Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
Pitkern Ailen (Pitkern)
Location of Pitcairn Islands(circled in red)
|Ethnic groups||Majority Pitcairn Islanders|
|Government||Dependency with a directly elected mayoralty under constitutional monarchy|
|47 km2 (18 sq mi)|
o 2018 estimate
o 2010 census
|1.19/km2 (3.1/sq mi) (240th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2005 estimate|
|NZ$ 217, 000|
|Currency||New Zealand dollar[b] (NZD)|
|ISO 3166 code||PN|
UK PostcodePCRN 1ZZ
The Pitcairn Islands (;Pitkern: Pitkern Ailen), officially Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the sole British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific. The four islands – Pitcairn proper, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – are scattered across several hundred miles of ocean and have a combined land area of about 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). Henderson Island accounts for 86% of the land area, but only Pitcairn Island is inhabited. The nearest places are Mangareva (of French Polynesia) to the west and Easter Island to the east.
Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world. The Pitcairn Islanders are a biracial ethnic group descended mostly from nine Bounty mutineers and the handful of Tahitians who accompanied them, an event that has been retold in many books and films. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. Today there are approximately 50 permanent inhabitants, originating from four main families.
The earliest known settlers of the Pitcairn Islands were Polynesians who appear to have lived on Pitcairn and Henderson, and on Mangareva Island 540 kilometres (340 mi) to the northwest, for several centuries. They traded goods and formed social ties among the three islands despite the long canoe voyages between them, which helped the small populations on each island survive despite their limited resources. Eventually, important natural resources were exhausted, inter-island trade broke down and a period of civil war began on Mangareva, causing the small human populations on Henderson and Pitcairn to be cut off and eventually become extinct.
Although archaeologists believe that Polynesians were living on Pitcairn as late as the 15th century, the islands were uninhabited when they were rediscovered by Europeans.
Ducie and Henderson Islands were discovered by Portuguese sailor Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, sailing for the Spanish Crown, who arrived on 26 January 1606. He named them La Encarnación ("The Incarnation") and San Juan Bautista ("Saint John the Baptist"), respectively. However, some sources express doubt about exactly which of the islands were visited and named by Queirós, suggesting that La Encarnación may actually have been Henderson Island, and San Juan Bautista may have been Pitcairn Island.
Pitcairn Island was sighted on 3 July 1767 by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Philip Carteret. The island was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crew member who was the first to sight the island. Robert Pitcairn was a son of British Marine Major John Pitcairn, who later was killed at the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution.
Carteret, who sailed without the newly-invented marine chronometer, charted the island at , and although the latitude was reasonably accurate, his recorded longitude was incorrect by about 3° (330 km, 210 mi) west of the island. This made Pitcairn difficult to find, as highlighted by the failure of Captain James Cook to locate the island in July 1773.
In 1790 nine of the mutineers from the Bounty, along with the native Tahitian men and women who were with them (six men, eleven women, and a baby girl), settled on Pitcairn Islands and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay, discovered in 1957 by National Geographic explorer Luis Marden. Although the settlers survived by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among them. Alcoholism, murder, disease, and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men. John Adams and Ned Young turned to the scriptures, using the ship's Bible as their guide for a new and peaceful society. Young eventually died of an asthmatic infection.
Ducie Island was rediscovered in 1791 by Royal Navy Captain Edwards aboard HMS Pandora, while searching for the Bounty mutineers. He named it after Francis Reynolds-Moreton, 3rd Baron Ducie, also a captain in the Royal Navy.
The Pitcairn islanders reported it was not until 27 December 1795 that the first ship since the Bounty was seen from the island, but it did not approach the land and they could not make out the nationality. A second ship appeared in 1801, but made no attempt to communicate with them. A third came sufficiently near to see their house, but did not try to send a boat on shore. Finally, the American sealing ship Topaz under Mayhew Folger became the first to visit the island, when the crew spent 10 hours on Pitcairn in February 1808.
