Bounty Day is celebrated on June 8 by the people of Norfolk Island. The day commemorates the anniversary of the mutiny and arrival of their ancestors from the island of Pitcairn on their ship Morayshire. On June 8, 1856, the Morayshire arrived in Norfolk. This day thus became known as Bounty Day or ‘Anniversary Day’ and the people of Norfolk Island celebrate it every year as a part of their colorful history with a re-enactment of the mutiny along with wreathe-laying, parades, singing of hymns, and a picnic with traditional food.
History of Bounty Day
Bounty Day is observed on June 8 by the people of Norfolk Island. The day celebrates the arrival of the original Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk Island. The Pitcairners are descendants of the English sailors and the Tahitian women who began a new life on Pitcairn Island under the leadership of Fletcher Christian. In 1856, Queen Victoria gave Norfolk Island to the expanding Pitcairn community.
Pitcairn Island, the original island of the Islanders of Norfolk, has a fascinating story. In 1787, Lieutenant William Bligh set sail in the HMS Bounty to Tahiti to gather breadfruit plants for Caribbean slave colonies. A lot of disputes took place during the journey. Finally, Fletcher Christian and some of the crewmembers staged a mutiny. This very mutiny is re-enacted by the people of Norfolk on Bounty Day. The mutineers captured the Bounty and set Lieutenant Bligh and his followers adrift to reach the Dutch East Indies, north of Australia.
The mutineers eventually found the island of Pitcairn by 1790 and they were welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, who were settled there. By the 1850s, their population had grown significantly and they needed a larger place to settle. Finally, when the people of Pitcairn asked the British Government for a larger home, Queen Victoria gave them Norfolk Island. And by the time they resettled there, the Pitcairners had already formed their own culture and language, both of which are still alive to this day.
On Bounty Day, the descendants of the original Norfolk settlers stage a re-enactment of the mutiny along with a parade, and they lay wreaths on the graves of the dead and more.
Bounty Day timeline
Lieutenant William Bligh and his men reach Timor, in the Dutch East Indies, on June 14 following a 3,600-mile voyage after the mutineers had set them adrift.
The military deposes Lieutenant William Bligh and puts him under house arrest for his stifling of the colony’s rum traffic, thus overthrowing the government.
The Pitcairn Islands, along with three nearby (uninhabited) islands, are incorporated into the British Empire.
Marie Bailey, a Norfolk Island elder, makes the significant move to transform the Bounty Day celebration from a minor parade into a mass re-enactment complete with costumes and historical characters.
Bounty Day FAQs
Who owns Norfolk Island?
Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia.
Did the HMS Bounty sink?
Yes, the HMS Bounty, a half-century-old 180-foot long wooden sailing ship, sank in Hurricane Sandy roughly 100 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
What happened to Captain Bligh?
After the mutineers set Lt. Bligh and his followers adrift in a launch, they made a voyage to Timor, in the Dutch East Indies, a massive 3,618 nautical miles (4,164 miles) away. However, it led the military to depose him in 1808 and put him under house arrest.
How To Celebrate Bounty Day
Pay a visit to Norfolk Island
The Norfolk Island people welcome visitors to see their Bounty Day celebrations. Visit Norfolk on Bounty Day to be a part of a celebration that will be etched in your memory forever.
Have a Bounty Day meal
On Bounty Day, have some Bounty Day food. This includes garlic prawns, chicken with stuffing, roasted pork, tasty pie, beetroot, and salad.
Watch a documentary
There are many documentaries and videos about this significant day in Australian history. One such movie is “The Mutiny” (1984), which showcases the mutiny featuring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson.
5 Facts About Bounty Day That Will Blow Your Mind
Origin of surnames
The surnames Quintal, Christian, McCoy, Adams, and Young are all of mutineer origin, along with the English surnames Buffett, Nobbs, and Evans.
The original descendants
An estimated one-third of Norfolk’s residents are descendants of the settlers who arrived there on their ship Morayshire in June 1856.
The Bounty wreck
US photographer and explorer Luis Marden discovered the wreck of the HMS Bounty in 1957.
The 47-day survivor
Captain Bligh survived 47 days after he was cast adrift on the way to Timor and later became the Governor of New South Wales.
One of the Bounty’s 46-man crew was a fictional crew member known as the ‘widow’s man’ whose salary was added to the fund and would go to the families of dead sailors.
Why Bounty Day is Important
It celebrates ancestry
Bounty Day is a celebration of ancestry for the people of Norfolk. It helps the people of Norfolk make sense of who they are, where they came from, and how they arrived at Norfolk Island.
It commemorates the Pitcairners’ settlement
Bounty Day commemorates the Pitcairners’ settlement on Norfolk Island. Marching is a strong display of a community that is descendent from the original Pitcairn settlers and only the descendants, or those married to descendants, are encouraged to march.
It acknowledges ties
Bounty Day acknowledges the importance of the historical ties and the shared cultural heritage between the U.K. and Norfolk for centuries to come.
Bounty Day dates