Pitcairn_tyt_en.jpg (19030 bytes)

  Text & photos:  Wojciech   D¹browski ©

This small point on the boundlessness of the South  Pacific is marked only on the detailed maps. In 1767 it was noticed for the first time by sailor Pitcairn from H.M.S. "Swallow" and later  island was named after him. The distance from Europe to Pitcairn calculated along the air or maritime routes is larger then 20 000 km traveling both, east or west direction.  So with no risk I can announce that Pitcairn is most distant inhabited island.  In addition one of most fascinating marine tales is related to it...

Do you remember romantic,  several times filmed  story of the ship  “Bounty”?  It is different from other south seas stories because it is authentic. In 1787 British monarch sent "Bounty" to the recently discovered islands of Polynesia to bring the plants of breadfruit tree.  They intended to plant them in the British colonies in the West Indies to feed easier thousands of old slaves working there.  After exhausting, 10-month journey "Bounty" reached Tahiti, friendly received by Polynesians.   Preparations of plants for the long way took almost half a year.  In the meantime many British sailors found there female partners - Tahitian ladies are famous of their beauty.

Pit_palm33.jpg (15802 bytes)

Pit_waves33.jpg (15883 bytes)

Departure from hospitable Tahiti was not joyful, captain Bligh was known as despotic person.  Nobody knows what was the basic source of the mutiny: his cruelty or yearning for the lost Tahitian paradise. They left captain Bligh with loyal sailors in the longboat on the open sea. After few months they miraculously reached Indonesia.  “Bounty” with mutineers turned back to Tahiti.  Here some people were left. The remained members of the crew including Fletcher Christian - the head of  the mutiny sailed onward to other islands.

Christian knew that sooner or later British navy will hunt for mutineers wanting to punish them, to make an example... He decided to invite the group of Tahitians and to hide on the island which will be difficult to find for the navy ships. They wander the ocean for few months until they reach uninhabited Pitcairn. They found it by chance, because on the British navy maps it was marked by mistake about 200 miles away.  -They will not find us here! - they assent . After removing ashore everything of value the mutineers burned the "Bounty" to avoid detection...  No wonder - at that time mutiny on the ship was punish by gallows...             

"Bounty" anchor  and ... me®

Pit-bountya33.jpg (22243 bytes)

Pit_pacif_map.jpg (20277 bytes)

Nearest neighbors east of Pitcairn live on  Easter Island - more then  2000 km east. To the coast of Tahiti on the west is almost 2400 kilometers.

There is a luck in the adversity of lonely Pitcairn: the island lies almost exactly on the line connecting New Zealand with Panama.

So all ships heading from New Zealand to the US east coast and Europe always are passing by. If there is need  to supply the island freighter is anchoring for hour or more in front of Bounty Bay and islanders are coming with their longboat to get the load. Thanks to this convenient location they can get the mail say every two months. If not - only chartered boat should supply them and who will charter the boat to supply 50 people living thousands miles from the other land?

Even now, during the era of big passenger cruise ships and round-the-world journeys tourists are rare on Pitcairn. In 1997, when I visited Pitcairn they expected only 3 passenger ships.  And they were not big liners but small expedition boats carrying from 50 to 200 passengers. I arrived on proudly named “World Discoverer”, which is crossing this area twice a year.

Pit_wdisc33.jpg (10942 bytes)

Pit_zodiac33.jpg (24093 bytes)

There is not any harbor on Pitcairn. “World Discoverer” anchored in a safe distance from the coast.    We landed in small rubber motorboats called "zodiac". It is very difficult operation - possible only when the waves are not high. We were lucky, but sometimes expedition ship is coming in - and coming out because the sea is too rough. In Bounty Bay there is small  breakwater protecting landing place with capacity of two longboats.

Zodiac approaching landing place

Sprayed with water we disembark our zodiac welcomed by Debbie Baronian - teacher's wife. He handed out the copies of  “The Pitcairn Miscellany” - local periodical  distributed  worldwide by subscription. People from the island expect to get more subscribers which will made Pitcairn more popular through the world and to earn some extra money for the school needs..

Pit_mapka33.jpg (16750 bytes)



Pit_landing33.jpg (18631 bytes)












To get to Adamstown - the only settlement on the island we climbed up the gravel road - some 80 m to the small plateau. Those, who are not strong enough (remember - it is tropic and sun and humidity are very strong) were waiting for fourwheeler -  ATV - all terrain vehicle  - the only mean of motor transportation.   Islanders have few of them.  On the way there is a pole with the Pitcairn flag and small tableau founded in the occasion of  the 200-anniversary of  sailors from "Bounty"arrival. (It was just few years ago).                             

