From William Bligh's A Voyage to the South Sea Undertaken by Command of His Majesty for the Purpose of Conveying the Bread-Fruit Tree to the West Indies, in His Majesty's Ship the Bounty, Commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh (1792).

The object of all the former voyages to the South Seas, undertaken by the command of his present majesty, has been the advancement of science, and the increase of knowledge. This voyage may be reckoned the first, the intention of which has been to derive benefit from those distant discoveries. For the more fully comprehending the nature and plan of the expedition, and that the reader may be possessed of every information necessary for entering on the following sheets, I shall here lay before him a copy of the instructions I received from the admiralty, and likewise a short description of the bread-fruit.

By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral
of Great Britain and Ireland, &c.

WHEREAS the king, upon a representation from the merchants and planters interested in his majesty's West India possessions that the introduction of the bread-fruit tree into the islands of those seas, to constitute an article of food, would be of very essential benefit to the inhabitants, hath, in order to promote the interests of so respectable a body of his subjects (especially in an instance which promises general advantage) thought fit that measures should be taken for the procuring some of those trees, and conveying them to the said West India islands: And whereas the vessel under your command hath, in consequence thereof, been stored and victualled for that service, and fitted with proper conveniences and necessaries for the preservation of as many of the said trees as, from her size, can be taken on board her; and you have been directed to receive on board her the two gardeners named in the margin [David Nelson, William Brown.], who, from their knowledge of trees and plants, have been hired for the purpose of selecting such as shall appear to be of a proper species and size:

You are, therefore, in pursuance of his majesty's pleasure, signified to us by Lord Sydney, one of his principal secretaries of state, hereby required and directed to put to sea in the vessel you command, the first favourable opportunity of wind and weather, and proceed with her, as expeditiously as possible, round Cape Horn, to the Society Islands, situate in the Southern ocean, in the latitude of about eighteen degrees South, and longitude of about two hundred and ten degrees East from Greenwich, where, according to the accounts given by the late Capt. Cook, and persons who accompanied him during his voyages, the bread-fruit tree is to be found in the most luxuriant state.

Having arrived at the above-mentioned islands, and taken on board as many trees and plants as may be thought necessary (the better to enable you to do which, you have already been furnished with such articles of merchandize and trinkets as it is supposed will be wanted to satisfy the natives) you are to proceed from thence through Endeavour Streights (which separate New Holland from New Guinea) to Prince's Island, in the Streights of Sunda, or, if it should happen to be more convenient, to pass on the eastern side of Java to some port on the north side of that island, where any breadfruit trees which may have been injured, or have died, may be replaced by mangos teens, duriens, jacks, nancas, lansas, and other fine fruit trees of that quarter, as well as the rice plant which grows upon dry land; all of which species (or such of them as shall be judged most eligible) you are to purchase on the best terms you can from the inhabitants of that island, with the ducats with which you have also been furnished for that purpose; taking care, however, if the rice plants above-mentioned cannot be procured at Java, to touch at Prince's Island for them, where they are regularly cultivated.

From Prince's Island, or the Island of Java, you are to proceed round the Cape of Good Hope to the West Indies (calling on your way thither at any places which may be thought necessary) and deposit one half of such of the above-mentioned trees and plants as may be then alive at his majesty's botanical garden at St. Vincent, for the benefit of the Windward Islands, and then go on to Jamaica: and, having delivered the remainder to Mr. East, or such person or persons as may be authorized by the governor and council of that island to receive them; refreshed your people, and received on board such provisions and stores as may be necessary for the voyage, make the best of your way back to England; repairing to Spithead, and sending to our secretary an account of your arrival and proceedings.

And whereas you will receive herewith a copy of the instructions which have been given to the above-mentioned gardeners for their guidance, as well in procuring the said trees and plants, and the management of them after they shall be put on board, as for bringing to England a small sample of each species, and such others as may be prepared by the superintendant of the botanical garden at St. Vincent's, and by the said Mr. East, or others, for his majesty's garden at Kew; you are hereby required and directed to afford, and to give directions to your officers and company to afford, the said gardeners every possible aid and assistance, not only in the collecting of the said trees and plants at the places before-mentioned, but for their preservation during their conveyance to the places of their destination.

Given under our hands the 20th November 1787.



To Lieut. Wm Bligh, commanding
his majesty's armed vessel the
Bounty, at Spithead.

By command of their Lordships,

In the foregoing orders it is to be observed, that I was particularly directed to proceed round Cape Horn; but, as the season was so far advanced, and we were so long detained by contrary winds, I made application to the Admiralty for discretional orders on that point; to which I received the following answer:


By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral
of Great Britain and Ireland, &c. &c.


THE season of the year being now so far advanced as to render it probable, that your arrival, with the vessel you command, on the southern coast of America, will be too late for your passing round Cape Horn without much difficulty and hazard; you are, in that case, at liberty (notwithstanding former orders) to proceed in her to Otaheite, round the Cape of Good Hope.

Given under our hands the 18th December 1787.

To Lieut. Wm Bligh, commanding
his majesty's armed vessel
Bounty, Spithead.


By command of their Lordships,

THE BREAD-FRUIT is so well known and described, that to attempt a new account of it would be unnecessary and useless. However, as it may contribute to the convenience of the reader, I have given the following extracts respecting it, with the plate annexed.

Breadfruit sections

Extract from the account of Dampier's Voyage round the world, performed in 1688.

