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History is full of moments when the touch of a feather can alter the course of human events.


History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time.

From the deck of the cruise ship Discovery our first thrilling sight of Pitcairn, the tiny island made famous by mutineers from HMAV (His Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty, was but a great, black rock protruding from the silvery surface of the sea. Formed in the millenia from the magma of an erupting volcano, its ragged, rugged shoreline was savaged by surf that broke upon it in long, white waves.

(Photo by G. Wilson)

As we drew nearer we could see scattered green fields and forests that softened somewhat the barren, hilly isle on which Fletcher Christian and a few other malcontented members of the crew believed they had found safety from any avenging vessels of the British navy.

Christian and his cohorts did not just happen upon the island. Christian learned about it from a book titled Voyages published in 1773 which he found in Bligh's cabin. On page 561 of it he read, "We continued our course westward till the evening of 2nd July 1767... . We saw it at the distance of more than fifteen leagues and it having been discovered by a young gentleman, son to Major Pitcairn of the marines, we called it Pitcairn Island." The position of the island was also given.


Pitcairn Island, which is located approximately halfway between the Panama Canal and New Zealand, is the last remaining British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. The picturesque place with its plunging cliffs, sharp crags and hostile coastline offers little in the way of anchorage locations. The harsh, jagged shore has only two locations, Bounty Bay and Tedside, where small boats can land but these can be perilous and are too risky for most visitors as a result of which we never did go ashore.

Landing at Bounty Bay

(Photo by G. Wilson)

As we scanned its coastline, a longboat filled to capacity with people suddenly appeared on the white-capped surface slicing through the choppy sea towards our ship. We subsequently learned that it contained almost all of the fifty or so residents of Pitcairn Island, descendants of the "infamous mutineers." In addition to the packed Pitcairners, the vessel contained trade goods to be sold on our ship, one of the eight or so cruising vessels that visit the island annually. Money earned by islanders from this trade represents a significant portion of their annual income.

(Photo by G. Wilson)

It all began on the Bounty, a coastal trader which previously had been named Bethia. Re-fitted and re-christened the Bounty, the 220-ton ship was 85-foot long with a beam of 24 feet and rated as only a cutter. The vessel to which Bligh referred with affection as 'my little ship' was considered a beautiful craft. Lying solid and low in the water, it was blunt-nosed and square-sterned with three spire-like masts. Above her bowsprit was the painted figure of a lady dressed in a riding habit.

A cutter did not rate a captain as a commanding officer so William Bligh would sail as a lieutenant, but be addressed as 'Captain Bligh' as a courtsey. The ship's first commission under the command of 33-year-old lieutanant, who had been the sailing master on HMS Resolution on Captain Cook's last voyage of discovery.

HMS Resolution
Watercolour by
Midshipman Henry Roberts

A statue of Captain Cook in Hawaii, where the explorer was murdered on 14 February 1779 by the island natives.

Captain James Cook [1728-79] holding navigator's dividers in his right hand and a telescope in his left.
Bronze by John Tweed

James Cook
Bronze statue across from Empress Hotel
British Columbia
photo by
G. Wilson

Bligh was to sail to Tahiti, take on a load of bread fruit seedlings, and deliver this 'bounteous' cargo to the West Indies for cultivation as a cheap, nutritious food for slaves.

Breadfruit Trees

The Bounty's great cabin, normally for the personal use of the ship's captain, was converted into a nursery for the plants. Fitted with skylights and air scuttles it was to contain 629 pots. A stove had been included to ensure the plants would not suffer in cold weather. Bligh's quarters comprised an 8-foot by 7-foot sleeping area and a small cramped pantry where he and any officers he invited ate.

Fletcher Christian had sailed to the West Indies under Bligh on another ship and "spoke of Captain Bligh with great respect." The two men got on well and Bligh recommended Christian to the Admiralty as a midshipman of the Bounty. According to Bligh, Christian was "dark and very swarthy with blackish or very dark brown hair." Standing about five foot nine he was strongly build although his "knees stand a little out and may be called a little bow legged. A star was tatowed [sic] on his left Breast. He is subject to Violent perspiration, particularly in his hand, so that he Soils anything he handles." Others would later comment on Christian's "bright, pleasing countenance and tall, commanding figure."