A report of Folger's discovery was forwarded to the Admiralty, mentioning the mutineers and giving a more precise location of the island: . However this was not known to Sir Thomas Staines, who commanded a Royal Navy flotilla of two ships (HMS Briton and HMS Tagus) which found the island at (by meridian observation) on 17 September 1814. Staines sent a party ashore and wrote a detailed report for the Admiralty. By that time, only one mutineer, John Adams, remained alive. He was granted amnesty for his part in the mutiny.
Henderson Island was rediscovered on 17 January 1819 by British Captain James Henderson of the British East India Company ship Hercules. Captain Henry King, sailing on the Elizabeth, landed on 2 March to find the king's colours already flying. His crew scratched the name of their ship into a tree. Oeno Island was discovered on 26 January 1824 by American Captain George Worth aboard the whaler Oeno.
In 1832 a Church Missionary Society missionary, Joshua Hill, arrived; he reported that by March 1833 he had founded a Temperance Society to combat drunkenness, a "Maundy Thursday Society", a monthly prayer meeting, a juvenile society, a Peace Society, and a school.
Traditionally, Pitcairn Islanders consider that their islands "officially" became a British colony on 30 November 1838, at the same time becoming one of the first territories to extend voting rights to women. By the mid-1850s, the Pitcairn community was outgrowing the island; its leaders appealed to the British government for assistance, and were offered Norfolk Island. On 3 May 1856, the entire population of 193 people set sail for Norfolk on board the Morayshire, arriving on 8 June after a difficult five-week trip. However, just eighteen months later, seventeen of the Pitcairn Islanders returned to their home island, and another 27 followed five years later.
HMS Thetis visited Pitcairn Island on 18 April 1881 and "found the people very happy and contented, and in perfect health". At that time the population was 96; an increase of six since the visit of Admiral de Horsey in September 1878. Stores had recently been delivered from friends in England, including two whale-boats and Portland cement, which was used to make the reservoir watertight. HMS Thetis gave the islanders 200 lb (91 kg) of biscuits, 100 lb (45 kg) of candles, and 100 lb (45 kg) of soap and clothing to the value of £31, donated by the ship's company. An American trading ship called Venus had recently bestowed a supply of cotton seed, to provide the islanders with a crop for future trade.
In 1886, the Seventh-day Adventist layman John Tay visited Pitcairn and persuaded most of the islanders to accept his faith. He returned in 1890 on the missionary schooner Pitcairn with an ordained minister to perform baptisms. Since then, the majority of Pitcairn Islanders have been Adventists.
The islands of Henderson, Oeno and Ducie were annexed by Britain in 1902: Henderson on 1 July, Oeno on 10 July, and Ducie on 19 December. In 1938, the three islands, along with Pitcairn, were incorporated into a single administrative unit called the "Pitcairn Group of Islands".
In 2004, charges were laid against seven men living on Pitcairn and six living abroad. This accounted for nearly a third of the male population. After extensive trials, most of the men were convicted, some with multiple counts of sexual encounters with children. On 25 October 2004, six men were convicted, including Steve Christian, the island's mayor at the time. In 2004, the islanders had about 20 guns among them, which they surrendered ahead of the sexual assault trials. After the six men lost their final appeal, the British government set up a prison on the island at Bob's Valley. The men began serving their sentences in late 2006. By 2010, all had served their sentences or been granted home detention status.
In 2010, the mayor Mike Warren faced 25 charges of possessing images and videos of child pornography on his computer. In 2016 Warren was found guilty of downloading more than 1000 images and videos of child sexual abuse. Warren began downloading the images some time after the 2004 sexual assault convictions. During the time he downloaded the images he was working in child protection. Warren was also convicted of engaging in a "sex chat" with someone who he believed was a 15-year-old girl.
The Pitcairn Islands form the southeasternmost extension of the geological archipelago of the Tuamotus of French Polynesia, and consist of four islands: Pitcairn Island, Oeno Island (atoll with five islets, one of which is Sandy Island), Henderson Island and Ducie Island (atoll with four islets).
