Pitcairn

Environment:

Pitcairn Islands is in the South Pacific Ocean, about midway between Peru and New Zealand. Of the four islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – only Pitcairn is inhabited. Pitcairn is a rugged volcanic formation, with rocky coastline with cliffs, and no natural harbor. The highest point is Pawala Valley Ridge at 347 meters (1,138 feet).

The major environmental issue is deforestation; only a small portion of the original forest remains due to historical burning and clearing for settlement. In addition to habitat loss, there are issues with invasive species, and loss of genetic diversity. There are eleven species of plants on Pitcairn that don’t live anywhere else in the world. Electricity on the island is provided by diesel generators operating ten hours per day, mornings and evenings. In 2013, a government wind power scheme was cancelled due to cost and time overruns.

All four islands are classed as Important Bird Areas for endemic landbirds and breeding seabirds. Henderson Island became an official World Heritage site in 1988. The Pew Environment Group, on the prospect of creating a Marine Protected Area within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Pew Environment Group has been working with Pitcairn islanders to establish a Pitcairn Marine Reserve within their territorial waters since 2011. Humpback whales can be watched off Pitcairn in late August.

Culture:

There is archaeological evidence that Polynesians settled Pitcairn in the 11th century, but vanished four centuries later. Pitcairn is most famous for being settled again in the 18th century by HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian women. Due to over population, nearly 200 people were relocated from Pitcairn to Norfolk Island in the mid-19th century, under the authority of Queen Victoria; however, in less than a decade a quarter of these people had returned to live in Pitcairn. By the end of the 19th century, Britain had officially annexed the island. In 1970, the British high commissioner of New Zealand became the governor of Pitcairn. Today, the islands’ administrative headquarters is situated in Auckland. The Pitcairn Island Office is part of the British High Commission in Queen Street, on the 17th floor of a glass skyscraper.

Visit Pitcairn is the official website of Pitcairn Islands Tourism. The wreck of the HMS Bounty was rediscovered in 1957, and can be snorkeled in Bounty Bay. Pitcairn Island Museum is located in the main settlement and defacto capital, called Adamstown. Christian’s Cafe is open most Fridays. Flatcher’s Cafe opens for themed dinner nights. Delectable Bounty Take-A-Ways opens Saturdays for take-out. Andy’s Pizzeria opens Thursdays for pick-ups. Otherwise visitors are dependent on 14 registered homestay providers, traditionally allocated on a roster system. Since 2012, there is 1Mbps broadband Internet service available to every home. The Friends of Pitcairn Yahoo Group is the most popular online discussion forum for Pitcairn Islands.

Pitcairn is considered one of the most isolated islands in the world, accessible only by sea. There is no access to the island by air. The MV Claymore II provides regular shipping service between Pitcairn and Mangareva, in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia – a 32 hour trip. Transfer to and from the island is by longboat, which can be hazardous in poor weather. Pitcairn Travel also operates a 20-meter (66 foot) sailing vessel, the SV Xplore out of Mangareva. Mangareva is the closest airport, and is serviced by Air Tahiti.

References:

  • Fieldwork in remote communities: An ethnographic case study of Pitcairn Island by M Amoamo, 2012
  • Humpback whales wintering at Pitcairn Island, South Pacific by C Horswill & JA Jackson, 2012
  • Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed by K Marks, 2011
  • Remoteness and myth making: tourism development on Pitcairn Island by M Amoamo, 2011
  • Island Plant Conservation: The case study of Pitcairn Island by N Kingston, 2010
  • Plant conservation: Invasive species control and forest restoration on Pitcairn Island, South Central Pacific by N Smyth, 2009
  • Success and struggles of small island museums in Polynesia with special reference to Pitcairn Island by CK Johnson, 2007
  • A conservation appraisal of the rare and endemic vascular plants of Pitcairn Island by N Kingston & S Waldren, 2005
  • The plant communities and environmental gradients of Pitcairn Island: the significance of invasive species and the need for conservation management by N Kingston & S Waldren, 2003