living history

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Twenty-nine students from Canadian International School acted out the historical standoff between captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian on a replica of Royal Navy trade ship The Bounty as part of a programme on 18th century European commerce.

Conceived by history teacher Bruce MacNamara, the re-enactment of the notorious mutiny aboard the replica of the 42-metre ship at Discovery Bay aimed to teach students about maritime history in a fun and interactive way.

Bought by Hong Kong Resort International, the three-masted vessel was built for the movie The Bounty (1984), starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins.

The replica sailed into Hong Kong in November 2007 and has since been open to public viewing.

The mutiny, with captain William Bligh sent off the ship by his crew, has inspired countless books and films.

Mr MacNamara said he saw the mooring of The Bounty at Discovery Bay as a wonderful educational opportunity.

'I first learned that the ship was moored in Hong Kong on a permanent basis about a year ago,' he said. 'I then contacted the company that owned the ship, which finally allowed us to visit the ship and act out the mutiny on board at no charge.'

It costs HK$25,000 to HK$35,000 to charter the ship for a cruise for a minimum of two hours.

Students were asked to do extensive research on the mutiny and modern maritime European history and present their findings. Four students got the chance to act out the five-minute play portraying the heated confrontation between Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian in the mutiny.

A group of communication students filmed the play, which will be used as teaching material for later classes.

Mr MacNamara said he hoped the lively drama would stimulate students' interest in maritime history. 'Instead of solely learning European trade in the classroom, they could stand on the ship and know what it actually felt like to be a sailor.'

Kelly Cho Wing-kie, 17, said her research helped her to understand what happened on board The Bounty in the lead-up to the mutiny.

'My presentation was about what led the relationship between the crew and captain to deteriorate so badly before the mutiny,' she said.

'The films often portray the captain in a negative light. Instead of being a tyrant who treated his crew poorly, he was actually a fair person with only a bad temper. The negative portrayals of him only made for better film plots. They're actually not accurate, from what I found in my research.'

Jonas Fung, 18, who was one of two students playing Fletcher Christian in the play, said learning aboard a ship was much more interesting than being in a classroom.

'The presentations on the ship covered a lot of topics like maritime history, navigation knowledge and the difference between the mechanical structures of modern and old ships,' he said.