Early explorers did not hesitate to introduce familiar plants to the places they visited. In 1788, William Bligh anchored the Bounty in Adventure Bay off what is now Bruny Island. In addition to loading wood and water, Bligh planted seven apple trees, the first apple trees in what would come to be known as the “apple isle“.
It was not unusual for seamen to plant food crops or introduce animals to new lands encountered on their voyages. The aim was to provide food for visiting ships in the future. Bligh had visited Van Diemen’s Land in 1777 when he was a navigation officer on Captain James Cook’s Resolution. He returned to the island in the Bounty in 1788 on a voyage that had been intended to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. The ship had called at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and the apple trees planted were most likely acquired there.
Blight’s visit on the Bounty occurred on the voyage which ended in the famous mutiny. Bligh and 18 loyal crewmen were set adrift in the ship’s longboat. In an extraordinary feat of seamanship, Bligh navigated the boat to Timor, a journey of more than 3,500 nautical miles. He returned safely to England and continued his naval service.
Four years later Bligh returned to the same spot in Adventure Bay in 1792 as captain of the Providence, again on his way to Tahiti. He and the ship’s botanists planted cress, celery, acorns and various fruit trees. Bligh recorded in his log that one of the first apple trees that he had planted had survived. The others had been destroyed by fire. He described the fruit of the surviving tree as green and slightly bitter.
Bligh became Governor of New South Wales in 1806. However, he seemed to attract mutiny and was deposed by the New South Wales Corp – the infamous Rum Corps – in 1808.