William Bligh

At Spithead, Portsmouth on November 4th, 1787 the Bounty was delayed three weeks in port. A frustrated Bligh attributed this delay to the Admiralty. "If there is any punishment that ought to be inflicted on a set of men for neglect, I'm sure it ought to be on the Admiralty for my three weeks' detention at this place during a fine, fair wind which carried all outward bound ships clear of the Channel but me." Finally after receiving permission to depart Spithead on the 23rd of December 1787, Bounty was impeded for a further period when strong winds and severe weather prevented it from getting down the English Channel.

Some sixteen thousand miles lay ahead of him including a passage around Cape Horn in some of the most tempestuous seas in the world. These delays were to complicate considerably Bligh's task for they arrived at Cape Horn during the winter storm season. For 30 days they fought wild winds and crashing waves as Bligh endeavoured to sail westward around Cape Horn as ordered. With most of the crew exhausted and all becoming increasingly disgruntled, Bligh reluctantly relented, turned about and sailed for the Cape of Good Hope and the wide Indian Ocean from where he turned northeast into the Pacific.

Map of Bligh's Trip on HMAV Bounty

Ten months and some 27,000 miles later, Bounty at last arrived in Tahiti's Matavai Bay on October 26, 1788. Bligh's ecstacy turned to anger when he learned that the breadfruit could not be moved.,/p>


Their late arrival brought them to Tahiti during a dormant period for the breadfruits during which they would not survive transplantation. This resulted in a delay of another six months before Bounty could proceed to the West Indies. This additional time gave the crew an extended period in which to become more accustomed to the multiple pleasures of paradise.

Tahitian Paradise and Its Pleasures

While the crew prepared the breadfruit plants for shipment to the Caribbean, Bligh allowed a number of the them to live ashore to care for the potted plants. Without the discipline and the rigid schedule of the sea, the men went native as they revelled in the life and their loves on that idyllic island. Three of these crewmen decided to extend their stay on this tropical paradise indefinitely and deserted. They were captured and flogged for their attempted flight.

Illustration of HMS, Bounty

Idyllic Pitcairn Island
(From The Guide to Pitcairn Island)

Christian bemoaned his fate because of the foul tongue and fitful temper of Bligh. Few of the men would deny that Chrisitan suffered most from the captain's verbal abuse and always in the presence of an audience for Bligh believed it added to the culprit's humiliation. "It is so bad," said Christian on one occasion, "I cannot do my duty with any pleasure."

Initially the crew had few regrets about leaving the island since many of the men looked forward to the trip home to family and friends, Bligh's irascibility changed all that. While the Bounty needed an iron hand, discipline and pressure should have been applied fairly and evenly in a just way instead of abusively with empty threats and wild histrionics. The captain's unpredictability and irrationality began to make the thought of returning to the perilous sea an unattractive prospect. Life on the lovely island looked more and more enticing and many of the crew began to wonder why anyone would want to leave this life of love and leisure to face the dangers of a life at sea under a captain whose temper was taut and behaviour bizarre and very unpredictable.


Three weeks out of Tahiti on April 28, 1789 Fletcher Christian, Master's Mate, could take no more of the humiliation he suffered at Bligh's abusive tongue. A majority of the men supported taking over the ship and he decided to act. Armed with cutlasses, bayonets and a single musket, he and three crewman shook the sleeping captain roughly awake. A startled and very stunned Bligh opened his eyes to find a weapon in his face and his vessel, Bounty, in the hands of a mutinous crew.

Fletcher Christian
(Artist's impression based on contemporary descriptions.
Drawn by Larry Learmonth @ Richard Hough 1972)

Bligh's Logbook

Bligh's logbook for the 28th of April, 1789 contains the following entry.
"Just before Sunrise Mr. Christian and the Master at Arms ... came into my cabin while I was fast asleep and seizing me tyed my hands with a Cord & threated instant death if I made the least noise. I however called sufficiently loud to alarm the Officers who found themselves equally secured by centinels at their doors... Mr. Christian had a Cutlass & the others were armed with Musquets and bayonets. I was now carried on deck in my Shirt in torture with a severe bandage round my wrists behind my back, where I found no man to rescue me..."

