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Pitcairn Island

Continuing our Journey Across The South Pacific

sunny 25 °C

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday April 17-19th – At Sea & Pitcairn Island
One of the aspects of this cruise that we were a little apprehensive about was the number of sea days in the itinerary. Sea days are those days when you are at sea all day without stopping anywhere. Because of the vast distances we are covering on this cruise and the fact that a typical cruise ship only travels at 17 to 20 knots (roughly 30-40 km/h) means that we have a number of days and nights when we are just steaming in the open ocean. These are the days when we get to read, go to the on board lectures or even watch a movie in the theatre or one of the big screen TVs or in our cabin on the large screen TV. These days are often a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of visiting ports but they don’t make for very interesting reading on a travel blog. We will publish a few pictures from around the ship but otherwise suffice to say that we have yet to be bored on a sea day.

Polo Restaurant One of the Amazing Specialty restaurants on board

Lounge of Deck 6 - One of the lovely seating areas around the ship

The Martini Bar

Our wonderful cabin stewardess Nikoleta and her Assistant Komang

Hazel relaxing on our balcony reading a book on her phone

Roy and Sue enjoying a gin & tonic at the Horizons Lounge during the daily Happy Hour just before dinner

Poor quality picture of the big screen TV out on the pool deck during the evening

Towel animals on our bed from our cabin crew Nicoleta & Komang wishing David get well after his visit to the ship's clinic for his nasty cough- health clinic is very well equipped mini hospital

Get well note on our bed from our cabin crew Nicoleta & Komang wishing David get well.

Pitcairn Island, Tuesday April 19th.
Although one of the smaller islands in the South Pacific Pitcairn Island is one of the more famous due to its starring role in one of the better known ship mutinies in history, The Mutiny On The Bounty which has been immortalized in several books and three films. David had a particular interest in the second of the three movies, the one starring Marlon Brando, as a full replica of the ship HMS Bounty was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in the late 60’s while he was still living in Halifax.

The HMS Bounty was a small British Navy ship sent to Tahiti to collect cuttings of a plant called breadfruit. The idea was to transplant the cuttings to the British West Indies where they would be cultivated as a cheap source of food for the slaves that worked the fields in the West Indies. The conditions on the Bounty were less than ideal and Captain Bligh was said to be a very tough ship’s master. After spending an idyllic five months on Tahiti gathering breadfruit plants the crew were in no mood for Bligh’s harsh discipline and three weeks into the return trip a small group of the crew led by the ship’s second in command, Fletcher Christian, led a mutiny. Bligh and as many loyal crew as they could fit in a twenty-three-foot open boat were set adrift.

After the mutiny the mutineers sailed HMS Bounty back to Tahiti where they got resupplied. With fresh supplies plus a dozen or so Tahitians some of them left Tahiti to set up new settlement on some other island where the British Navy would be less likely to find them in the event Captain Bligh made it back and set out to capture his mutineers. The island the mutineers and their fellow travelers chose to settle on was Pitcairn Island several hundred miles from Tahiti. Best of all, Pitcairn’s location was not marked correctly on the British Admiralty’s charts due to an earlier plotting error. Therefore, when the British navy set out to capture the mutineers they completely overlooked Pitcairn as it was not on their charts. The Navy did however capture several of the mutineers who chose to remain on Tahiti rather than go with the other mutineers to the new settlement on Pitcairn.
Pitcairn Islands, officially Pitcairn are a group of 4 ( Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno) volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. They are the last British overseas Territory in the Pacific. Only Pitcairn, the second largest, is inhabited.

Once settled on Pitcairn Island the nine mutineers plus seventeen Tahitians set fire to the HMS Bounty and she eventually sank although remnants of her wreck can still be seen in the shallow waters of Bounty Bay. Although the settlers survived by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among them. Alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men. John Adams and Ned Young turned to the scriptures, using the ship's Bible as their guide for a new and peaceful society. Young eventually died of an asthmatic infection. The Polynesians also converted to Christianity. They later converted from their original form of Christianity to Seventh-day Adventism, following a successful Adventist mission in the 1890s. After the rediscovery of Pitcairn, John Adams was granted amnesty for his part in the mutiny.

Today the island is inhabited mostly by descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 45 inhabitants, originating from four main families, Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world.

