Located deep within the South Pacific is Pitcairn Island. This island is part of the Pitcairn Islands group of 4 islands: Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. Scattered across several hundred miles of ocean, these islands only make up a combined land area of 47 square kilometres (18 square miles).
While Henderson Island accounts for 86% of the total land area, Pitcairn Island is the only island in the group that has any people at all. Even so, with a population of just 50, Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world!
Similar to Easter Island, Pitcairn makes the list of one of the most remote inhabited places in the world.
Just how remote?
Well, at latitude 25.04 South and longitude 130.06 West, Pitcairn Island is about 2,170km (1,350mi) South-East of Tahiti and just over 6,600km (4,100mi) from Panama.
A small volcanic island hidden amongst the vast South Pacific Ocean, Pitcairn is just 3.2km (2mi) long and 1.6km (1mi) wide. You would need to be pretty good at navigation to find this place!
Believe it or not, the islands’ administrative headquarters is located in New Zealand (Auckland), some 5,310km (3,300mi) away! The Pitcairn Islands are the last remaining British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific.
History and claim to fame
Pitcairn Island is undoubtedly most well-known (through numerous books and 5 films) as the place where the survivors at large from the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ settled.
This true story starts with the action led by Fletcher Christian when he and his gang of mutineers took over the HMS Bounty and cast-off Captain Bligh and his loyal crew in a lifeboat on 28 April 1789. Left on board were a total of 25, including some loyalists who were kept onboard against their will.
Captain Bligh and his men made it back to England and the Admiralty dispatched the HMS Pandora to apprehend the mutineers. Many of the mutineers as well as the remaining loyalists were discovered at Tahiti and were returned to England where mutineers faced trial (4 were acquitted, 3 were pardoned, 3 were hanged and 4 actually died on the journey home). However, Fletcher Christian and 8 other mutineers had fled in the Bounty with a number of Tahitians and eventually found and settled on Pitcairn Island.
Although the mutineers remained undiscovered on Pitcairn Island until 1808, only one of the mutineers (John Adams) remained alive by then. All the remaining mutineers (including Fletcher Christian) had killed each other over time due to varying conflicts (or in Ned Young’s case, died from asthma). No action was taken against John Adams.
Today the Pitcairn Islanders are a bi-racial ethnic group descendent mostly from the 9 mutineers and the Tahitians that accompanied them. The current inhabitants originate from 4 main families. There have also been a number of other descendants that have subsequently migrated to live on Norfolk Island and many descendants still live there today.
Getting to Pitcairn Island
Travelling with the intent to land on Pitcairn Island today is quite a challenge. Although not anywhere near as challenging as the late 1700s, is nevertheless not easy or straight-forward when compared to other holiday destinations.
First, you need to make the journey to Papeete, Tahiti. Depending on where you have started from, that could be one long journey to start with, but your arrival in Papeete is just the first step to reaching Pitcairn.
From Papeete, you then need to catch a flight (that leaves once a week on a Tuesday) to Mangareva. From there you take a ferry ride from the airport to Rikitea Village. From Rikitea Village you board the vessel MV Claymore II where you will take a 32-hour crossing to finally reach Pitcairn Island.
The cost of the sea passage on MV Claymore II to deliver you to Pitcairn is NZ $5,000.00 per person return, not including the flights needed to Papeete or Mangareva or the ferry to Rikitea Village. Costs for staying on the island start from US$70.00 per person, per night for homestay accommodation.
Otherwise, if you are not intent on spending part of your holidays on the island itself, you can take a cruise that has Pitcairn on its itinerary, and still see and appreciate so much of its natural beauty without having to stay there.
The natural landscape
Not exactly easily accessible due to its steep cliffs, treacherous rocks and choppy waters, the only ‘safe’ (a term used somewhat loosely here) way into land is via one of the island’s longboats that will transport you from your ship to their boat ramp.
The boat ramp is located within Bounty Bay. This area is where the HMS Bounty was set ablaze and sunk on 23 January 1790 where the wreck remains today.
For those that do make it ashore, they can then proceed up a road named “The Hill of Difficulty” along which you will eventually find yourself in the community of Adamstown (named after the last surviving mutineer John Adams). Adamstown is the capital of Pitcairn and the rest of the island is mostly natural and undeveloped.
Here is a short video of someone that went ashore to film Adamstown which provides a bit of a feel for the island (3 mins, 27 secs):
My Impressions of Pitcairn Island
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to actually live there with just 49 other people in such a remote location, even among such natural beauty.
I know from what I’ve seen with my own eyes that there is no questioning how lovely and untouched most of nature is on the island. Costs aside, this would be an absolutely ideal vacation to really unplug from the craziness that is the modern-day world. Here you could really connect with nature and clear your mind while exploring this fascinating island.
However, actually living a life in such isolation and in such proximity to so few others, is not something many of us would seriously consider. The Pitcairn Islanders recognise that it takes a special type of person that would want to move and live there.
In fact, the island launched an incentive campaign to encourage people to immigrate by offering free land to build a home:
They also made a short video (1 min, 3 secs) to promote immigration to live on Pitcairn Island:
If you ever want to consider this as an option for your life you can get more details by clicking here.
Here is a video that is a bit longer and covers the recent visit of Governor Laura Clarke (who is the British High Commissioner based in Wellington, New Zealand) and shows what was involved in her journey and her experience visiting Pitcairn. It shows more of the natural landscape as well as interviews with some key locals who discuss the future of the island (14 mins, 7 secs).
Would you not also want to spend at least a bit of time visiting such a lovely place?
As we sailed further away from this amazing paradise, I couldn’t help but wonder what life must be like there back when the occupants of the Bounty arrived and how things have evolved to the present day.
I truly hope that there will be a good future in store for Pitcairn Island that is in the long-term interests of its residents while preserving the beauty that makes this unique place so special.