Day 90 – Pitcairn Island Lecture – August 19th, 2015

Pitcairn Island 10:00 to 14:00

A visit to Pitcairn Island on a cruise ship can best be described as a day of role reversal. In all other ports, the passengers and crew head ashore, but on Pitcairn, the locals come out to visit us aboard the ship. In my almost 40 years at sea, this was most definitely a unique experience. Shortly after boarding the vessel, via the pilot ladder, one of the resident was designated to conduct a presentation about island life in the Princess Theatre. Please note all photographs are taken from the powerpoint slides, which are the property of Pitcairn Island.

Shortly after watching the locals board Sea Princess, from their long boat, Judi and I headed down to the Princess Theatre for the presentation about life on Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn lecture presented by Simon the Quarantine Officer

Simon, a Pitcairn Island resident, presented the lecture. Originally from UK, he initially visited Pitcairn Island on a visitor’s visa in the early 1990’s, staying about 6 months. He met his wife in the United States and on returning to UK, decided to emigrate, with Australia the preference. Provided an opportunity to visit Pitcairn Island, they both decided to stay permanently in 2000.

Pitcairn Island lecture title slide

Pitcairn Island lecture title slide.

He started off providing details of not only Pitcairn Island, but the entire Pitcairn Island Group, which is a collection of 4 islands that are the last remaining British Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean. Pitcairn is the only inhabited island of the group, with the other islands being Ducie, Henderson and Oeno.

Pitcairn lecture showing 4 islands of the Pitcairn Island Group

Four islands or atolls of the Pitcairn Island Group, which cover hundreds of miles of ocean, with the islanders making occasional visits to the other islands.

Pitcairn lecture showing uninhabited Ducie Atoll

Beautiful beach on Ducie Island.

Pitcairn lecture showing uninhabited Henderson Island

Henderson Island, which he referred to as a R&R retreat they visit when stressed out on Pitcairn.

The current population of Pitcairn Island is 47, which includes 5 school age children. In addition to descendants of the original mutineers and Polynesians, they have UK, NZ, Aussie and American citizens currently living on the island. Pitcairn was initially sighted by HMS Swallow in 1767 and named Pitcairn after the midshipman, who initially made the sighting. Without an accurate chronometer, Captain Carteret incorrectly charted the island, having the latitude correct, but he was out 3 degree in longitude. This made further sightings challenging, hence the reason Captain Cook was unable to sight the island in 1773.

In 1790 the HMS Bounty mutineers and Polynesians departed Tahiti, initially sailing West, but turned around. They steered zig zag courses, eventually finding their intended destination of Pitcairn Island. Once ashore, HMS Bounty was set afire and burned to the waterline, not far from the location of the current boat house. The first passing ship was seen in 1795 and another in 1801, but it was not until 1808 when an American trading vessel landed ashore. The island became a British Colony in 1838.

Pitcairn lecture from atop the hill looking down on harbour boat shed and remains of HMS Bounty

This is the landing site of HMS Bounty, with the remains still in the surf line to the right of the harbour. The harbour includes a boat shed, as all boats are always removed from the water, when not in use.

Pitcairn lecture boat shed as no boats remain in the water

Boat shed on the NE side of the island, with room for 2 long boats and the required launching rails. They are launched and retrieved similar to the lifeboats dotted around UK’s coastline.

Pitcairn lecture new harbour on west side of island funded by European Community

As a British Overseas Territory, Pitcairn Island has access to project funds from the European Community. They provided the funding for a 2nd harbour, which is being built on the west side of the island. The above photograph show the before, on the left and current progress on the right. All work is completed by the local residents.

Pitcairn lecture supply ship Claymore that comes every 3 months

With no land suitable for an airport, all supplies are received from the above ship that arrives every 3 months. Everything must be ordered well in advance and is shipped in special 6’ containers.

Pitcairn lecture unloading containers from long boat that arrived on supply ship

When the supply ship arrives, the containers are lifted into the long boat, which takes them into the harbour where they are unloaded by the shore crane. Once emptied, the containers are stuffed with any exports from the island and returned to the supply ship.

Pitcairn lecture tourist brochure

Pitcairn Island is actively recruiting new residents and tourists, and even has their own website and newsletter.

