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The Mutiny of Pitcairn Islands

St. Paul's Point on Pitcairn Island, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul's Point on Pitcairn Island, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Pitcairn Islands is the real-life setting for one of the most famous mutinies in seafaring history. On April 28, 1789, Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy orchestrated a mutiny onboard the vessel HMS Bounty. Aided by 18 other sailors, Christian seized command of the vessel from the captain, Lieutenant William Bligh.

The event has been portrayed in at least five feature films, two TV series, six books, two plays, and three musicals. The most famous adaption is arguably the 1984 film, The Bounty, which boasted a star-studded cast comprising of Mel Gibson as Christian, Sir Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh, the legendary Laurence Olivier as Admiral Hood, three-time Academy Award winner Daniel-Day Lewis, and Liam Neeson.

Located midway between the Australian and South American continents, Pitcairn Islands is an archipelago which consists of four islands: Pitcairn, Oeno, Henderson, and Ducie. The 18-square mile South Pacific island has a rather colorful rebirth. It was settled in 1790 by nine members of the infamous mutineers of the HMS Bounty, along with eleven Tahitian companions (six men and eleven women). The majority of Pitcairn Islands’ population today is the descendant of these men and women.

Geography of Pitcairn Islands

Of the four Pitcairn Islands, only Pitcairn is inhabited. There are approximately 50 to 60 people living on the island, though the number is progressively dwindling with each passing year. The island is a submerged peak of a dormant volcano, and thus, it has no beaches – only sharp cliffs. However, it is the only one of the four islands with fresh water.

Oeno lies 80 miles northeast of Pitcairn. It is an atoll surrounded by beautiful beaches, white sand and palm trees. The island is encircled by a protective circular reef a few miles of its coast. Cruise ships usually anchor near Oeno to allow its passengers the opportunity of sunning on the beach or diving at the reefs. Residents of Pitcairn are also occasionally seen relaxing here.

Henderson Island, approximately 100 miles northeast of Pitcairn, is the largest island in the archipelago. Similar to some of the islands in the Florida Keys in the United States, the island is basically a coral reef formation.

Ducie Island, another coral island, is located about 300 miles east of Pitcairn. It is uninhabited and rarely visited.

The Church of Adamstown in Pitcairn Island. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Church of Adamstown in Pitcairn Island. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Economy and Society of Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn’s inhabitants are all Protestants, and officially, they observe Sabbath. The economy is limited to fishing, handicraft making, and the occasional bartering with visiting ships and tourists. The population depends heavily on aid from the British government.

There are no schools on the island, which has led to many parents sending their children to New Zealand to be educated. This has contributed to the declining population level, as the children who leave rarely return after graduating from school. Basic necessities can be purchased from the island’s only sundry store in the capital, Adamstown; however, the store is only open three times a week. Other items must be ordered from New Zealand, and delivery would take almost three months. The post office, which opens an hour a day three times a week, is also located here.

Attempts to increase tourism to the four islands are hampered by the lack of amenities. However, for tourists who are willing to brave the elements, Pitcairn Islands offers a pristine environment that takes you back a few hundred years into the past.

Song of the day: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire

 

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