Bounty Relics

‘Bounty’ Relics:   The Archaeological Expedition to Survey the Wreck of the Bounty
            19 March 1999                Mini sheet                                      Mint and CTO        $5.00
                                                    (50c, $1.00, $1.50, $2.00)            FDC                       $5.50

Technical Details

    Release Date:                        19 March 1999
    Tablet Values:                       $5.00 mini sheet (50c, $1.00, $1.50, $2.00)
    Designer:                               Clive Abbott, U.K
    Printer:                                  Southern Colour Print, NZ
    Process:                                Offset Lithography
    Paper:                                   CPL Red
    Stamp Size:                           30 x 30mm within 80 x 190 mini sheet
    Perforation Gauge:                14 x 14
    Mint and CTO:                     $5.00
    First Day Cover:                   $5.50

This mini sheet, the largest ever produced by Pitcairn, marks the archaeological survey of the wreck of the Bounty, undertaken by James Cook University of Townsville, Queensland, Australia from 27 October 1998 to 31 January 1999. The stamp issue is also being released to mark the Australia '99 World Stamp Expo, where the Pitcairn Island Philatelic Bureau will be sharing a booth with Norfolk Post.  Our stamp perfectly reflects the Maritime Heritage theme of the exhibition.               To read about the Australia '99 World Stamp Exhibition, CLICK HERE!

The archaeological expedition, led by Nigel Erskine of James Cook University meticulously planned over more than a year, followed JCU’s earlier survey of the wreck of the Pandora on the Great Barrier Reef.  Pandora is closely linked to the Bounty mutiny, being the vessel despatched by the Royal Navy to find and bring the Bounty mutineers to justice.  Several of the mutineers and former crew members of the Bounty lost their lives, trying to escape from the chains which held them in the “Pandora’s Box”, as the ship went down.

The remains of the Bounty, lie in just 3 to 4 metres of water, close to the shores of Bounty Bay.  Much of the vessel was destroyed by the fire in which she was burned to the waterline, but much more has since been lost to opportunists who have pillaged the wreck, until recently.  The JCU expedition has been successful in raising a cannon, perhaps the last remaining there, which was well encrusted and bonded to the sea floor.  The cannon, together with other artefacts recovered during the expedition, is being shipped to James Cook University, where specialist staff of the Museum of Queensland, will undertake the preservation process.  We understand that this could take five years to be completed.  Following preservation, the artefacts will be displayed for 12 months at the Museum of Queensland before being returned to be displayed permanently, in the Pitcairn Island Museum.

Visitors to the island, frequently take the opportunity to dive on the site of the wreck.  Cruise ships, such as the World Discoverer, a frequent visitor to Pitcairn, are equipped to enable groups of their passengers to be led on a dive over the Bounty wreck.

Each of the stamps within the mini sheet, features a relic off the Bounty, known to exist today.  The anchor on the 50c stamp, today rests in The Square on Pitcairn, it having been raised by Capt Irving Johnson of the brigantine ‘Yankee’ in 1957.  The cannon, featured on the $1 stamp, is of the type raised by the JCU expedition.  The Bounty’s chronometer, shown on the $1.50 stamp, is in working order and is displayed in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.  The $2 stamp shows the copper cauldron, known also as McCoy’s kettle, which is today on display in the Norfolk Island Museum.  Each stamp shows a view of the Bounty over the period of her voyage, ending as she sinks below the waters of Bounty Bay, having been burned.  Every year, Pitcairners remember the burning of the Bounty on 23 January, with a public holiday and a ceremony at Bounty Bay when a model of the Bounty is burned in the harbour.

The mini sheet itself shows members of the JCU archaeological team raising the cannon in a cradle against a backdrop of the island.

Relics of the Bounty have found their way all over the world.  The rudder lies in the Fiji Museum while a gudgeon and pintle for it is held by the Otago Museum in New Zealand. The Bounty’s vice and anvil were removed by Irving Johnson in 1937 and are now in the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Virginia.  A large earthenware water jug, until recently in private hands on Pitcairn, has been illegally removed from the island to New Zealand.  Its present whereabouts is uncertain.  Fletcher Christian’s sword is held by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania.  Parts of the Bounty’s copper sheathing and many of the nails which secured the sheathing to the hull, are held by individuals all over the world, despite it having been illegal since 1966 to attempt or conspire to remove any relic of the Bounty from Pitcairn, without the written consent of the Governor.

CLICK HERE to view a photograph taken at the raising of the cannon featured on the mini sheet.