As you sail towards Pitcairn, you approach one of the remotest of the world’s inhabited islands, lying halfway between New Zealand and the Americas. Four thousand eight hundred kilometres of open ocean separate you from them; a few archipelagos lie to the north; and the southern seas are empty to the ice caps of Antarctica.
We do not know who first settled this small volcanic island about 9.6 km. round and 4 km. at its greatest length. But settlers there were, for early visitors from Europe found many relics of Polynesian civilization, probably from Mangareva some 490 km. to the north-west. There were roughly hewn stone gods still guarding sacred sites; carved in the cliff faces were representations of animals and men; burial sites yielding human skeletons; and there were earth ovens, stone adzes, gouges and other artifacts of Polynesian workmanship.
The tale of the mutiny of His Majesty’s armed ship Bounty, which led to the founding of the Pitcairn community, is well known. From Tahiti with a cargo of breadfruit trees for planting in the West Indies, the master’s mate, Fletcher Christian, and others of the crew mutinied. Casting adrift the Commander, Lieutenant William Bligh, and eighteen loyal officers in the ship’s boat, the mutineers sailed the Bounty back to Tahiti, then to Tubuai in the Austral Group.
There, relations with the inhabitants soon deteriorated and, spurred by the fear of discovery and arrest, eight of the mutineers set sail with Christian in search of an uninhabited island, secure from the outside world. To help them the men took with them six Tahitian men and, to look after them and be their consorts, twelve Tahitian women. The mutineers reached Pitcairn Island on 15 January 1790. The island was lonely and inaccessible, uninhabited, fertile and warm.
The Bounty was anchored in what is now called Bounty Bay and stripped of all her contents, including pigs, chickens, yams and sweet potatoes, which were laboriously hauled up the aptly named Hill of Difficulty to the Edge, a small, grassy platform over-looking the Bay. Then, fearing that if any European vessel sighted the ship retribution would inevitably follow, the mutineers ran the Bounty ashore and set her on fire so that no trace of her, or clue to their whereabouts, would remain visible from the sea.
On arrival the mutineers made themselves rough leaf-shelters where the village of Adamstown now stands, but the tiny community did not settle down without friction and, indeed, murder. The Tahitians were treated more as slaves than as fellow human beings and their revolt led to the slaying of some of the mutineers and, finally, to their own deaths. By 1794 only Young, Adams, Quintal and McCoy remained of the male settlers, leading households of ten women and children.
The next four to five years were peaceful except for occasional outbreaks by the women, including an abortive attempt by some to leave the island. As Young recorded in his journal: “building their houses, fencing in and cultivating their grounds and catching birds and constructing pits for the purpose of entrapping hogs, which had become very numerous and wild, as well as injurious to the yam crops”, kept the settlers busy. Gradually the men and women grew reconciled to their lives and to each other, and all might have remained harmonious had not McCoy, who had once worked in a distillery, discovered how to brew a potent spirit from the roots of the ti plant. By 1799, Quintal had been killed by Young and Adams in self defence and McCoy had drowned himself. Then, in 1800, Young died of asthma, leaving John Adams as the sole male survivor of the party that had landed just ten years before.
The American trading ship Topaz under the command of Mayhew Folger was the first to visit the island and communicate with them when they spent 10 hours at Pitcairn in February 1808. A report of Folger’s find was forwarded to The Admiralty mentioning the mutineers and a more precise location of the island—latitude 25° 2′ S and 130° longitude/,—however this rediscovery was not known to Sir Thomas Staines who commanded a Royal Navy flotilla of two ships (HMS Briton and HMS Tagus) which found the island at 25°.4′ S. (by meridian observation) on 17 September 1814. Staines sent a party ashore and wrote a detailed report for the Admiralty.
The island became a British colony in 1838 and was among the first territories to extend voting rights to women. By the mid-1850s the Pitcairn community was outgrowing the island and its leaders appealed to the British government for assistance. They were offered Norfolk Island and on 3 May 1856, the entire community of 193 people set sail for Norfolk on board the Morayshire, arriving on 8 June after a miserable five-week trip. But after eighteen months on Norfolk, seventeen of the Pitcairners returned to their home island; five years later another twenty-seven did the same. Since a population peak of 233 in 1937, the island has been suffering from emigration, primarily to New Zealand, leaving some fifty people living on Pitcairn.
Pitcairn Island Yachts
View yachts as
- type : sloop
- length : 81 ft.
- guests : 8 pass.
Ocean Leopard is an Ocean 81' cutter that accommodates up to 8 guests in 3-4 cabins.
- type : tallship
- length : 145 ft.
- guests : 12 pass.
Soren Larsen is a 145' brigantine that accommodates 22 passengers in 2 or 4 berth cabins.
- type : sloop
- length : 50 ft.
- guests : 8 pass.
Bisou Fute is a Beneteau 51' that accommodates 6 guests in 3 cabins.