Pitcairn is of volcanic origin; it is approximately two miles long and one mile wide, and reaches an elevation of 340 meters (1,100 feet) at its highest point. Pitcairn’s area is approximately 1,200 acres (1.75 square miles). It has a rough, rocky, cliff-dominated shoreline with no safe harbor or anchorage. The land is hilly, but fertile (nowhere giving easy access to the sea), and the sea is rich in fish – both providing a good living for the approximately 50 residents of Pitcairn. The main crops consist of arrowroot, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, tomatoes, cabbages, pineapples, melons, citrus and bananas. Apart from poultry and a few wild goats, there are no farm animals. Wide varieties of foods, as well as other material needs, are shipped from New Zealand via infrequent freighter service. There is a small co-op store stocking food, dry goods, building materials and hardware items. Currently, supply ships arrive approximately twice a year bringing fuel, food, mail and needed supplies.
population rises and falls from time to time, usually maintaining a steady 40
islanders plus about 10 administrative personnel and occasional visitors from
outside. The majority of Pitcairn
descendants live in Norfolk Island and New Zealand with a few scattered around
the world … many remain in contact with their ancestral homeland.
only church is Seventh-day Adventist, of which many islanders are members; the
minister is assigned from overseas on a rotational basis.
Pitcairn’s school system is basically New Zealand public school with
one teacher assigned on a one or two-year contract.
Until recently there was no
resident doctor, the pastor’s wife/husband was in the past required to be a
Registered nurse – more recently a doctor is posted by government contract. The clinic is well stocked and has functioning dental and
There is no taxation on Pitcairn, instead all able-bodied men and women are expected to report for public work when needed, generally consisting of road work, maintenance of public buildings and, most importantly, manning the longboats to retrieve any arriving cargo and passengers from passing ships. Public electricity is available part of every day (10 hours) and supplemented by private generators as needed by individuals. The only form of transportation is three and four wheel ATV motorbikes. Local ‘telephone’ communication is via house–to-house VHF radio. Outside communication is via international marine satellite (voice and FAX) plus HAM radio. A recent addition is 24-hour Internet and e-mail. There is no TV reception; however, videos provide the islanders with evening entertainment on both VCR’s and DVD’s. Pitcairn’s monthly newsletter – Miscellany - is published by the school (edited by the teacher), and posted to subscribers around the world
makes handicrafts. Some people
specialize in certain types of items (woodworking, basket weavings, jewelry,
printed t-shirts and hats) depending on their particular skill or interest.
Woodcrafts include sharks, fish, birds, turtles, Bounty and longboat
models, bowls, vases and many more. Weavings
include covered and uncovered baskets in many shapes, sizes and colors – some
with ‘Pitcairn Island’ woven in [if ordered, your name could be included,
too]. T-shirts and hats are printed or sewn with many artistic
designs conceived by the island vendor. Colorful
postage stamps (both mint and cancelled) are offered for sale by everyone.
Often you will find someone sanding on a wood carving while
‘relaxing’ at home, or wherever he or she may be.
has a variety of ships stopping by to trade.
Occasional passing freighters will stop for a couple of hours and a
longboat load if islanders will go out with goods to trade for cash or
commodities, such as food and drinks from the cook, cash for their handicrafts
or possibly a much needed bearing or metal part from the engineer.
Scheduled stops by cruise ships are looked forward to for a pleasant day
of trading socializing with the sometimes hundreds of passengers.
Occasionally, small adventure cruise ships, usually with fewer than 200
passengers, stop by bringing people ashore to enjoy a day of trading and
exploring on Pitcairn. During the
non-cyclone season, quite a number of ‘yachties’ will stop by for a day or
so on their way from the Americas to tour the Pacific islands.
Every visitor is well treated, fed and housed on Pitcairn and depart
saying it was the best stop of their voyage.
work on Pitcairn is a means of paying taxes and serving the community.
There are no income or sales taxes on Pitcairn; instead, service is
rendered for the good of the community by asking all able-bodied persons to show
up - when called – to perform public work.
