The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory comprised of 4
distinct islands: Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. Only Pitcairn
Island is inhabited. The extremely small community of less than 50
Pitcairn Islanders heads to Ducie when they want to get away from it all. Pitcairn Island was settled in January 15, 1790 by 9 English
mutineers and 18 Tahitians who had taken control of the HMAV Bounty from
Britain. The island was not inhabited when they arrived, but there
is archeological evidence of a previous Polynesian colonization. The
population on the island has varied over the years. In 1856
population pressures caused the British government to support the move of
all 193 Pitcairn Islands to Norfolk Island, but 45 of them eventually
returned to Pitcairn. The population peaked again at 250 in 1988,
but has declined steadily ever since. In 2016 the population was 45
and on the decline. The decline is the result of an aging population
that is not being replaced. Children rarely return to the island after leaving for high school
education in New Zealand.
Pitcairn Island & the Mutiny on the Bounty
The HMAV Bounty was commissioned to obtain breadfruit from Tahiti for
use in establishing food crops to feed slaves in the Caribbean.
While gathering breadfruit, many of the crew became enamoured with
Polynesia and its women. On their return voyage, near Tonga on April
28, 1789, Fletcher Christian led the mutiny on the Bounty. Captain
Bligh and loyal crewmen were set adrift in a long boat, but 4 loyal crew
were not able to fit in the boat. Captain Bligh sailed the long boat
to Indonesia. The Bounty sailed to Tahiti, where 16 mutineers and
the 4 loyal crew were dropped. The HMS Pandora captured 14 mutineers
there in 1791.
The Bounty and the remaining 9 mutineers sailed through Polynesia until
they happened upon Pitcairn Island. There they burned the Bounty
until it sank in what is now Bounty Bay and they established themselves on
the island. By a twist of fate, the longitude of the island on early
maps was wrong by 3 degrees, so Captain Cook and the British navy, who
were hunting for them, couldn't find the island to search it. It
took more than 18 years for another ship to reach Pitcairn Island.
By then, John Adams was the only remaining survivor of the mutiny and no
action was taken against him. Many of the residents on the island
today have the last name Christian, Adams and Young.
In 2016, the islanders lived a very isolated existence. Their main source of income
was the sale of handicrafts of wood and coral, T shirts and honey. They have about 10 cruise ship visits a
year, but there are no proper docking facilities for cruise ship tenders.
Instead, the Pitcairn Islanders board cruise ships from their community
long boat and haul their goods up rope ladders. Children as young as
5 board the ship by ladder too. About 90% of the population of the
island typically boards a visiting cruise ship.
The Pitcairn Islands get subsides for the European Union and the U.K. which helps support their school teacher from New Zealand and a doctor contracted for a year at a time. They live on bananas, pineapple, taro, chickens and food imports by
regular subsidized freighter service. An electric generator provides
electricity for refrigeration and lights, but power is shut down each
night to save on fuel. Satellite internet is available to residents,
but it is expensive. Their main source of income is cruise ship
visits and home stays. The community is desperate for an influx of able bodied inhabitants,
but has been unsuccessful in recruiting new residents.
Bounty Bay and Adamstown on Pitcairn Island
There is no formal requirement for a Visa to enter Pitcairn
Island. Visitors must be able to enter French
Polynesia to get there.
Although Pitcairn is a British Territory, visitors will find that the
US$ is extremely popular.
Pitcairn Island is in the southern hemisphere about halfway between
French Polynesia and Easter Island. That means the weather is warm
year round, with slightly higher rainfall in the summer months from
November to March. Temperatures then are from 77 - 95 F (25 -
35 C). In the winter months, temperatures average 60 - 75 F
(16 - 24 C).
90 percent of the population of Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Island does not have an airport. International
travellers arrive by cruise ships or on the MV Claymore II, which is
subsidized by the British government. Be aware that cruise ships
usually do not tender, but accept islanders on board. To ensure a
visit ashore, access by the MV Claymore II or a private sailing vessel is
required. The Claymore II sails out of
Mangareva, Polynesia and makes about 8 roundtrips per year to
Pitcairn. Mangareva has an airport with connections to Tahiti.
The Claymore typically does back to back voyages in each quarter of the
year, so it is possible to visit Pitcairn Island for 4 or 11 days. Check
the Claymore II schedule here.