Bligh later recalled the events of early morning on April 28, 1789 in these words.
"I am now unhappily to relate one of the most atrocious acts of piracy ever committed. Just before sun-rising Mr. Christian with the master at arms, the gunner's mate and Thomas Burket, seaman, came into my cabin while I was asleep and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord behind my back and threatened me with instant death if I spoke or made the least sound. I called so loud as to alarm everyone, but they had already secured the officers who were not of their party. I was hauled out of bed and forced on deck in my shirt." Thus began the most famous mutiny of all time.

Bligh raged, threatened and appealed frantically. "Consider what you are about Mr. Christian. For God's sake drop it. I'll give my bond never to think of it again if you'll desist." Christian made no reply. "I have a wife and four children in England," Bligh pleaded, "and you have danced my children on your knee." "It is too late," said Christian, "I have been in hell. I am determined to suffer it no longer." "It is not too late," pleaded Bligh but to no avail. When he finally realized this, Bligh walked down the gangway in dignified silence and stepped unaided into the launch. Much to Christian's surprise fifteen crewmen opted to join their captain. When four more men objected to being denied the right to join Bligh, the captain shouted to them, "Never fear, my lads, I'll do you justice if I ever reach England."

Eighteen men were now stowed in the launch that measured 23 feet by 7 feet with a depth of 2 feet 9 inches. In addition it carried 150 pounds of bread, 32 pounds of pork, 6 quarts of rum, 6 bottles of wine and 28 glallons of water - enough it was reckoned for some five days. Once loaded the crowded launch left the side of the Bounty and launched into the boundless Pacific bound they knew not where.

Bligh and Supporters Set Adrift
[Illustration from Captain Bligh & Mr. Christian by Richard Hough
Hutchinson of London ]

Of the 42 men on board Bounty, 18 joined Christian, 2 were passive and 22 remained loyal to Bligh. Later at the Admiralty, Whitehall in London, naval officials wondered why out of 42 men, 18 had suffered themselves to be pinioned and placed aboard the launch without offering the least resistance even though all knew they were doubtless doomed to face certain death.

Admiralty, Whitehall, LondonNational Maritime Museum, London

The mutineers sailed Bounty to Tahiti where most of the them decided to remain. A few, supported Christian's suggestion to search for a more remote location to ensure they were never captured for their crime. Christian, eight mutineers and six Polynesian men along with twelve Polynesian women and one child set off to find Pitcairn Island. Two months later on January 15, 1790 they found the island. It exceeded their wildest hopes. It was remote, warm, fertile and almost almost inaccessible.

When the wind slackened Christian brought the Bounty closer to shore and a large cutter was hoisted out. They rowed across what was to become known as Bounty Bay, scrambled ashore and stuggled up the steep cliff of loose red soil in which they found bits of timber, stone axes and stone foundations. This was a good sign for the evidence indicated that at some remote time, man had found he could live there. When they had satisfied themselves that no one then lived there, they ferried ashore in the cutter hogs, goats and fowl and so began their pioneer colony. Fearing the Bounty would be sighted by passing British naval vessels, it was sailed as close to shore as possible where on January 23, 1790 the ship was set afire and sank.

Bligh's Navigational Mastery

Meanwhile Bligh, an exceptional seaman, was in his element when faced with disaster. Without charts and using only a sextant and a pocket watch, he managed to navigate the 7-metre long launch on its epic 41-day voyage, landing first at Tofua and then at Timor. He recorded the distance as 6710 kilometres.

At Tofua they were met by sullen, very silent natives whose weird welcome was the clacking of one stone against another. Bligh, who had sailed with Captain Cook and was with him when he died, knew this was not a welcome, but a warning of an impending attack and he ordered his men to return to the boat and shove off as quickly as possible. As they frantically attempted to flee, one crewman was caught and beaten to death. The others by paddling furiously sought to out-row the enraged natives which they barely managed to accomplish by casting their clothing into the sea which distracted their pursuers. It was later compared to throwing raw meat to a pack of wolves. /p>

When they arrived at the island of Timor they found safety. Bligh who was fearful of the consequences of loosing the Bounty, wrote a long and loving letter to his wife Elizabeth in which he told her of his great misfortune. "Know then my own Dear Betsy, I have lost the Bounty."

Elizabeth 'Betsy' Bligh

Ironically, while none of the castaways died while at sea despite the savage elements and severe conditions, death took its toll on the men when they reached the island and on the ship sailing homeward when several of them died.