THE bread-fruit (as we call it) grows on a large tree, as big and high as our largest apple-trees: It hath a spreading head, full of branches and dark leaves. The fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a penny-loaf when wheat is at five shillings the bushel; it is of a round shape, and hath a thick tough rind. When the fruit is ripe, it is yellow and soft, and the taste is sweet and pleasant. The natives of Guam use it for bread. They gather it, when full-grown, while it is green and hard; then they bake it in an oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black; but they scrape off the outside black crust, and there remains a tender thin crust; and the inside is soft, tender, and white like the crumb of a penny-loaf. There is neither seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure substance, like bread. It must be eaten new; for, if it is kept above twenty-four hours, it grows harsh and choaky; but it is very pleasant before it is too stale. This fruit lasts in season eight months in the year, during which the natives eat no other sort of food of bread kind. I did never see of this fruit any where but here. The natives told us, that there is plenty of this fruit growing on the rest of the Ladrone islands: and I did never hear of it any where else.

Extract from the account of Lord Anson's Voyage,
published by Mr. Walter.

THERE was, at Tinian, a kind of fruit, peculiar to these (Ladrone) is lands, called by the Indians rhymay, but by us the bread-fruit; for it was constantly eaten by us, during our stay upon the island,':- instead of bread; and so universally preferred, that no ship's bread was expended in that whole interval. It grew upon a tree which is somewhat lofty, and which towards the top divides into large and spreading branches. The leaves of this tree are of a remarkable deep green, are notched about the edges, and are generally from a foot to eighteen inches in length. The fruit itself is found indifferently on all parts of the branches; it is, in shape, rather elliptical than round; it is covered with a tough rind, and is usually seven or eight inches long; each of them grows singly, and not in clusters. This fruit is fittest to be used when it is full-grown, but still green; in which state, after it is properly prepared by being roasted in the embers, its taste has some distant resemblance to that of an artichoke's bottom, and its texture is not very different, for it is soft and spungy.

Extracts from the account of the first Voyage of Captain Cook.
Hawkesworth, Vol. II.


THE bread-fruit grows on a tree that is about the size of a middling oak; its leaves are frequently a foot and a half long, of an oblong shape, deeply sinuated like those of the fig-tree, which they resemble in consistence and colour, and in the exuding of a white milky juice upon being broken. The fruit is about the size and shape of a child's head, and the surface is reticulated not much unlike a truffle: it is covered with a thin skin, and has a core about as big as the handle of a small knife. The eatable part lies between the skin and the core; it is as white as snow, and somewhat of the consistence of new bread: it must be roasted before it is eaten, being first divided into three or four parts. Its taste is insipid, with a slight sweetness somewhat resembling that of the crumb of wheaten bread mixed with a Jerusalem artichoke.

OF the many vegetables that have been mentioned already as serving them for food, the principal is the bread-fruit, to procure which costs them no trouble or labour but climbing a tree. The tree which produces it does not indeed shoot up spontaneously; but, if a man plants ten of them in his life-time, which he may do in about an hour, he will as completely fulfil his duty to his own and future generations as the native of our less temperate climate can do by ploughing in the cold winter, and reaping in the summer's heat, as often as these seasons return; even if, after he has procured bread for his present household, he should convert a surplus into money, and lay it up for his children.

It is true, indeed, that the bread-fruit is not always in season; but cocoa-nuts, bananas, plantains, and a great variety of other fruits, supply the deficiency.

Extract from the account of Captain Cook's last Voyage.


I (Captain Cook) have inquired very carefully into their manner of cultivating the bread-fruit tree at Otaheite; but was always answered, that they never planted it. This, indeed, must be evident to everyone who will examine the places where the young trees come up. It will be always observed, that they spring from the roots of the old ones, which run along near the surface of the ground. So that the bread fruit trees may be reckoned those that would naturally cover the plains, even supposing that the island was not inhabited; in the same manner that the white-barked trees, found at Van Diemen's Land, constitute the forests there. And from this we may observe, that the inhabitant of Otaheite, instead of being obliged to plant his bread, will rather be under the necessity of preventing its progress; which, I suppose, is sometimes done, to give room for trees of another sort, to afford him some variety in his food.


THE bread-fruit trees are planted, and flourish with great luxuriance, on rising grounds.-Where the hills rise almost perpendicularly in a great variety of peaked forms, their steep sides and the deep chasms between them are covered with trees, amongst which those of the bread-fruit were observed particularly to abound. Vol. III. p. 105 and 114, containing Captain King's Narrative.

THE climate of the Sandwich Islands differs very little from that of the West India Islands, which lie in the same latitude. Upon the whole, perhaps, it may be rather more temperate.

THE bread-fruit trees thrive in these islands, not in such abundance, but produce double the quantity of fruit they do on the rich plains of Otaheite. The trees are nearly of the same height, but the branches begin to strike out from the trunk much lower, and with greater luxuriance. 

The natives reckon eight kinds of the bread-fruit tree, each of which they distinguish by a different name. 1. Patteah. 2. Eroroo. 3. Awanna. 4. Mi-re. 5. Oree. 6. Powerro. 7. Appeere. 8. Rowdeeah. In the first, fourth, and eighth class, the leaf differs from the rest; the fourth is more sinuated; the eighth has a large broad leaf, not at all sinuated. The difference of the fruit is principally in the first and eighth class. In the first, the fruit is rather larger and more of an oblong form: in the eighth, it is round and not above half the size of the others. I enquired if plants could be produced from the seed, and was told they could not, but that they must be taken from the root. The plants are best collected after wet weather, at which time the earth balls round the roots, and they are not liable to suffer by being moved.