For the first time in my life I am visiting country  capital inhabited only by 50 citizens! First building of the capital houses small cooperative shop. For the reason of our arrival in front of the shop islanders put big table full of souvenirs: pandanus baskets, shark and dolphins carved in miro wood and "Bounty" models.   The official currency unit used on Pitcairn is New Zealand Dollar, but smiling islanders accept also US currency with no problem.

 Pit-atv33.jpg (36625 bytes)


Pit_stall33.jpg (28753 bytes)

Some 100 meters farther small square marks the center of the capital city. Three buildings surround it: on the left side - church of Seventh Day Adventists  (all population of the island belongs to this church)  in front: library and post office and on the right - Public Hall which works as court if necessary. Right in the front of the Public Hall big anchor excavated from the wreck of "Bounty" is located. Of course it is no. 1 photo spot for the tourists.  On the square, under the stretched canvas we found next stalls with souvenirs: handpainted bags and T-shirts -  15 USD each and fish bones jewelry. For the guests they prepare there thermos with chilled water - just invaluable in today's heat - it is more than 30 Celsius degree in shadow.

At the moment on the island lives around 50 persons. A group of teenagers is temporary dwelling in New Zealand learning in the secondary school. They will return after graduation...  Will they really return , for sure?  Almost all people in the stalls are elderly. Millie and Warren Christian are seniors among them. She is 89 years old, he is 82. -And thanks God we are still in good health!   -Are you from Poland?  Warren cannot remember if there was somebody from Poland on the island. Is this possible that I am the first Polish visitor on Pitcairn?

On the inside walls of "Public Hall" there are pictures and souvenirs from different ships visited Pitcairn in the past. There are also portrait photos of the queen and her husband,   but  they are made in London, not on Pitcairn - it looks that the queen never visited this distant crown colony. At the entrance of the hall there is curious phone set installed. When you turn around the crank the bells in selected houses on the island are ringing. And the system still works -  at the approach to XXI century!

Pit_seniors33.jpg (22269 bytes)  

Millie & Warren

Small houses are hidden in the green of palm, papaya and orange trees. On their verandah they hang big bunches of bananas - there is much more of them that they really need. I can hear also distant motor unit producing energy for the whole island. It is on for few hour every day. Some families have also own small independent units  for their needs. What do they eat?  They have own planted fruits and vegetables, they have also some livestock...     In the surrounding waters there is plenty of fish.

Financial means for communal needs they collect from the emissions of postal stamps, which are rare in the world and from the production and distribution of own-made souvenirs. Who is ruling on Pitcairn? Formally this small state is British Crown Colony and it is administrated by a British High Commissioner from distant Wellington, New Zealand. Commissioner is appointing three officials: policeman, postmaster and secretary. On the island every year they elect 12-person council. And once for 3 year - Island Magistrate.  I think that almost adult on the island is holding at least one important position!

Pit_post33.jpg (18355 bytes)

Pitshore33.JPG (17776 bytes)

Satellite telephone and short-wave radio are here only ways allowing to contact with the rest of the world. If somebody become seriously ill pastor's wife provide only assistance. She is graduated nurse and she can get radio consultation via radio with doctor in New Zealand. There is no other form of the help for ill people - there is no airport on the island to pick up somebody to the hospital. There is no heliport as well because Pitcairn is out of the range of the biggest helicopters.

The road to the school is winding in the green tunnel formed by giant banyan trees. Lovely building of the school was established only few years ago. In the classroom which reminds me workshop there is only few tables. No wonder - there is only 7 schoolchildren and at the moment they do not expect more.

Pit_school33.jpg (17058 bytes)

Schoolchildren of Pitcairn know the rest of the world from video movies only. They take care of the memorabilia related to the island history: in the wing of the school building they established small museum. It contains old tools, photographs and documents.  Volunteer teacher recruited in New Zealand are changing  on the island  every two years. English is of course the official language, but locals, especially older ones speak a kind of slang: the mixture of  English, sailors jargon and Polynesian of Tahiti.   

Pitcairn school

What a heat... Fortunately my hat and extra wrap are protecting me from the strong sun. Sweat is falling down from my nose. Only a bit lower then the school is the beginning of the path going steeply up - to the Christian's Cave. Soon it starts to cross open slope with no shadow, but the view from the place is breathtaking: the navy-blue ocean, rocky coast and our ship anchoring in the safe distance from the reefs.

