Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pitcairn Island fascination

Haven't written nearly as much as I had planned on, which I need to remedy, but I've been getting quite a bit of reading done.  Lately, I've been fascinated by the Pitcairn Island history.  I had seen a House Hunters International episode of a couple buying a house on Norfolk Island, which is between Australia and New Zealand.  It's absolutely beautiful there, so I did some research and found out that it was originally populated by Polynesians, who lived there between the 14th or 15th centuries but disappeared after several hundred years.  It had served as a British penal colony twice between 1788-1794, when it was abandoned again.

In 1856, the entire population of Pitcairn Island were relocated to Norfolk Island, although after two years, some people decided to return to Pitcairn Island, and then more followed in 1863.

The people of Pitcairn Island are descendants of the nine mutineers from The Bounty led by Fletcher Christian and the Tahitian women they brought with them in 1790.  By the time their first visitors arrived on the island from an American whaling ship in 1808, only one of the mutineers, John Adams, ten Tahitian women and 23 children were left.  All of the other men, mutineers and Polynesians, were either murdered or died by other causes.  

From a rather violent beginning, the small island colony was introduced to Christianity and adopted the Seventh Day Adventist doctrine as their own and became peaceful and created a successful society.

Interaction with the outside world was very slow in the beginning, with years going by without seeing a ship.  Even today, they might have to wait months between contacts with outsiders.  

The circumstances in which the Pitcairn Islanders have found themselves is unique in the world.  For a small band of people from two cultures to come together and over the next few hundred years build a new society and culture together with very little outside contact is fascinating from the anthropological standpoint.  The intermarriages and intertwined family lineages would make an interesting puzzle for genealogists and DNA scientists to work through.  

Would I like to visit the island?  Yes, though I hear it is very difficult to get permission.  I'd love to get the chance to learn for myself, firsthand, what their culture is like.

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