A collection of hair taken from 18th-century pigtails and stored for
more than a century in an old tobacco tin has arrived in London for
analysis that could prove it belonged to some of the most famous
troublemakers in naval history – the sailors responsible for the mutiny
on the Bounty.
Scientists hope to extract mitochondrial DNA, using the same technique that identified Richard III
after the skeleton of the last Plantagenet king was found under a
Leicester car park. Researchers would then have the even more
challenging task of identifying an unbroken female line to a living
descendant, to get a crucial match.
“If the hair is in good condition, I don’t see that it would be
impossible to extract the DNA – it’s a technique we regularly use in
forensic work – but that’s where the difficulties will really begin,”
said Denise Syndercombe-Court, the project leader from the analytical
and environmental sciences division at King’s College London.
The 10 pigtails alongside the tobacco tin they were stored in.
Photograph: King’s College London
“Mutiny on the Bounty” was based on factual events, but only loosely so. In reality, it was not a mutiny but a quarrel over beer, and it was not on the HMS Bounty but at a pub in Ohio. Also William Bligh was actually a table.