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Anna Bligh’s link to one of Australia’s 50 greatest explorers

By: Jessica Watson, Category: At The Museum, Date: 25 Nov 2015

Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh dropped in to see a relic of William Bligh's ill-fated ship

Kim McKay and Anna Bligh

Kim McKay and Anna Bligh
Photographer: Tim Levy  © Australian Museum

When Australian Museum’s Executive Director & CEO Kim McKay discovered a single rusty nail at an auction she knew she had to have the small object that played a role in one of Australia’s most famous seafaring misadventures. The nail originates from the HMS Bounty, the ship commanded by William Bligh before his crew famously mutinied and commandeered the ship.

The crew set Bligh adrift with 18 of his supporters in a tiny open boat and Bligh navigated 5,700 treacherous kilometres to Timor with very limited navigational equipment, food and water.

The Bounty, skippered by the mutineers' notorious leader Fletcher Christian, went on to sail through the Pacific before taking the crew to Pitcairn Island where it was burnt to avoid detection.

Years later the ruins were discovered and the nail found its way to a National Geographic charity auction where Kim bought it.

Kim describes Bligh as an "amazing man, a survivor above all else," although she adds that "people skills were not his strong point," referring to his notorious ill temperament.

Few people realise that former Queensland premier Anna Bligh is a descendant of the legendary seafarer, who also went on to become governor of New South Wales. Ms Bligh visited the AM yesterday and had the opportunity to delve into her family history and see the rare and valuable remnant.

The achievements of William Bligh, and the Bounty nail, will be featured in Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 greatest explorers, opening on Saturday 28 November.