This can consist of - most importantly - to man the longboats for going
out to an arriving ship; possibly to perform needed road maintenance; cleaning,
repairing of public facilities or dealing with other matters concerning the
community as a whole. Even when not required, islanders will show up in force to
help a fellow member of the community to build his house or cement a well, for
has a number of interesting places to see.
Well known are Bounty Bay, the final resting place of The Bounty,
and the Square. The Edge provides a
great view of Bounty Bay; Garnet’s Ridge offers a spectacular view of both
Tedside and Adamstown; Tedside is a great secluded place to just visit and,
perhaps, find Ms T, the resident Galapagos turtle; the Highest Point is a
popular spot to visit; Ship Landing Point overlooks the edge and Bounty Bay;
Saint Paul’s, another secluded place, has a beautiful tide pool, and looks
great when the surf is up or down; Down Rope – a special isolated spot – has
a sandy beach and a cliff wall containing ancient Polynesian petroglypths.
There are many other vistas and places to see, both in Adamstown and
around the island, to peak your interest … one of the most popular is
Christian’s Cave, just outside Adamstown.
are hard workers, but they do find time to relax and have fun.
Everyone has video players to show tape and DVD movies on TV screens.
Videos are often shared around town with whoever asks to borrow one.
People frequently visit each other in the evening to share a dinner or a
movie; whenever someone has a birthday; the entire town is invited to come to
the party – which includes a potluck dinner.
is a place for outings on Pitcairn. The
large, open field contains a tennis court, volleyball court and picnic
facilities where everyone will go to enjoy a pleasant summer day.
Sometimes, a fishing trip can become a family outing with a meal cooked
over an open fire. Occasionally, the islanders will take ‘a trip around the
island’ in the longboat – stopping at various places to fish (both off the
rocks and trolling); kids and adults alike will enjoy swimming and diving from
rocks in a small cove and an enjoyable excursion into Gudgeon is usually
included. Gudgeon is a cave at
water line – there is a sandy beach inside; the small entrance opens into a
large, wide room carved out by wave action.
is an event that takes place whenever islanders receive something (usually from
a passing ship) intended for everyone. For
instance, if a ship donates a supply of food goods, fuel – anything – the
commodity will be divided into equal shares for each family and distributed in a
fair manner. After an occasional
fishing trip one of the longboats (where many of the islanders participate), the
total catch is divided into equal portions and shared out to each person who
Island is another place for an outing. About
once a year, in mid-summer, a large group of Islanders will pack up everything
they need for a two-week holiday on Oeno. Two
longboats are fitted out with protective coverings and canvases for the 10-hour
overnight trip to Oeno. Most people
will sleep along the way waking up to the beautiful coral atoll about 120
kilometers (75 miles) north-west of Pitcairn.
Campsites are promptly established; meals are prepared on a ‘take
turn’ basis, then everyone sets out to explore, fish, swim or relax.
resident doctor administers the health clinic along with his/her staff assistant
from the community. An additional
community member serves as the dental officer who is capable of routine dental
care and is available for general x-ray needs.
The clinic is well supplied with emergency and daily medication needs. Should an emergency occur where the clinic can not give
sufficient care, a call will be put out for any passing ship to stop and take
the patient to the nearest emergency facility – sometimes many days away
(after a diverted ship arrives – which could be several days away as well).
Such emergencies are rare, but very possible.
[Visitors should be well aware of this situation.]
Most pregnancies are sent to New Zealand in their later stages as a
precaution. There have been very
few deaths due to medical need – acute appendicitis has been one cause.
British government, thru an office in New Zealand, administers to Pitcairn’s
daily needs. The Governor of
Pitcairn serves as the British High Commissioner to New Zealand; his office
appoints the Commissioner to tend to the island’s needs.
The commissioner will see to it that needed building supplies, food,
fuel, mail and visitors (both official and public) find their way to the island.
Supplies have to be purchased and freighters scheduled, official
communications dealt with, stamps designed and printed, islanders special needs
addressed. On Pitcairn, the Island Council manages local affairs …
headed by the Mayor. On island
services include: island secretary, post office, museum and library,
customs/immigration officer, electrical generation (10 hours a day), public
works and satellite and internet communications.
Administration persons staff the following: health clinic (doctor),
police, primary education (school teacher) and government representative
(liaison to the Governor).
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