The only permanently inhabited island, Pitcairn, is accessible only by boat through Bounty Bay. Henderson Island, covering about 86% of the territory's total land area and supporting a rich variety of animals in its nearly inaccessible interior, is also capable of supporting a small human population despite its scarce fresh water, but access is difficult, owing to its outer shores being steep limestone cliffs covered by sharp coral. In 1988, this island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The other islands are at a distance of more than 100 km (62 mi) and are not habitable.
|Island or atoll||Type||Land area
|Henderson Island||Uplifted coral island||37.3||37.3||0|
|Pitcairn Island||Volcanic island||4.6||4.6||68|
|-||43.25||62.45||68||23°55?26? to 25°04?00?S,|
124°47?11? to 130°44?03?W
+ Includes reef flat and lagoon of the atolls.
View of Bounty Bay
Pitcairn is located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn and experiences year-round warm weather, with wet summers and drier winters. The rainy season (summer) is from November through to March, when temperatures average 25 to 35 °C (77 to 95 °F) and humidity can exceed 95%. Temperatures in the winter range from 17 to 25 °C (63 to 77 °F).
About nine plant species are thought to occur only on Pitcairn. These include tapau, formerly an important timber resource, and the giant nehe fern. Some, such as red berry (Coprosma rapensis var. Benefica), are perilously close to extinction. The plant species Glochidion pitcairnense is endemic to Pitcairn and Henderson Islands.
Between 1937 and 1951, Irving Johnson, skipper of the 29-metre (96 ft) brigantine Yankee Five, introduced five Galápagos giant tortoises to Pitcairn. Turpen, also known as Mr. Turpen or Mr. T, is the sole survivor. Turpen usually lives at Tedside by Western Harbour. A protection order makes it an offence should anyone kill, injure, capture, maim, or cause harm or distress to the tortoise.
The birds of Pitcairn fall into several groups. These include seabirds, wading birds and a small number of resident land-bird species. Of 20 breeding species, Henderson Island has 16, including the unique flightless Henderson crake; Oeno hosts 12; Ducie 13 and Pitcairn six species. Birds breeding on Pitcairn include the fairy tern, common noddy and red-tailed tropicbird. The Pitcairn reed warbler, known by Pitcairners as a "sparrow", is endemic to Pitcairn Island; formerly common, it was added to the endangered species list in 2008.
The four islands in the Pitcairn group have been identified by BirdLife International as separate Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Pitcairn Island is recognised because it is the only nesting site of the Pitcairn reed warbler. Henderson Island is important for its endemic land-birds as well as its breeding seabirds. Oeno's ornithological significance derives principally from its Murphy's petrel colony. Ducie is important for its colonies of Murphy's, herald and Kermadec petrels, and Christmas shearwaters.
In March 2015 the British government established one of the largest marine protected areas in the world around the Pitcairn Islands. The reserve covers the islands' entire exclusive economic zone – 834,334 square kilometres (322,138 sq mi). The intention is to protect some of the world's most pristine ocean habitat from illegal fishing activities. A satellite "watchroom" dubbed Project Eyes on the Seas has been established by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the Pew Charitable Trusts at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Harwell, Oxfordshire to monitor vessel activity and to gather the information needed to prosecute unauthorised trawling. 
The Pitcairn Islands are a British overseas territory with a degree of local government. The Queen of the United Kingdom is represented by a Governor, who also holds office as British High Commissioner to New Zealand and is based in Wellington.
The 2010 constitution gives authority for the islands to operate as a representative democracy, with the United Kingdom retaining responsibility for matters such as defence and foreign affairs. The Governor and the Island Council may enact laws for the "peace, order and good government" of Pitcairn. The Island Council customarily appoints a Mayor of Pitcairn as a day-to-day head of the local administration. There is a Commissioner, appointed by the Governor, who liaises between the Council and the Governor's office.