Pitcairn lecture commerative plaques with names of original mutineers and polynesian people

Commemorative plaques with the names of the original settlers, the 9 mutineers from HMS Bounty and the 18 Polynesians (6 males, 11 females and a baby). Within the first few years fighting and murder killed off most of the males, with Fletcher Christian shot to death, while tending his garden, only 3 years after arriving on the island.

Pitcairn lecture CBD city hall and general meeting place

City Hall/Central Business District/Meeting Square. The above building is the city hall, post office, finance office, quarantine office, magistrate office and the square in the middle is where residents gather for social events, BBQ’s, etc.

Pitcairn lecture museum with HMS Bounty artifacts

The Island’s museum, with a number of artefacts, including a bible from HMS Bounty

Pitcairn lecture HMS Bounty artifacts displayed around the island

Genuine artefacts retrieved from HMS Bounty that are displayed around the island.

Pitcairn lecture medical centre with current doctor from New Zealand

The island provides most of the services provided by other cities, above is the medical centre, staffed by a doctor from Australia. Serious illnesses are shipped off the island to higher levels of care.

Pitcairn lecture rock formation provides a sheltered swimming hole

One of the island’s recreational facilities, where the rock formation provides a sheltered pool on the inside for swimming.

Pitcairn lecture with islands only beach that used to be accessed by a rope

The island’s one and only beach, called rope beach, as you used to have to access the beach by descending a rope and departing in a similar manner.

Pitcairn lecture grave of John Adams last surviving mutineer

Grave of John Adams, the last surviving of the 9 HMS Bounty mutineers.

Pitcairn lecture school currently has 5 kids with a Kiwi teacher

This building houses the school, which currently provides an education to 5 children. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15, with kids going to New Zealand if they want further education. The current teacher is from New Zealand.

Pitcairn lecture view of residential area above the harbour and boat shed

Looking down on the main residential area of the island, which is located above the harbour and boat shed.

Pitcairn lecture some of the fruit they grow

Being a volcanic island the soil is rich and fertile, with an abundance of fruits and vegetable grown. They have a couple of goats, but no cows or other livestock on the island, so all milk and meats must be shipped on the supply ship.

Pitcairn lecture some of the abundent supply of fish

Fish is their staple diet and is in abundant supply. To ensure the longevity of the supply, they are creating a protected marine habitat in all waters of the Pitcairn Island Group. A number of residents have spent time in UK, enlisting the assistance of Govt Ministers. The local population voted overwhelmingly for the protected habitat, which should be implemented by 2016. Only local food fishing will be permitted within the protected area.

Pitcairn lecture annual ceremony to commemmorate the mutineer arrival

An annual event is held each year to commemorate the arrival of the HMS Bounty mutineers and Polynesians. The event includes the burning of a model boat to signify the setting fire to HMS Bounty shortly after their arrival on the island.

Pitcairn lecture last remnant of HMS Bounty which they burned to the waterline

Located just off the rocks, this is the only remains of HMS Bounty.

Pitcairn lecture one of 2 diesel generators and a hot water tank

Electrical power is provided by 2 diesel generators, which operate from 07:00 to 22:00 daily. No power is generated or provided outside these hours. However they are considering wind turbines. Fresh water is collected in tanks from the ample supply of rain water, although a 5,000 litre capacity desalination plant is available, if required. Hot water tanks are normally similar to the picture above, with wood fires used as a heat source. For communications they have telephone service, both local and international, and internet. However, internet is expensive with only slow and limited service. Kinda similar to cruise ships. Mail is sent off the island every 3 months with the supply vessel.

Pitcairn lecture honey one of the biggest exports

Island honey is a major export and can be purchased in some major stores, such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. It can also be purchased online.

Pitcairn lecture Christmas in the main square by city hall

Meeting square at Christmas when all residents attend and everyone receives a present.

One of the benefits of remote island living, is NO taxes. Yes, on Pitcairn the residents pay no income or sales taxes. They have been discussed, but the cost of administering the system would cost more than the revenue received. The island receives a subsidy from U.K. and each resident has a government job, which Simon mentioned takes about 1 to 2 hours per month. That completed Simon’s most informative presentation.

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