The mutiny on the Bounty is one of the greatest sea stories. The adventures, misadventure, rebellion and retribution west of Tahiti in 1798 has been made much of in history books, novels and films.
The story still lives in the bloodlines of two Pacific island groups in particular — remote Pitcairn and, far to the west, Norfolk.
But it's also a story taken into the heart of Whangārei folk in the 1970s when a replica of the Bounty was built at Port Rd company WECO (Whangārei Engineering Company). It was made for a two-film remake of the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, to be directed by David Lean.
Tomorrow marks 40 years since it was launched to much fanfare down WECO's slipway. She would wait two months for the fitting of her sails and sea trials before voyaging the world's oceans as a fully working movie set.
The launch, December 16, 1978
People started arriving at 8am and by 10am there were thousands of spectators lining the Hatea River banks, and a fleet of boats in the stream.
After the speeches the star of the show was unhitched and headed down the slipway — she wasn't stopping for anything.
In true maritime tradition the Bounty was launched stern first. The bottle of champagne Prime Minister Rob Muldoon's wife Thea loosed at the bow was left swinging in the air, so rapidly did the ship take off.
The waves from her bulk hitting the water knocked spectators over.
With the Northern Advocate an afternoon paper at the time, its full front page was devoted to the event, with two more pages inside chock-full of photos.
Extracts from the front page story include: ''Speeches in quick succession gave no time for people to become restless.''
''The waves made by the bluff little vessel in the narrow launching bay swept in among the feet of spectators crowding the bank. Some were bowled but Bounty continued smoothly to float with perfect trim to a background of spectator craft.
''Fresh breezes left little time to waste as small harbour tugs got lines aboard and towed her clear.
''The tracery of her archaic rig and the glistening hull made it a never to be forgotten scene.''
Sitting on a grassed area overlooking the industrial Port Rd yards and slip on that warm mid-December day in 1978, maritime writer Bill Matravers wrote: ''The Bounty was a delightful anachronism in that dieselised, steel and concrete setting.''
The original HMS Bounty began life as a collier working out of Whitby before it was bought by the British Navy and refitted as an ocean-going botany expeditionary ship. Captain Cook's Endeavour was also a former collier from Whitby.
The Bounty replica is 40.5 metres (133 ft) in length overall, with a beam of 8.5 metres (28 ft) and a draught of 3.8 metres (12 ft). To reflect an international legacy, materials were sourced from across the British Commonwealth.
In his speech, Prime Minister Muldoon said the building of the Bounty was proof of New Zealand's shipbuilding ability and potential.
Bruce Lovie, WECO's manager, said it was the most prestigious project undertaken by the company.
Eddie Fowlie, from film company Dino de Laurentiis Corporation, praised the ship's builders, its quality and the commission itself.
He said WECO wasn't chosen because it was it the cheapest — it was about fifth from the bottom price — but ''because of the history of labour relations . . . as important as the cost''.
Fowlie talked it up like a Hollywood script: ''We want to lean her as far as she'll go. We want to break waves over the top of her. We'll be doing everything we can to try and sink her.''
He predicted the Bounty would be in the movies all her life. Although the company had commissioned the ship for two planned movies by David Lean, neither was ever made.
The Bounty stayed tied up at a berth near Los Angeles until 1984 when Kiwi film director Roger Donaldson made The Bounty. The theatrical, plucky little Whangārei ship that could, finally did become a movie star.
For many years, she played old-world sailing ships, took part in tall ship regattas including the Australian First Fleet commemorations, and plied the tourist market at Darling Harbour in Sydney and in the Pacific.
The Bounty is now a tourist attraction, charter, excursion and sail training ship in Discovery Bay, Hong Kong.
The Bounty had gone to the Pacific in 1789, under the command of William Bligh, to collect breadfruit plants.
Tahiti, where the cargo was loaded, was a beguiling paradise and three weeks after leaving there the Bounty crew mutinied. Bligh was a strict but not unfair commander; however, it was the Tahitian women and warmth the men wanted.
Led by Fletcher Christian, they seized the ship on April 28 and cast Bligh and 18 officers adrift in small boat.
Remarkably, over nearly 47 days in the small boat, with no compass or map, they reached a Dutch colony in Timor and in March 1790 received a hero's welcome back in England.
The Royal Navy dispatched the frigate HMS Pandora to Tahiti in March 1791, where it captured some of the mutineers.
Sixteen had stayed in Tahiti while Christian, the remaining crew, eight Tahitian men and 12 Tahitian women sought a safe haven from the British navy on unpopulated, uncharted Pitcairn Island.
In 1808, an American sealing ship called at Pitcairn and found among the people living there Alexander Smith (aka John Adams), the last surviving member of the original mutineers.
Pitcairn had been no paradise. Before long the Tahitian men fought the mutineers, killing all but four of them. One of those survivors fell off a cliff to his death, another was killed by the two remaining mutineers and one died of natural causes, leaving only Smith.
The mutineers had left a burgeoning legacy on Pitcairn, however: an island bursting with their descendants, who were a mix of British sailors and Tahitian.
But nearly 70 years after the mutiny, the tiny island was unable to support them all. In 1855, the Pitcairn elders wrote to Queen Victoria begging for help, and she offered them Norfolk Island.
In May 1856, nearly the entire Pitcairn community of 194 people sailed for Norfolk, and the children of the mutiny began a new life in another part of the Pacific.