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Captain William Bligh visits Santa Cruz de Tenerife in command of HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty, a recreation of the famous ship for the 1962 film, Mutiny on the Bounty.
Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

She remained in the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife between January 4 and 10, 1788, repairing damage sustained in a storm shortly after leaving England.

At 17 William Bligh (1754-1817), entered the British Royal Navy and six years later, was chosen by the famous sailor James Cook as a lieutenant of the H.M.S. Resolution, to accompany him on his third voyage of exploration through the Pacific Ocean (1776), visiting the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the first time.

Appointed commander of the 215-ton, 27-meter-long, 44-man frigate HMS Bounty, he set sail from Spithead, England, on December 23, 1787, sent by the Royal Society of London to look for plant shoots of the so-called “breadfruit”, which grew in abundance in Tahiti, to transplant them in their colonies in the Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea, and obtain a nutritious and cheap food for the maintenance of the slaves.

They remained in the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, from January 4 to 10, 1788, while repairing the damage suffered in a storm a few days after leaving England, and in the process, obtaining water and fruit, taking several funnels of stone (stones to distil water). It was later on this voyage, on the morning of April 28, near the island of Tonga, that nine crew members, led by Petty Officer Fletcher Christian, mutinied and seized the ship. 

Captain Bligh and eighteen men he trusted were abandoned to their fate.

From his logbook, we extract:

"At 9:30 a.m. on January 4, 1788, after rounding a chain of rocky, barren and very high mountains, we anchored in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife roadstead. There was a Spanish packet boat en route to A Coruña, a American brigantine and several other vessels. At noon we approach a magnificent wharf where people can disembark without difficulty, if the sea is not too rough, and where there is a pipe for carrying water for the service of the boats and ships, which all merchants pay.

I sent Officer Christiam ashore to notify the Governor that we had docked to refuel and repair damage, to which he gave a very kind reply, saying that they would supply us with everything on the island. On behalf of his Excellency, the captain of the port and other Spanish officers came to greet me, in whose launch I went ashore to compliment the authorities.

The city of Santa Cruz is about a kilometre long each way, built on a regular basis, and the houses are generally large and airy, but the streets are very poorly paved. I have been informed that the number of inhabitants of the island is estimated to be between eighty and one hundred thousand and that they are subject to some diseases, but that the epidemic attacks of distemper are the ones that bring the most fatal consequences, especially those of smallpox, which are now treated counteract by inoculation. For this reason they are very perspicacious in admitting only ships that have a sanitary certificate; Indeed, the sloop The Chance, from London, under the command of Captain William Meridith, which entered port a day before we left, no person was permitted to go ashore unless, and I would attest that the epidemic that was raging in England no longer existed at the time this came out; Thanks to this, they received the supplies they needed and were not forced to quarantine. The Governor also granted permission to the expedition's botanist, David Nelson, to go on an excursion and plant herbs in all the mountains near the city.

On Monday we began the provisioning of the ship, in charge of the consignee Collogan and Sons. Due to the bad conditions of the prevailing swell, the transfer of the water in the barges was stipulated at 5 shillings per ton of cargo transported to the ship. The excellent wine, at £10 a pipe, and a higher class at £15, rivals the best Madeira sold in London. We stockpiled 865 gallons of wine, and the invoices have been forwarded to Sir Joseph Banks for inclusion in the Royal Society's accounts. Its annual exports of wine are twenty thousand pipes. Ships frequent the island to carry a large quantity of wine from Tenerife to different parts of the West Indies.

For the other products we needed: corn, potatoes, pumpkins, and onions, the season was not right, so we could only get a few low-quality dried figs and oranges, paid twice as much as in the summer season; For this reason, in times of scarcity, Tenerife receives supplies from other islands, since the production of cereals is not enough for its needs. Fortunately, we found enough lemons which will help us to avoid scurvy in the crew.

We had a hard time getting medium quality beef at 6p a pound. Poultry is also scarce, so much so that getting a good chicken is equivalent to shelling out 3 shillings.

I had the honor that his Excellency showed me the asylum, they call it Hospice, built on a large area of ​​land, with room for 120 girls and as many poor boys who seemed to have a happy countenance.

In a spacious room, young women and girls, in decent and neat clothing, admirably arranged their spinning wheels and looms. A governess inspected and coordinated all the work of making coloured silk ribbons and outerwear made of linen, even the dyeing of her own garments was done by them. Men and boys were engaged in the most laborious jobs, such as laundering garments made from common wool; They also have the visit of an inspector who helps them in the same way that the governess does with the girls.

The Governor visits them every day while a cleric attends them at night. In the case of getting sick, they received all kinds of help and care until the rest of their days. According to the statutes, the length of stay of the fostered women was limited to a stay of five years, after which they could marry or become independent exercising the trade learned.

Thanks to this human institution, a good number of people become useful and industrious in a country where the poor, by the indulgence of the climate, are too apt to prefer a life of inactivity. I have to emphasize that the raw material was donated by the merchants of Santa Cruz, and with the alms and donations the food expenses were covered. Still, the institution represented a highly laudable effort.

Having finished our business in Tenerife, on Thursday the 10th, with our ship in good health and with spirits on board, we set sail with the southeast wind."

La estancia en Santa Cruz de William Bligh, al mando de la ‘HMS Bounty’

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