Pitcairn Island

Rugged coast of Pitcairn Island

Rugged Coast of Pitcairn Island

Due to its very rugged coast line (see pictures) and the extremely limited docking facilities we could not land on Pitcairn nor could we even land our tender boats. However, the cruise line and the islanders have very smartly come up with a solution. The islanders come out to our ship. Most of the island residents plus a large load of locally made craft items are piled into an open boat about 36 feet long and come out to our ship – see pictures. They set up shop in the largest lounge on the ship with more than a dozen lovely craft displays. Most of the craft items are locally made wood carvings ranging from small fish to large bowls. There is also a high grade of honey made locally that is one of the purest in the world as there are no herbicides or pesticides permitted on the island and air borne pollutants are minimal. With the exception of four or five people the entire population of the island came aboard the ship including the five children. We can therefore say with some authority that the local people are truly lovely as we met most of the islanders at the craft sale. Their British heritage is also obvious with their strong accents.

Pitcairn Islanders approaching our ship in their open boat

Pitcairn Islanders approaching our ship in their open boat

Craft sale of Pitcairn Islanders in the ship's Horizons Lounge - note woman in the center of the picture is a sixth generation direct descendant of Fletcher Christian

Pitcairn Island viewed from the top deck of our ship - telephoto lens makes it look much closer than it actually is

Hazel on Deck 15 - Pitcairn Island in the background

The small docking area on the shore of Pitcairn Island

Coast of Pitcairn Island

Coast of Pitcairn Island

Coast of Pitcairn Island

Coast of Pitcairn Island

After several of hours of craft sales plus two lectures in the ship’s main theatre from local Pitcairn officials the islanders joined us for lunch the in the ship’s large buffet area – the only restaurant meal they’ll have in a long time. Once lunch was over the ship took a trip around the small island (2 miles long by 1 mile wide) with a live commentary over the public address system from the island’s mayor.

The entire population lives in the one small but spread out village near the one small port facility. Once the ship completed the circle around the island the islanders’ open boat once again pulled alongside our monster ship. First we hoisted aboard a number of cases of bananas that the ship had purchased from the island and then the islanders scrambled down a small stairway at the side of our ship and boarded their open boat. This whole process was made a bit challenging as the seas were fairly active with 4-6 foot swells running. Although our ship maneuvered in such a way to minimize the impact on the small open boat, it was still quite an exciting exercise to watch and occurred on our side of the ship so we had a good view of the entire process from our balcony – see pictures.

Boxes of bananas for our ship on deck of Pitcairn Islander's open boat

Note the tiny size of the Islander's open boat when compared to our ship

Hazel watches from our balcony on Deck 10 as the islanders scramble back on their open boat in the rolling seas

Everyone waving as 42 of the islands 46 residents head back to their island after visiting or ship for a few hours

Off they go, back to their life of isolation until the next cruise ship comes by in a month or two

The topic of the Pitcairn lifestyle dominated most of the onboard conversations for the next few hours. Think of it: under 50 people living in a very isolated island way out in the world’s largest ocean. Thanks to a massive subsidy from the UK government they do have some basic municipal infrastructure in place. There is a diesel powered electric generating station that operates 6:00 am till 10:30 pm. There is a telephone system, some limited satellite internet (very expensive), one TV channel, some small roads, subsidized shipping costs and a supply vessel from New Zealand which calls at the island once every three months. A new more substantial docking facility is currently being built. Access on and off the island is only via the once every three-month supply boat. On island transportation is primarily limited to quad bicycles or motorbikes although ATVs are now starting to appear. There is a medical clinic provided by the UK government staffed by a doctor and a nurse who are there on a one-year contract as is the school teacher who teaches the five children up until the end of grade 7. After that children have to go all the way to New Zealand to attend high school. There is also one law enforcement official sent from the UK who also doubles to perform a number of municipal style legal activities on the island. Things such as property registration although all land on the island is crown land. The land is leased back to home owners for the lifetime of any home built on a building lot for a minimal registration fee. Water is collected from the ample rain fall and stored in large tanks on each property.

However, not all is well in paradise as the population is gradually dwindling as fewer and fewer adults of child bearing age find the lifestyle attractive. Despite a number of incentives from the UK government they have not been able to sustain the population and it has dropped significantly over the past 25 years. If you want to get away from everything here is your answer.
After all the excitement we then headed back to sea for two days aboard our beautiful ship, the Oceania Marina.

Next stop Easter Island

Conceptual Map of the South Pacific showing the relative distances we are covering

Posted by DavidandHazel 14:00 Archived in Pitcairn Islands

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I'm sorry to hear David is sick again. Get well soon.

From the episode of Tallship Chronicles I posted on your last post the Pitcairn locals call the boats they use long-boats (and they have a total of 2). Also their population seems to be increasing as in 2001 there were only 38 residents on Pitcairn while now you say there are 45.

They speak a patwa of Old English and Tahitian. It is very interesting to listen to them in the show. Did you have any trouble understanding them?

by Brian Vanderkwaak

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