Unforgettable Pitcairn

A hospitable country to visit and tips for those who choose to follow.

Published 4 years ago

“Watch your step, the surface is terribly slippery!” A huge man points his finger at the landing ramp, which is covered in green algae. We are just about to step ashore on Pitcairn Island for the first time, where the Mayor, policeman, Quarantine Officer and several others are waiting for us. They have just guided us via VHF to the best spot to drop our anchor in Bounty Bay. In English, of course.

“Welcome to Pitcairn!”, the man says and smiles. Yep, no doubt, this guy is talking to me in fluent Norwegian! The explanation, as we are about to find out, is as simple as it is complex. In the 1970s, Kari Boye emigrated from the Norwegian capital of Oslo to Pitcairn. There she married, built a home with her husband and raised two children, Timmy and Anette. It is Timmy who welcomes us. In Pitcairn, the island that is said to be the most isolated, populated place on earth. No airport, just a supply vessel stopping by every third or fourth month. The world is indeed a small place!

After having cleared immigration and had our passports stamped, Tim takes us on his 4WD motorbike, up the steep hills that are everywhere on the island, and up to the family house. On the balcony, an enormous Norwegian flag is on display. By the entrance, ripe bananas by the hundreds hang for us to pick, peel and eat. Kari Boye, now Young, greets us with fresh, homemade bread, cheese and orange marmalade. We eat until we can’t eat any more, and then we eat some more.

After having spent 13 days at sea from Easter Island, some good, homemade Norwegian-style food really tastes good. The view from Up Tibi, the place where the house is situated, is stunning. Palm trees swaying in the wind, and the eternal Pacific Ocean hundreds of metres beneath us. The swell is slowly rolling in towards the coastline, before being crushed and transformed into a thousand million drops against the wild and beautiful shore that stretches all around the island.

Anchoring at Pitcairn

Pitcairn doesn’t have any beaches and only two places where it is possible to land. The two are Bounty Bay, where the mutineers first came ashore, and Tedside on the Westcoast. Tedside is only possible to land on when the winds are Easterly, and with no swell coming in from the Southwest.

In the course of a year, 15-20 sailboats will normally sail by Pitcairn Island. We were completely alone for the week-and-a-half that we spent there. A couple of boats passed us by on their way from Easter Island to the Gamblers or Tahiti. They found the conditions in the anchorage too challenging, and that is fair enough. We, as always, were safely anchored, even though the swell and weather helm sometimes came straight into Bounty Bay and were just as violent as the weather had been to us on Easter Island some three weeks earlier.

Pitcairn History

Tim and his sister Anette are the only two Pitcairn-Norwegians in the world, and both are direct descendants from the mutineer Edward Young, in the ninth or tenth generation. Young was remarkable to the degree that he was the first mutineer on the island to die from natural causes. He had asthma, and the climate on Pitcairn finally got to him. This destiny was not for most of the other mutineers. After just three years, first mate and chief mutineer Fletcher Christian was shot and killed by his Tahitian slaves, together with four other of the mutineers. Only four survived. One of them committed suicide, and one was hacked to death by the other mutineers. So the quest for Paradise remained an elusive dream for all but John Adams, in the end is the sole survivor of them all. He then sat there with around ten Polynesian girls and a veritable horde of children from all the mutineers and the Tahitians. Long story short, Adams converted to Christianity, and became a responsible and wise leader, transforming the little colony in Pitcairn to all the things that Christian had hoped for. Today, the little community has 48 inhabitants from nine different families. They are well integrated into the larger world community via an internet connection and phone lines.

Tim has a degree in history from a university in Australia and is probably the world’s foremost expert in what actually happened to the Bounty-mutineers after they had reached Pitcairn, and he is more than happy to tell about his findings. He is planning to publish a book about the mutiny and spends every day working on it. He is like a wandering encyclopedia, and for us, sitting there on the actual island where they landed some 220 years ago, in the evenings, just after nightfall, listening to him telling the story about the mutiny, and all the protagonists, where and what they came from, who they were, what they looked like, and which parts they took in the mutiny was very special. The human beings behind this tragedy really came alive to us as we sat there.

Pitcairn Practicalities

The Islanders rely economically on tourism and the odd part-time job for the local administration. The local economy is still largely based on the natural household. Tourism mainly consists of the locals taking their boats out to sell handmade souvenirs, postcards and the very coveted Pitcairn-stamps whenever there is a cruise ship or cargo vessel stopping by for a few hours.

Electricity is made with diesel generators, and electricity is only switched on between 0800 to 1300 and 1700 to 2000 every day. But many have their own little generators or large batteries installed in their homes.

There is a post office, co-op, basic bank services, and even a restaurant! It is open every Friday between 1800 and 2200. There you can enjoy a good meal and a Captain Morgan rum, meet the Islanders and have a nice time. In order to be allowed to drink alcohol in Pitcairn, you need an official alcohol license which costs US$20. The license is beautiful, it comes in writing, with name, date of birth, place and the official crest of Pitcairn on it.

We had engine problems, so the local mechanic, Jay “Squeaky” Warren helped us out and fixed it in no time. A big relief for us at that point. We visited locals, we went to church on Saturday (everybody in Pitcairn is Seventh Day Adventists, so they basically celebrate their Sundays on Saturdays). We went to the Thursday market (More than 20 people visited it in just a couple of hours!) and we wandered around on the dirt roads in the steep hills.

For us, Pitcairn was to become an unforgettable encounter with heartfelt hospitality, helpfulness and the people in one of the most isolated places on our planet. It reminded us quite a bit of our own island back in Norway, except for the climate, banana trees and the fact that it is situated far below the Equator. We felt very sad as we set sail for Tahiti 1200 miles to the north, talking to the Islanders over the radio, and saying goodbye. Now, we felt like we were heading back to civilization again, after almost three months of blue ocean, desolate islands and overwhelmingly clear and starry skies during our night watches.

Rune Ellingsen
SV Underveis

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