On Monday, March 15, 1790 Bligh was at the Admiralty door. It was 10 and a half months, 321 days since the mutiny. His "wonderful escape at sea" made him the toast of London. His short narrative describing the mutiny and their subsequent experiences at sea sold thousands of copies. There was popular fascination with the romantic tale involving the charms of the women in the "paradise of the world."

Bligh was presented to King George before whom he "laid his journal of the voyage to the South Seas." Among those who returned with Bligh was the Bounty's sailmaker, a Nova Scotian named Lawrence Lebogue.

The court martial inquiring into the loss of Bounty was convened on HMS Royal William on Friday October 22, 1790 at Spithead in Portsmouth to try "the said Lieutenant Bligh and such of the officers and ShipĖs Company as are returned to England for their conduct on that occasion." The first question posed to Bligh was a traditional one. Prior to the mutiny did he have any "objection or complaint against any officer?" Bligh said one sailor was in the brig for not carrying out orders properly.

One crewman testified that during the confrontation, Fletcher Christian, who "had fury in his looks", had sobbed, "I am in hell, I am in hell. Flesh and blood cannot bear this treatment." It was the only occasion on which he had ever been known to cry. The Court curtly dismissed this testimony stating it was not interested in ChristianĖs torment since every mutiny presupposed some mutineer had found his breaking point.

Lieutenant Bligh and those who accompanied him were honourably acquitted. Because of his miraculous seamanship, Bligh was awarded "a rapid and rather unorthodox" promotion to the prized position of post captain. Now officially a captain, Bligh was given command of a new ship and a new commission: a second breadfruit expedition to Tahiti on the Providence, a three-decker frigate which was to be accompanied by the Assistant, a 63-foot brig to serve as tender.

William Bligh as junior Post-Captain

On November 7, 1790 a naval party under the command of Captain Edward Edwards set out in HMS Pandora to search for and bring Bounty and its mutinous crew back to England. Shortly after Pandora loomed out of the early dawn at Tahiti, four of the mutineers turned themselves in. A few weeks later ten more of the mutinous men were arrested. These fourteen, the mutineers and the loyal crew alike, were imprisoned in a makeshift cell on Pandora's deck which was called "Pandora's Box." Pandora spent about three months thereafter visiting islands to the west in search of the Bounty and the remaining mutineers without finding anyone or anything except flotsam - some spars and a yard.

On the return trip while heading through the Torres Strait, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on 29 August 1791, and sank the next day. Thirty-one crew and four of the prisoners were drowned. The remaining 89 crewmen and ten prisoners released from their cage at the last moment clamoured into four small lifeboats and arrived at Timor on 16 September 1791. This voyage of HMS Pandora gave rise to the expression "bounty hunting" which now means to seek and capture a fugitive for a reward.

Pandora Sinking

Nearly two years later at 8 a.m. on Wednesday September 18th, 1792, H.M.S. Duke hoisted the signal for the commencement of the court-martial. A single gun was fired for it to assemble. The presiding judge was Moses Greetham who had acted at the court-martial of Bligh and was knowledgeable about the case.

Twelve judges, all captains dressed in blue coats with gold lace and buttons, were sworn in. The court deliberations took several hours. Great importance was attached to which men had been seen to be holding weapons during the critical moments of the mutiny. Under the Articles of War, failure to act when able to prevent a mutiny was considered no different from being an active mutineer. At 1:30 p.m. an officer on Duke hauled down the court-martial signal. The four men forced to remain on the Bounty whom Bligh had promised to remember were acquitted. Two more were recommended for His Majesty's Royal Mercy which they received. Three of the mutineers were convicted and sentenced to be hanged. The twelve captains drew lots to determine the vessel on which the executions were to take place. HMS Brunswick was chosen.

On Monday October 29th, 1792 a cannon was fired and a yellow flag raised as the signal to assemble for the executions. In full view of throngs of spectators gathered on the Portsmouth shore and floating nearby on small craft and with sailors and officers watching from the deck of the Brunswick, the three men were hanged. Bags were placed over the heads of each man and nooses fixed about their necks. At 11:26 a.m. a gun was fired and the crew assigned to each manĖs rope pulled hard away. After two hours their bodies were cut down. While all this was taking place, Captain Bligh, the principal witness, was successfully delivering a load of Tahitian breadfruit plants to the West Indies.