Since 2015, same-sex marriage has been legal on Pitcairn Island, although there are no people on the island known to be in such a relationship.
The Pitcairn Islands has the smallest population of any democracy in the world.
The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The fertile soil of the Pitcairn valleys, such as Isaac's Valley on the gentle slopes southeast of Adamstown, produces a wide variety of fruits: including bananas (Pitkern: plun), papaya (paw paws), pineapples, mangoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, passionfruit, breadfruit, coconuts, avocadoes, and citrus (including mandarin oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes). Vegetables include: sweet potatoes (kumura), carrots, sweet corn, tomatoes, taro, yams, peas, and beans. Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) and sugarcane are grown and harvested to produce arrowroot flour and molasses, respectively. Pitcairn Island is remarkably productive and its benign climate supports a wide range of tropical and temperate crops. All land allocation for any use including agriculture is under the discretion of the government. If the government deems agricultural production excessive then it may tax the land. If the agricultural land has been deemed not up to the standards of the government it may confiscate and transfer the land without compensation.
Fish are plentiful in the seas around Pitcairn. Spiny lobster and a large variety of fish are caught for meals and for trading aboard passing ships. Almost every day someone will go fishing, whether it is from the rocks, from a longboat or diving with a spear gun. There are numerous types of fish around the island. Fish such as nanwee, white fish, moi and opapa are caught in shallow water, while snapper, big eye and cod are caught in deep water, and yellow tail and wahoo are caught by trawling.
In 1998 the UK's overseas aid agency, the Department for International Development, funded an apiculture programme for Pitcairn which included training for Pitcairn's beekeepers and a detailed analysis of Pitcairn's bees and honey with particular regard to the presence or absence of disease. Pitcairn has one of the best examples of disease-free bee populations anywhere in the world and the honey produced was and remains exceptionally high in quality. Pitcairn bees are also a placid variety and, within a short time, beekeepers are able to work with them wearing minimal protection. As a result, Pitcairn exports honey to New Zealand and to the United Kingdom. In London, Fortnum & Mason sells it and it is a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. The Pitcairn Islanders, under the "Bounty Products" and "Delectable Bounty" brands, also export dried fruit including bananas, papayas, pineapples and mangoes to New Zealand. Honey production and all honey related products are a protected monopoly. All funds and management are under the supervision and discretion of the government.
Cuisine is not very developed, because only 50 people live on Pitcairn. The most traditional meal is pota, mash from palm leaves and coconut. Domestic tropical plants are abundantly used. These include: basil, breadfruit, sugar cane, coconut, bananas and beans. Meat courses consist mainly of fish and beef. A palm leaf is used in the pictured cuisine. Because most of the population is from the UK, the cuisine is influenced by British cuisine, for example, the meat pie.
The cuisine of Norfolk Island is very similar to that of the Pitcairn Islands, as Norfolk Islanders trace their origins to Pitcairn. The local cuisine is a blend of British cuisine and Tahitian cuisine.
Recipes from Norfolk Island of Pitcairn origin include mudda (green banana dumplings) and kumara pilhi. The island's cuisine also includes foods not found on Pitcairn, such as chopped salads and fruit pies, from the influences of American whalers.
Tourism plays a major role on Pitcairn. Tourism is the focus for building the economy. It focuses on small groups coming by charter vessel and staying at "home stays". About ten times a year, passengers from expedition-type cruise ships come ashore for a day, weather permitting. Since 2009, the government has been operating the as the island's only dedicated passenger/cargo vessel, providing adventure tourism holidays to Pitcairn for visits. Tourists stay with local families and experience the island's culture while contributing to the local economy. Providing accommodation is a growing source of revenue, and some families have invested in private self-contained units adjacent to their homes for tourists to rent.
Entry requirements for short stays, up to 14 days, which do not require a visa, and for longer stays, that do require prior clearance, are explained in official documents. All persons under 16 years of age require prior clearance before landing, irrespective of the length of stay.
