This Travel Book About an Infamous Mutiny Comes Recommended by Tom Hanks

In 1789, the crew of the 'Bounty' ship overthrew their captain and sailed to a small uninhabited island in the South Pacific — this book tells the story of what happened once they got there.

The cover of The Far Land book by Brandon Presser

Courtesy of Brandon Presser

The fascinating story of the Bounty mutineers, who, in 1789, overthrew their captain on their way from Tahiti to Jamaica, and sailed to a small uninhabited island in the South Pacific with a group of Tahitian men and women, has captivated the minds of curious travelers for more than two centuries. After living in isolation for 18 years on the island of Pitcairn, the group was discovered by an American whaling ship. These castaways' unlikely story of defiance and survival would go on to inspire countless books, movies, candy bars (your favorite coconut Bounty bar, that is), and even a Simpsons spoof.

But a new book by travel writer Brandon Presser, the "Far Land," sheds light, for the first time, on what exactly happened on Pitcairn after Christian Fletcher, the leader of the mutineers, and his fellow crewmen decided to make "an impregnable battlement of granite and red rock with a carpet of lush green undergrowth," as the "Far Land" describes it, their home. The narrative, based on extensive historical research, paints a vivid picture of "tribalism, trauma, psychopathy, paranoia, and survival in the bleakest of conditions," according to Presser.

The author took a special interest in documenting the largely untold story of the Tahitian women on Pitcairn, some of whom were not there by choice but were kidnapped to fulfill Fletcher's desire for the "right ratio of women — a dozen — to finally satisfy his brood," Presser said.

"A lot of people have framed the story on Pitcairn like 'the white men trying to make it into the wilderness,' but what I didn't fully appreciate until I was deep in the research was how crucial the women are to the story," he continued. "And it's so typical in history to marginalize these women of color, who are equally as important as the British men. They are extremely intelligent, cunning, capable, complex women who have just been completely infantilized as beautiful Tahitian women and nothing more."

In the book, Presser juxtaposes the mutineers' story from two centuries ago with his experience visiting the remote island where about 40 of their descendants still live. In 2018, he took three flights and sailed for two days aboard a rusty freighter to reach the British overseas territory, while on assignment for Travel + Leisure. However, he discovered more than just a classic travel story — namely, the bitter conflict between two families and their dark past — and set off to chronicle what happened after the infamous mutiny.

His research took him to Australia, where most of the logs and data from the Bounty are now kept. He spent a week "buried in the basement" of the State Library of New South Wales going through documents, newspaper clippings, and books, and interviewed dozens of the mutineers' descendants, some of whom no longer live on Pitcairn.

The result is a meticulously researched page turner that marries adventure stories with crime cliffhangers (and just won best travel book in SATW Foundation's Lowell Thomas travel journalism competition). Travelers will especially enjoy the colorful descriptions of Tahiti's culture and customs. Presser's eloquent writing and masterful storytelling will capture you from the very first sentence until the last. Or, as actor Tom Hanks recently raved on Instagram, it's "like a bowl of pudding in the refrigerator, one that calls for a stolen spoonful every 20 minutes or so."

You can purchase the "Far Land" on Amazon or via Public Affairs Books.

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