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British naval officer, born in Plymouth, England. He sailed under the explorer and navigator James Cook on Cook's second voyage around the world (1772-75). In 1787 Bligh was sent by the British government to Tahiti as commander of the Bounty. His crew mutinied and on April 28, 1789, set him adrift in an open boat with 18 loyal men. By extraordinary seamanship, which entailed sailing 5823 km (3618 mi) and suffering severe hardships, Bligh brought the craft safely to the island of Timor, near Java, on June 14. In 1805 he was appointed governor of New South Wales, Australia, but the colonists were dissatisfied with his harsh rule, and in 1808 the civil and military officers of the colony rebelled and arrested him. Bligh was imprisoned for two years and was sent back to England under arrest. He was, however, exonerated, and the mutineers found guilty at the subsequent inquiry. After Bligh's return to England he was raised to the rank of rear admiral (1811) and then to that of vice admiral (1814).

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