Pitcairn Island cruising – January 23, 2011.

 

The Pitcairn Islands, officially named the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, are a group of four islands in the South Pacific Ocean that are the last remaining British overseas territory in the Pacific.  The four islands are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total area of 47 sq. km or 18 sq. miles.  Pitcairn, the second largest and measuring 3.2 km across is inhabited.  The original settlers of the Pitcairn Islands were Polynesians who appear to have lived on Pitcairn and Henderson for several centuries.  Archaeologists believe Polynesians were living on Pitcairn as late as the 15th century.  The islands were uninhabited when they were discovered on July 3, 1767 by the British sloop HMS Swallow.  Pitcairn Island was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a 15 year old crewmember who was the first to sight it. IMGP2541 Stitch

In 1790, the mutineers of HMAV Bounty and their Tahitian companions, some of whom may have been kidnapped from Tahiti, settled on Pitcairn and set fire to the Bounty.  The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay; the ship itself was discovered in 1957 by National Geographic explorer Luis Marden.

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Pitcairn is currently inhabited by 50 people, from four families,  (Christian, Warren, Young and Brown)  making it notable for being the least populated jurisdiction in the world (although it is not a sovereign nation).  The largest population it held was in 1937 with 233 people, but through emigration to New Zealand, the population dwindled to what it is now. It’s a very lonely place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, between South America and Australia.   The island has fertile soil but no streams.  Oranges and bananas and other crops are grown in the subtropical climate.  Fish are plentiful in the seas around Pitcairn.  Almost every day some will go fishing, whether it is from the rocks, from a longboat or diving with a spear gun.  The only village on the island is called Adamstown located on the northern coast, near Bounty Bay. The Pitcairners are involved in creating crafts and curios (made out of wood from Henderson).  Typical wood carvings include sharks, fish, whales, dolphins, turtles walking sticks, book boxes and the famous models of the Bounty.

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Our biggest surprise was finding out that Pitcairn has “Bees” and it’s said the honey produced here is the best in the world.  They have no disease and the honey produced is and remains exceptionally high in quality .  The bees are also found to be a particularly placid variety and within a short time the beekeepers were able to work with the wearing minimal protection.  The honey is exported to New Zealand and United Kingdom under the “Delectable Bounty” label.  It is surprisingly inexpensive to buy from the locals who came onboard.

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Trade is restricted by the Jagged geography of the island which lacks a harbour or airstrip, forcing all trade to be made by longboat to visiting ships.  They did this today, 90% or 40 of them came aboard on 1 longboat and set up 14 tables or more of wood carvings, stamps etc.  We purchased a jar of honey and a wood carving of a turtle.  The people speak with “English accents”, are heavily tattooed with lots of piercings in their ears.  When our ship left we donated several boxes of frozen chicken, beef, vegetables, beer and wine along with ice cream for the 4 children on the island.

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A very lonely existence, I wouldn’t want to live there but the history is very interesting. 

Comments

Pitcairn Island cruising – January 23, 2011. — 3 Comments

  1. Great article!

    I have read lots about the Bounty and Pitcairn in the past and seen the various “Mutiny on the Bounty” movies nice to see the real island in your photographs.

    Some very interesting facts including the fact that it was named after the RN Midshipman who first sighted the Island from HMS Swallow.

    Excellent!

  2. I have enjoyed all of your blogs, but could not figure out how to respond??? Either you posted them all at once, or this was the first comment section available??

    At any rate, I am totally jealous. You are visiting sites that have always been on my hit list. As a scientist and a lover of history, I really resonate with the Galapagos Is. chain. Easter Is. intrigues me too. Keep the blogs coming — they are wonderful. Glad Pat is better and that you are both cooking up a storm.

    • Hi Bill, the comment section closes after a month so the older posts don’t allow them. George Geary joined the ship today, should be a hoot.