The Pitcairn Islands are a group of five islands in the south -pacific-ocean- situated about 3500 miles from the coast of Chile in South .America, and 3,300 miles from the coast of New Zealand. The island group is made up of the inhabited island of Pitcairn and the volcanic atolls of Sandy,Oeno, Henderson, and Ducie, all of which are uninhabited. Henderson Island due to it's rich source of endemic plantlife, an unknown species of endemic gecko, and for being the breeding ground of the Green Turtle,is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The largest island of Pitcairn has a population of just 50. The island's population peaked during the 1930's to 233 people and this is the highest number of people ever to have lived on the island which was originally populated from just nine families.Due to this Pitcairn is the least populated juristriction in the world Migration from the island is generally to New Zealand.
The islands are best known as being inhabited by the decendents of Fletcher Christian,his Bounty Mutineers and their Tahitian companions.
The island's name comes from the 15 year old midshipman Robert Pitcairn, who was the first to sight the islands on board H.M.S Swallow on the 3rd of July 1767.
Commanded by Captain Philip Carteret, who charted the islands at 25.2 degrees south and 133.21 degrees west of Greenwich, which although was an accurate latitude, the longtitude was out by about three degrees,making Pitcairn hard to find, as highlighted by Captain James Cook in his failure to find it in 1773.
This mistake was the reason Christian decided to settle on the island in 1790. Christian and his party landed at Bounty Bay and burned their vessel, the former Captain William Bligh's 'Bounty' - some of which can still be seen today below the waterline.The anchor from the Bounty was recovered in 1957 and stands pride of place on the island's town square.
The official language spoken on Pitcairn is English although the local Pitkern dialect - a language derived from 18th century English - is what locals tend to speak amongst themselves..
Their religion is Seventh Day Advent Christian, also derived from the 18th century.
Pitcairners have telephone for local and international calls, 2 English satellite T.V channels and satellite internet connection.There is no radio on the island. Electricity on the island comes by way of a diesel powered generator.
Pitcairn was the first Pacific island to become a British colony in 1828. Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory and Britain;s most isolated dependency.Their sovereign is Queen Elisabeth II and the head of their domocratic government is the local Mayor of the island.
The official currency of the island is the New Zealand Dollar, although locals tend to barter for goods between themselves..
There is no air or sea port on the island and residents rely on long boat to ferry themselves ship to shore, from a small landing dock situated in the small harbour of Bounty Bay.The road network is just dirt tracks although there is one 6.4 kilometre paved road,called ' the Hill of Difficulty' from Bounty Bay to the settlement of Adamstown, the island's capital.
Adamstown was named after the former able seaman John Adams, this small settlement houses a town square, courthouse, post office ,library, church and general store.
The store is supplied by ship from New Zealand, three times a year.
There is a resident pastor on the island who serves a two year term.
Situated beyond the settlement, near the local landmark of ' Christian's Cave', is a school run by an education officer on a two year term from New Zealand. He or she is assisted by a resident Pitcairn language teacher.Education is free and compulsary from the age of 5 to 15. Children requiring further education have to migrate to New Zealand.
In this area is also a school house for the teacher, a hostel for visiting tourists and the Island's museum, which houses Polynesian artifacts and relics from the vessel Bounty, which were salvaged from it's wreck during the 1950's.
Pitcairn has one dedicated passenger/cargo ship, chartered by it's government, the MV Claymore II, which sails from Pitcairn to Mangareva Island in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia.
The islands have a summer temperature of between 20-30 degrees centigrade and a winter temperature of no less than 12 degrees centigrade, with an all year round humidity rate of between 60-100 %. Typhoons are known to strike the island between Novermber and March.
Pitcairn has a few isolated patches of endemic vegetation, hosting mainly the Tree Fern and Ailihow tree.It's rocky coastline has a globally important seabird population of Petrels and Rail.
Natural resources on the island consist of manganese, iron, copper, gold, silver and zinc has been found offshore.
Locals eke out a living from fishing, subsistence farming of fruit and vegetables, bee keeping and honey production. Local handicrafts and stamps are sold to tourists and passing ships to implement their income.
There is a small tourist industry on the island of Pitcairn with three types of accomodation, home-stay with a resident local, private 3 bedroom chalets and the island's hostel.
Information about the Island's tourism and accommadation can be obtained from the Government of Pitcairn website, there is a link at the end of this article.
Tourist activities on the island consist of quad biking, fishing, snorkelling/scuba diving, bird watching and hiking.
To travel to Pitcairn one needs to fly from Auckland in New Zealand to Tahiti,( five hours) take another flight from Tahiti to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands ( 2 1/2 hours) and then travel on to Pitcairn Island by boat, (32 hours).
Pitcairn's nearest neighbour is Mangareva on the Gambier Islands some 480 km ( 298 miles ) away, and is only accessible by boat.
READ THE HISTORY OF PITCAIRN; the-unusual-colonization-of-pitcairn-island
Time zone ( UTC + 8)
Internet TLD .pn
Telephone code +64.
VISIT PITCAIRN'S OWN WEBSITES; www.government.pn/
ST PAUL'S POINT.
OTHER PACIFIC ISLAND ARTICLES BY THE SAME AUTHOR.