The Pitcairners are involved in creating crafts and curios (made out of wood from Henderson). Typical woodcarvings include sharks, fish, whales, dolphins, turtles, vases, birds, walking sticks, book boxes, and models of the Bounty. Miro (Thespesia populnea), a dark and durable wood, is preferred for carving. Islanders also produce tapa cloth and painted Hattie leaves. The major sources of revenue[when?] have been the sale of coins and postage stamps to collectors, .pn domain names, and the sale of handicrafts to passing ships, most of which are on the United Kingdom to New Zealand route via the Panama Canal. The flow of funds from these revenue sources are from customer to the government to the Pitcairners. The government holds a monopoly over "any article of whatsoever nature made, manufactured, prepared for sale or produced by any of the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island".
Diesel generators provide the island with electricity from 7 am to 10 pm. A wind power plant was planned to be installed to help reduce the high cost of power generation associated with the import of diesel, but was cancelled in 2013 after a project overrun of three years and a cost of £250,000.
The only qualified high voltage electricity technician on Pitcairn, who manages the electricity grid, reached the age of 65 in 2014.
The islands have suffered a substantial population decline since 1940, and the viability of the island's community is in doubt (see § Potential extinction, below). The government has tried to attract migrants. However, these initiatives have not been effective.
Most resident Pitcairn Islanders are descendants of the Bounty mutineers and Tahitians (or other Polynesians). Pitkern is a creole language derived from 18th-century English, with elements of the Tahitian language. It is spoken as a first language by the population and is taught alongside English at the island's only school. It is closely related to the creole language Norfuk, spoken on Norfolk Island, because Norfolk was repopulated in the mid-19th century by Pitcairners.
The only church building on the island is Seventh-day Adventist. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is not a state religion, as no laws concerning its establishment were passed by the local government. A successful Seventh-day Adventist mission in the 1890s was important in shaping Pitcairn society. In recent years, the church population has declined, and as of 2000 , eight of the then forty islanders attended services regularly, but most attend church on special occasions. From Friday at sunset until Saturday at sunset, Pitcairners observe a day of rest in observance of the Sabbath, or as a mark of respect for observant Adventists.
The church was built in 1954 and is run by the Church board and resident pastor, who usually serves a two-year term. The Sabbath School meets at 10 am on Saturday mornings, and is followed by Divine Service an hour later. On Tuesday evenings, there is another service in the form of a prayer meeting.
Education is free and compulsory between the ages of five and sixteen. Children up to the age of 12 are taught at Pulau School, while children of 13 and over attend secondary school in New Zealand, or are educated via correspondence school.
The island's children have produced a book in Pitkern and English called Mi Bas Side orn Pitcairn or My Favourite Place on Pitcairn.
The school at Pitcairn, Pulau School, provides pre-school and primary education based on the New Zealand syllabus. The teacher is appointed by the governor from suitable qualified applicants who are registered teachers.
As of July 2014 However, the actual permanent resident population was only 49 Pitcairners spread across 23 households. It is, however, rare for all 49 residents to be on-island at the same time; it is common for several residents to be off-island for varying lengths of time visiting family, for medical reasons, or to attend international conferences. As of November 2013 for instance, seven residents were off-island. A diaspora survey projected that by 2045, if nothing were done, only three people of working age would be left on the island, with the rest being very old. In addition, the survey revealed that residents who had left the island over the past decades showed little interest in coming back. Of the hundreds of emigrants contacted, only 33 were willing to participate in the survey and just three expressed a desire to return., the total resident population of the Pitcairn Islands was 56, including the six temporary residents: an administrator, a doctor, a police officer, and their spouses.