Despite the seriousness of the crime committed by the mutinous men, there was widespread public support and sympathy for Christian and his compatriots. By delivering cheap food for the slaves in the West Indies, many felt Bligh was simply perpetuating the horrid system of slavery and he was widely criticized by abolitionists. This infamous action only confirmed in the eyes of many Bligh's reputation as an oppressive tyrant whose incessant abuse had driven Christian to the madness of mutiny. It was also Captain Bligh's ill luck to have his own great misadventure coincide with the dawn of a new era which saw devotion to a code of duty and established authority as less honourable than the celebration of peoples' passion for liberty.

Influential poets weighed in with their opinions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge championed Christian over Bligh. In his poem, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge had Christian in mind when he wrote:

Doomed to wander the ocean
Doomed to wander the ocean for having committed a single crime,
Alone, alone all all alone
Alone on the wide sea
And Christ would take no pity on
My soul in agony.

William Wordsworth in his poem, The Borderer, written in 1795 sympathized with Bligh and described how a crew conspired to leave their despised captain without food or water on a remote island.

A man cast off
Left without burial, nay not dead nor dying
But standing, walking stretching forth his arms
In all things like ourselves but in the agony
With which he called for mercy; and - even so -
He was forsaken.

While Lord Byron upheld Bligh, he also bemoaned the lot of the mutineers.

Awake, bold Bligh! The foe is at the gate!
Awake! Awake! alas it is too late!
Fiercely beside thy cot the mutineer
Stands and proclaims the reign of rage and fear.

As for the mutineers -

Young hearts which languished for some sunny isle
Where summer years and summer women smile;
Men without a country, who, too long estranged,
Had found no native home or found it changed,
And, half uncivilized, preferred the cave
Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave.

Some say that much of the whitewashing of Christian's character and the blackening of Bligh's reputation resulted from the efforts of Edward Christian, a celebrated barrister and brother of Fletcher. Edward wrote an eloquent and impassioned statement defending his brother and had it appended to the court-martial proceedings of the 10 prisoners from the Bounty who had been captured in Tahiti and brought to London for trial. Although Bligh wrote a defense of his character which was supported by statements from crewmen on the Bounty and other vessels, he lost out in public opinion. As a result popular myths made Christian a noble work of nature and Bligh, one of the greatest seamen who ever sailed the blue, a villain most foul.

Reasons for the mutiny are debated to this day. While some believe Bligh's cruelty drove the men to mutiny, he was not actually a cruel man in such a cruel age. Others attributed the ship's seizure to an inexperienced crew that opted for leisure and love over duty and had the good fortunate to find a weak officer in the person of Fletcher Christian who was only too ready to flee from Bligh's acid tongue and the unbearable tensions of their relationship. This is closer to the truth, but Bligh's bitter, unbridled tongue was largely the blame.

VICE ADMIRAL William Bligh
Born at Tinten Manor St. Tudy on September 9th, 1754

Despite the mutiny and subsequent public criticism, Bligh resumed his career and served with distinction. As the Captain of HMS Glatton in 1801 he took part in the battle of Copenhagen after which he was commended for his bravery by Admiral Nelson. The same year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in consideration of his distinguished services in navigation and botany. In 1805 he was sent to New South Wales as governor where once again his vituperative tongue and oppressive manner contributed to trouble which resulted in an uprising in Sydney in 1808 when he attempted to put end the use of rum as a form of currency. Bligh was imprisoned for two years and on his release he returned to England where he was cleared of all blame. Bligh was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue and in 1814 to Vice Admiral of the Blue.

The flaw in Bligh's character was not cruelty. The record indicates that he scolded where other captains employed the whip and he whipped when other captains would have hanged. His log showed he used the whip sparingly. The fault in this otherwise rather enlightened individual was his readiness to make dogmatic judgements about others he felt entitled to make. He saw fools about him too easily. His thin-skinned vanity was the curse through his life and he failed to understand that one did win loyalty or allegiance from men by insulting them before their peers.

Bligh's Tombstone
The inscription on the grave reads:



Stamp Issued in 1992 Commemorating the 175th Anniversary of Bligh's Death

Bounty's Anchor
(Picture from The Guide to Pitcairn Island)

In 2007 after 217 years little remains of the Bounty but ballast bars, copper sheathing and nails, all of which lies three metres below the surface of the bay. The ship's anchor, raised from Bounty Bay in 1957, is displayed in the Square of Adamstown, Pitcairn's capital. A cannon from the Bounty was raised in 1999.

