To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).


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The Legendary Pitcairn Islands

Adamstown, the capital and only settlement, is a tortured sea-surrounded village, thwart with divisions, where bullies and petty squabbles govern daily life.

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Far from feeling free, conformity on Pitcairn is so strong that even holding hands in public is forbidden by law. Throughout the trials, victims testified to putting up with being assaulted because there was nowhere to go and no one to turn to among the inter-related islanders.

Men could molest without fear of censure. Pitcairners rely on each other for absolutely everything, from sharing fish and food to manning the longboats, the only way of reaching the passing ships that are the sole source of supplies. The adult men are needed to do this, so adult men can get away with doing almost anything else too.

In the late 19th century, an American Seventh Day Adventist missionary boat anchored off Pitcairn and converted the inhabitants en masse. It stultified the island. Dancing is still banned. I had imagined myself spending heady days picking ripening fruit from the trees.


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But although fruit grows all over the tiny amount of accessible land, including the infamous breadfruit imported on the Bounty , most islanders prefer to go to the shop — open once a week for an hour — to buy tinned peaches. Like everything else, the peaches are several months, if not years, past their sell-by date.

Move to Pitcairn Island

Even eggs are imported thousands of miles on ships that call irregularly every few months. We think of islands as providing sanctuary, but forget that island living means constant surveillance. On Pitcairn, everyone knew what everyone else was doing, every minute of the day. We all walked around barefoot along the red clay paths there are no roads and no cars. But while you are constantly in company, you are always alone.

The Legendary Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn is an unhappy, violent, deeply troubled and incestuous place. Few have. The image of a paradise isle is so embedded in our imaginations and so important to us that it made people angry to hear the truth. In Britain we have written about islands, painted them, and most of all dreamed about them for centuries.

Nearly all of the people in the boat with me are direct descendents of Bounty mutineers who shipwrecked themselves here over years ago. If you've read Mutiny on the Bounty or seen any of the several movies made from the book, you'll already have a romantic image of Pitcairn.

The island was the hideout of Fletcher Christian and his followers after they sent Captain Bligh out to sea in a lifeboat and took over the Bounty. The mutineers were some of the most wanted men in the British Empire in the late s, but Pitcairn was mapped incorrectly and is so isolated, it took 19 years before the pirates and their Tahitian wives were found. By then Britain was too busy warring with France to care about the castaways. Between and Pitcairn became famous again for even more unsavory reasons.

Living on Pitcairn showed me that island life is no paradise | The Spectator

Trials implicated nearly every Pitcairn man of rape or molestation of young girls, with most of the island's girls alleged to have been victims with the crimes spanning several generations. Media scoured the 4. I sincerely hope they don't cook me and eat me. To make matters worse, I've just finished reading Pitcairn, Paradise Lost , journalist Kathy Marks's account of the trials, which makes the island society look as inviting as a penal colony. The book contains photos of the convicted men, so I instantly recognize the two longboat drivers as some of the alleged sex offenders.

I try not to get swayed by Marks's experiences during the island's darkest moments. The explosion has passed, the verdicts have been made and I hope that my visit coincides with a time of healing. The way to the wreckage of the H. We pull into Bounty Bay where about 15 people are waiting on the quay with motorized quad bikes to pick up people and supplies.

There are only 50 inhabitants on the island, and I estimate that I've already seen about half of them. Each man grips my hand confidently and looks me blankly in the eye, neither giving me a warm welcome nor a rejection. The Bounty set sail in for a voyage to collect breadfruit seedlings to take to the West Indies for cultivation as food for slaves.

After a difficult voyage, Bounty finally arrived off Tahiti the following year. Five months later the Bounty set sail again. However, when the time came to return to England, some of the crew wanted to stay on the island. Most of the remaining crew on Bounty wanted to return to Tahiti, but Fletcher Christian knew that in time a British naval ship would come in search for them and Tahiti would be the most likely place they would look.

Intent on finding a new home, the crew eventually found Pitcairn Island in Christian decided to settle there as the island has been misplaced on Admiralty maps and would thus be hard to find. Whether by plan or by accident, HMS Bounty was set afire. Remnants of the ship sank in what is now called Bounty Bay.

The settlers survived by farming and fishing, though 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 as well as a few women. The women played an important role in ensuring the survival of the island and even more so after the massacre. They knew how to tend gardens, catch fish and make traditional tools and canoes.

Joshua Hill (Pitcairn Island leader)

They also had the most influence on raising the children. The women had brought their own utensils from Tahiti and these were handed down from mother to daughter. The men had landed tools and other implements from Bounty and fashioned more as necessary.

To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).
To Pitcairn Island, (and back again). To Pitcairn Island, (and back again).

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