As of 2014 Most of the men undertake the more strenuous physical tasks on the island such as crewing the longboats, cargo handling, and the operation and maintenance of physical assets. Longboat crew retirement age is 58. There were then 12 men aged between 18 and 58 residing on Pitcairn. Each longboat requires a minimum crew of three; of the four longboat coxswains, two were in their late 50s., the labour force consisted of 31 able-bodied persons: 17 males and 14 females between 18 and 64 years of age. Of the 31, just seven are younger than 40, but 18 are over the age of 50.
The Pitcairn government's attempts to attract migrants have been unsuccessful. Since 2013, some 700 make inquiries each year, but so far, not a single formal settlement application has been received. The migrants are prohibited from taking local jobs or claiming benefits for a certain length of time, even those with children. The migrants are expected to have at least NZ$ 30 000 per person in savings and are expected to build their own house at average cost of NZ$ 140 000. It is also possible to bring off-island builders at an additional cost of between NZ$ 23 000 and NZ$ 28 000. The average annual cost of living on the island is NZ$ 9464. There is, however, no assurance of the migrant's right to remain on Pitcairn; after their first two years, the council must review and reapprove the migrant's status. The migrants are also required to take part in the unpaid public work to keep the island in order: maintain the island's numerous roads and paths, build roads, navigate the island longboats, clean public toilets, etc. There are also restrictions on bringing children under the age of 16 to the island.
Freight from Tauranga to Pitcairn on the (Pitcairn Island's dedicated passenger and cargo ship chartered by the Pitcairn government) is charged at NZ$ 350/m³ for Pitcairners and NZ$ 1000/m³ for all other freight. Additionally, Pitcairners are charged NZ$ 3000 for a one-way trip; others are charged NZ$ 5000.
In 2014, the government's Pitcairn Islands Economic Report stated that "[no one] will migrate to Pitcairn Islands for economic reasons as there are limited government jobs, a lack of private sector employment, as well as considerable competition for the tourism dollar". The Pitcairners take tourists in turns to accommodate those few tourists who occasionally visit the island.
The once-strict moral codes, which prohibited dancing, public displays of affection, smoking, and consumption of alcohol, have been relaxed. Islanders and visitors no longer require a six-month licence to purchase, import, and consume alcohol. There is now one licensed café and bar on the island, and the government store sells alcohol and cigarettes.
Fishing and swimming are two popular recreational activities. A birthday celebration or the arrival of a ship or yacht will involve the entire Pitcairn community in a public dinner in the Square, Adamstown. Tables are covered in a variety of foods, including fish, meat, chicken, pilhi, baked rice, boiled plun (banana), breadfruit, vegetable dishes, an assortment of pies, bread, breadsticks, an array of desserts, pineapple and watermelon.
All settlers of the Pitcairn Islands arrived by boat or ship. Pitcairn Island does not have an airport, airstrip or seaport; the islanders rely on longboats to ferry people and goods between visiting ships and shore through Bounty Bay. Access to the rest of the shoreline is restricted by jagged rocks. The island has one shallow harbour with a launch ramp accessible only by small longboats.
There is one 6.4-kilometre (4 mi) paved road leading up from Bounty Bay through Adamstown.
The main modes of transport on Pitcairn Islands are by four-wheel drive quad bikes and on foot. Much of the road and track network and some of the footpaths of Pitcairn Island are viewable on Google's Street View.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) . . . NZ$ 217,000 (2005/06 indicative estimate) and NZ$ 4,340 per capita (based on 50 residents)
But by A.D. 1606 . . . Henderson's population had ceased to exist. Pitcairn's own population had disappeared at least by 1790 . . . and probably disappeared much earlier.
The government intends to proceed with designation of [an] MPA around Pitcairn. This will be dependent upon reaching agreement with NGOs on satellite monitoring and with authorities in relevant ports to prevent landing of illegal catch, as well as on identifying a practical naval method of enforcing the MPA at a cost that can be accommodated within existing departmental expenditure limits.
Although the Adventist Church has always maintained a resident minister and nurse on Pitcairn, there have been fewer adherents and some church members have moved away from the island. By the end of 2000, regular church attendees among the island population of 40 numbered only eight.