Bounty's Cannon
(Guide to Pitcairn Island)

Over the years the Bounty's remnants have largely been taken by visiting divers. One enterprising tourist turned his trip to Pitcairn Island into a money-making venture. In 1988 he organized a diving team that recovered much of the Bounty's ballast. He then had plaques designed bearing a descriptive metal plate and to each of these an authentic piece of the HMS.Bounty was attached and sold for $500.

While the isolated island was unihabited when the mutineers made it their home, they were not Pitcairn's first residents. Polynesians, who preceded them by hundreds of years, left roughly hewn stone gods, cave carvings, earth ovens and human skeltons to attest to their presence there for a lengthy period. When and why they left and where they went remains unknown. Europeans discovered "the great rock rising from the sea" in 1767 but because the surf "broke upon it with great violence," they were prevented from going ashore. They did not have a chronometer so miscalculated its position and marked the island some miles west of its actual location. It was named Pitcairn after the man who was first to see it.

When Bounty's mutineers staggered ashore at Pitcairn, they sought shelter under large leaves but these were soon replaced with more durable wooden structures. They survived on breadfruit supplanted with sweet potatoes and yams which they cultivated from seeds they brought ashore along with livestock.

It was not long before conflicts arose between the European and the Polynesian men. The mutineers divided the land among themselves and allotted none to the Polynesians. To add insult to injury they began to treat the Polynesians as slaves. Because there were three more men than women, the Polynesian men were forced to share wives. During the first year when two of the female partners of the mutineers died, the Europeans immediately appropriated the partners of the Polynesian men. Hostility grew into hatred which exploded into violence which resulted in four of the mutineers including Fletcher Christian being fatally shot on the same day. Fletcher was killed while tilling his garden. Bitter confrontations continued which led to the deaths of all the Polynesian men.

Peace prevailed for a period among the four Europeans and the ten women and their children. A potent brew was fermented which led to drunkenness, disagreements and fighting. One inebriated individual committed suicide. A fight resulted in one man being killed by two others who claimed they acted in self-defence. When another man died of natural causes John Adams became the sole surviving male of the original settlers. Adam's days were filled with drinking the potent spirit distilled from the ti plant until one night he experienced a dramatic hallucination. As a result he underwent a miraculous transformation and became fervently religious. This changed his life and he became the community's leader. He began holding Sunday services and saw to it that all shared in the work of making the little settlement a safe and satisfactory place in which to live.

In February 1808 Captain Mayhew Folger of the American sealer Topaz sighted an island where none was indicated on the charts. As his ship drew closer to the island, Folger was surprised to see a boat approaching from which he was shocked to be hailed in English. One young lad in the boat shouted, "Don't you know my father? He is an Englishman." When the captain responded negatively the lad continued. "Did you ever know Captain Bligh? My father sailed with him." Suddenly it dawned on Folger that he had solved the mystery of what had become of Fletcher Christian and the Bounty. The boy was Fletcher Christian's older son, Thursday October Christian (born 1790), the ancestor of almost everyone on the island surnamed Christian. Besides Thursday October, Fletcher Christian had a younger son named Charles Christian (born 1792) and a daughter Mary Ann Christian (born 1793).

Thursday October Christian
(from an engraving by H. Adlard),

In 1814 two British war ships HMS Briton and HMS Tagus visited the island. The captains were stirred by the islanders and their simplicity and very favourably impressed by John Adams and the fine examples he set for the community as its reverred religious leader. Esteemed by all on the island as 'Father,' Adams, a devout Christian, was hailed as a hero by all who knew him.

The English captains decided it would be "an act of cruelty and inhumanity" to arrest him. As a result of their visit to Pitcairn the isolation of the island ended. News of the isolated community created world-wide attention. Visiting ships made generous gifts and missionary societies ensured its residents were well provided with religious materials and practical necessities.