The cave itself is not very spectacular - high and shallow looks more like grotto. But it was this cave that Fletcher Christian stayed for hours, and sometimes days, to get away from all other mutineers and to study the bible.  

I think that he was looking for the moral support because life on the island at that time was not idyllic. Over the several years almost all the original settlers died or were killed in arguments over the Tahitian women. Fletcher Christian is believed to have been killed by two Tahitians. By 1800 only one mutineer, John Adams remained on the island. He became husband to 11 Tahitian women and father to all kids... 

South coast

Piturwisko33.jpg (24944 bytes)

John Adams undertook education of 23 children using as spelling-book Christian's bible.  Now this famous bible from "Bounty" as relic is displayed in the glass-topped box in front of the altar of Adamstown church.

How long time they remained hidden for the world?    Nobody knew about them until 1814 when two English frigates hunting for pirates accidental rediscovered island.   Old Adams - the only remained mutineer  was pardoned and left on the island till his death in 1829 at the age of 65.


                                                                                       Bible from "Bounty"

 Pit_bible33.jpg (9815 bytes)

Pit_church33.jpg (19001 bytes)

When Adams died in 1829 authorities tried twice to move islanders to other place. For the first time - to Tahiti. They returned at their own request few years later. Then British Commissioner transferred the entire community to Norfolk Island, close to New Zealand  where they were settled in the buildings of former penal colony. After few years 43 of them returned again to Pitcairn.



Church inside

Pit_grave33.jpg (29130 bytes)

Cemetery on Pitcairn is small. Tropical plants overgrove it.  It is difficult to read the names on the old graves.  On the new ones I was reading frequently such names like  Christian, Young, Adams...  - well known from the "Bounty" story.  Nobody knows where the grave of Fletcher Christian is located.  The graves of John Adams - the patriarch of Pitcairn, his wife and daughter are located on the other side of the road under picturesque palm trees... Christian's Cave is well visible from this place...

John Adams' grave                                     

The size of the island is 2 by 4 kilometers. Well fitted tourist can walk all around it in one day. It can take even less but the heat is exhausting! Walking alone I climb clayey track up and up.  Pitcairn is divided by the E-shaped ridge with the highest summit of  347 meters. On the highest points of the ridge I found small cottages. They remain open, with supply of water and fuel...  Why to lock them?   Short-wave radio station is also located in the separate building up on the ridge. There are few people on the island who act as radio - amateurs calling every day other radio enthusiasts all over the world. No wonder - radio is the only thread connecting them with other people...  Friends of  Pitcairn established internet page dedicated to the island (http://www.lareau.org/pitc.html) , but nobody from the island saw it  - so far they just have no access to the "worldwide web". May be that quick development of satellite communication will change that soon...

Pit_coast33.jpg (18587 bytes)

The shores of Pitcairn are extremely picturesque.    This magnificent views are not pictures from our dreams about south seas - there is no one single sandy beach on Pitcairn. The cliffs are everywhere. Their names are derived from historical events... "Upside-Nunk-Fall" is the cliff from which Alfonso Christian fell to his death while chasing pigs. "Where Minnie Off" is the rock where Minnie was swept out to sea...

Pit_iglica33.jpg (13310 bytes) 

      It   is  me there - on  the  jag...                              How do they call it?

Pitcairn has his own flag and belongs to the Commonwealth.  Three other islands also belong to the Pitcairn state: Henderson, an atoll, is located 168 kilometers east of Pitcairn and is currently uninhabited. The residents of Pitcairn sail to Henderson from time to time to collect miro wood for their carvings. Other two atolls: Ducie (186 miles west of Henderson) and  Oeno (75 miles northwest of Pitcairn) are small and low - inhabited only by sea birds... 

Pit_isl33.jpg (5398 bytes)

When "Bounty" was leaving England there were 400 pounds in gold in the safe onboard. Only small amount of this money captain Bligh spent buying wine on Madera. What was happened to the rest of gold?  Maybe it is still buried on Pitcairn.  If it is true Pitcairn can be also called Treasury Island!

For how long great hermits will remain on this small piece of land in the blue ocean?

                                                                   With thanksgivings for the warm welcome on the Pitcairn Island...

                                                                                                                                               Wojciech Dabrowski ©

  More about the author and his travel you can read clicking one of this links:

Back to the main directory                                         Back to main travel page