SYDNEY — FOR the sake of accuracy let's call this a story about a Mutiny on the Bounty. It is not about the five movies, the countless books, or even the real event that took place in 1789. It is about money and a replica of the ship made for the 1984 Dino de Laurentis movie version of the story. For the past four years, the Bounty has sailed Sydney harbor with locals and tourists paying up to A$50 (US$38) for a cruise. Now, Ken Rosebery, executive director and an owner, says the 38 partners who own the Bounty are putting it up for auction.
On June 20, on the deck of the Bounty itself, an auctioneer will start asking for bids for the vessel. The replica was built in New Zealand at a cost of A$5 million. Robert Owen, one of the owners, says it could bring from A$500,000 to A$3 million.
Some Australians are aghast at the thought of losing the ship. ``We face the risk of losing the Bounty for Sydney harbor,'' says Peter Collins, the New South Wales minister for the arts. At a press conference on May 28, Mr. Collins gave his blessing to a group of Sydneysiders who are raising A$2.5 million to buy it.
Mr. Owen has formed a cooperative which is trying to get 2,000 Australians to pay A$1,250 each. In return the investors will share the profits - the ship made A$250,000 last year.
What the buyer gets is a fairly exact replica of a piece of South Pacific history. On Dec. 23, 1787, the 133-foot Bounty left England for Tahiti to transport breadfruit trees to the Caribbean. After an arduous voyage, the Bounty reached the island paradise and sat at anchor for six months. On April 28, 1789, the first mate, Fletcher Christian, led a mutiny. The mutineers cast Capt. William Bligh and 18 other men adrift in the long boat. In a feat of seamanship, Captain Bligh piloted the boat 2,160 miles to safety.
The Bounty story has captured the imagination of Hollywood. A 1933 movie version starred Errol Flynn, who was born in Tasmania. The 1984 version starred Mel Gibson, another Australian. The movies are one of the few concrete ties Australia has to the ship which never landed on the island continent.
Bligh, however, did end up in Australia as governor general and was successful at putting down a minor rebellion.