'Patriarch of Pitcairn John Adams
(from an engraving by H. Adlard)

John Adams aged 58 in 1825 four years before his death.
(from a sketch by Capt. Beechey)

Meanwhile after a rather rough ride, the launch with its load of Pitcairners and their trade goods reached and boarded our cruise ship. They quickly set up a display of their wares and awaited the onslought. Eager buyers oohed and ahed over the beautiful wood and bone carvings, woven baskets, caps, t-shirts, postcards, stamps and magazines about the island. Sales were brisk and before long little remained of the goods they had brought to the ship.

Pitcairn Trade Goods
(Photo by G. Wilson)

Pitcairn Trade Goods
(Photo by G.Wilson)

Pitcairn Trade Goods
(Photo by G. Wilson)

Pitcairn Trade Goods
(Photo by G. Wilson)

Pitcairn Trade Goods
(Photo by G. Wilson)

Among the Pitcairn visitors to the ship was Tom Christian, the great, great-grandson of Fletcher Christian, whose name was followed by the letters M.B.E.,(Member of the British Empire) distinguished recognition he received from the British government. Tom, who travels widely around the world speaking about the mutiny, his famous ancestor and life on Pitcairn today, said no matter where he goes he always pines for the place of his birth.

Tom Christian, M.B.E.
(Photo by G. Wilson)

When the trading was completed the Islanders assembled on deck where the Pitcairn's mayor extended thanks to all and bade us adieu before leading the group in several farewell songs ending with

"In the sweet bye and bye,
We shall meet on the beautiful shores"

Farewell Songs
(Photo by G. Wilson)

Group Photo of Pitcairn Islanders.
(Photo by G. Wilson)

(Photo by G. Wilson)

Life on Pitcairn Today
(Picture from Guide to Pitcairn)

Government on the island is two-tiered. The British High Commissioner of New Zealand functions as Governor of Pitcairn and is responsible for its relationship with the British government and any external affairs. He also appoints the Island Magistrate. Local affairs are the responsibility of the elected Mayor and four Councillors which together comprise the Island Council. Public revenues come almost exclusively from the sale of postage stamps, commemorative coins, licence fees and land taxes. All local expenditures are controlled by the Island Council.

The real basis of the Pitcairn economy is the postal service. The remoteness of the island has always meant a demand for stamps from collectors the world over. Since the first letter was sent from Pitcairn aboard HMS Seringapatam on 17 March 1830 until 1926, mail was simply marked "Posted on Pitcairn Island. No Stamps Available." Then for fourteen yars New Zealand stamps were used unitl 15 October 1940 when the first true Pitcairn Islands stamps were issued. Stamps, covers and original letters have all become prized collector items.

The mail is brought out by longboat to waiting ships. Mail in and out of Pitcairn is a slow, unpredicatable process. Four supply ships arrive from New Zealand each yearwith the new issues that are received from the Crown Agents in England. These ships pick up mail and destribute it world wide. To date only 425 stamps and souvenir sheets have been produced sint 1940. Issues are all related to the island, its people, history, flora and fauna.

Elementary education is provided by teachers from New Zealand who work on two-year terms. Secondary education is by correspondence or those who wish may attend school in New Zealand where they may also received college and university education. Basic supplies other than those grown on the island arrive regularly by ship from New Zealand.

The standard of health on Pitcairn is high although islanders are always susceptible to colds and flu which may be carried on visiting ships. Once an island resident is infected, the sickness often quickly spreads to the rest of the community and they are quick to blame any new arrival for a cold or 'feewa'. Every attempt it made to ensure a nurse is resident on the island and this on occasion has been the wife of the resident pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Both serve for two-year terms. The services of a medical doctor are available on the island and if a dentist is working on passing cruise ships his/her services are sometimes sought. If needed medical evacuations to New Zealand are arranged at government expense.

Bounty Day on 23rd of January celebrates the burning of the Bounty. It is an important holiday during which a re-enactment takes place of the burning of a replica of the Bounty. The relaxing day is spent swimming, weaving baskets, carving, chatting and eating pineapple and watermelon. Islanders love to fish and late in the afternoon adults volunteer to clean the catch of the day which is then fried and with other food previously prepared is placed upon a large table and feasted upon by all.

Bounty Day Feast

As darkness descends the ship constructed of cardboard sails and empty drums is launched and towed to the site of that fateful fire so long ago. All watch and reflect on the flames of the original Bounty as its bogus burns to the waterline bringing to a close another Bounty Day.

The Bounty in Flames
(picture from The Guide to Pitcairn)


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