Pitcarin Island


Figure 1.--Here we see the Pitcairn islanders in 1910. We are not surte just where on the island the photograph was taken. White clothes seem to have been very popular. Perhaps this is a church scene, we are not sure.

Pitcairn Island may be among the most isolated places on earth. Pitcairn is the Pacific island where in 1790 the HMS Bounty's mutineers landed. The mutiny on the bounty is one of the most famous episodes in the history of the British Royal Navy raising important questions about discipline aboard naval vessels. Fletcher Christian led the mutineers to this remote island. It was chosen of course because if its remotness and the Bounty ws sunk. Christian was a son of the Coroner of Cumberland and of Manx descent on his father's side. He is still remembered as the founder and first leader of the settlement. By 1800 John Adams was the only male survivor of the party that had landed just 10 years before. The community was made up of 10 Polynesian women and 23 children. In 1808 the little colony was discovered by Captain Mayhew Folger, an American sealing captain, but his visit was brief. The HMS Briton and HMS Tagus rediscovered the settlement 6 years later on September 17, 1814. All the Pitcairn inhabitants joined Seventh Day Adventist Church (1887). Here we see Pictcairn inhabitants in 1910. Pitcairn today is one of the remanents of the British Empire still scatered around the world. There is a one-room school for the children which uses the New Zealand curriculum.

Geography

Pitcairn Island may be among the most isolated places on earth. It is located midway between New Zealand and the Americas. The Pitcairn Islands group is a British Overseas Territory. It comprised by small volcanic outcroppings--the islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. Pitcairn, the only inhabited island, is a small volcanic outcrop situated in the South Pacific at latitude 25ºSouth and longitude 130ºWest. It is about 2,200km (1,350 miles) east south-east of Tahiti and over 6,600km (4,100 miles) from Panama. Pitcairn Island is a tiny speck in the ocean. It is only about 3.2km (2 miles) long and 1.6km (1 mile) wide. The capital and only settlement is Adamstown. It is located above Bounty Bay and reached by climbing a steep trail--"The Hill of Difficulty".

History

Polynesian mariners, probably from Mangareva, were the first human settlers. They lived on the island leaving stone gods guarding sacred sites. There were also representations of animals and men in cliff carvings as well as burial sites. It was uninabited, however, by the l8th century. Captain Philip Carteret of HMS Swallow discovered the island (1767). He was, however, unable to land. The island rises precipitously out of the ocean. Cpt. Carteret did not land, however, reporting the surf "which at this season broke upon it with great violence". Pitcarin would be largely unknown today, except for the famed mutiny on the Bountry. Tiny Pitcairn is the Pacific island where the Bounty mutineers chose to hide (1790). . The mutiny on the bounty is one of the most famous episodes in the history of the British Royal Navy raising important questions about discipline aboard naval vessels. Fletcher Christian led the mutineers and some Tahitian women to Pitcarin--the most isolated, uninhabited island they could find. It was chosen of course because if its remotness and the Bounty was sunk in Bounty Bay so that if a ship passed, there would be no indication that the mtineers were there. Christian was a son of the Coroner of Cumberland and of Manx descent on his father's side. He is still remembered as the founder and first leader of the settlement. By 1800 John Adams was the only male survivor of the party that had landed just 10 years before. The community was made up of 10 Polynesian women and 23 children. In 1808 the little colony was discovered by Captain Mayhew Folger, an American sealing captain, but his visit was brief. The HMS Briton and HMS Tagus rediscovered the settlement 6 years later on September 17, 1814. Pictcairn today is one of the remanents of the British Empire still scatered around the world.

Chronology

The little Pitcarin colony established by Fletcher Chrustian and the Bounty mtineers has changed a great deal over time. The men at first dressed like sailors and the women itopless as in Thahit. Gradually they dressed increasingly in the Tahitian style as manufactured fabric disappeared. Gradually the women began dressing more conservatively. Occasional vessls would call at Pitcarin and trade manufactured goods for provisions. Here we see Pictcairn inhabitants in 1910, perhaps at a church event (figure 1). In the 20th century, the disappearance of sailing vessels and the extended range of coal and oil fueled vessels meant that provisions were no longer needed from isolated islands. Pitcarin had by that time acquired a romabtic reputation. Ships with tourists would occassionally call and the tgourists were interested in buying habndicradts mafe by the islanders as soveniers. Modern islanders wear Western fashions. The only basic difference is that many islanders continue to go barefoot.

Economy

The Pitcarin economy was at first based on agriculture. The pigs, goarts, and chickens the mutineers bought with them were very important. And while sail still prevailed, the islanders benefitted by ships seeking provisions. When longer range coal and oil fueld vesseks replaced sail, income frfom selling provisions declined. Although a new tourist trade developed in the 20th century because of the fam of the Bounty saga. The islanders also began utilizing the fish resources, although this was complicated by the difficulty of launching and beaching boats. The economy of Pitcarin today is based on fishing, agriculture, and apiculture. Honey is exported in New Zealand and the UhitedKingdom. Tourism is another recourse. The saga of the Bounty has been imprtalized in books and film. So the Pitcairners can live confortable lives on their small, isolated Pacific island. It is interesting that tge islanders have lived their isolated lives now for more than two centuries. Even a bicycle brought to the island by the New Zealand teacher amazers the island children. It will be interesring how these intripid people will deal with the 21st century. Will Pitcarin continued largely unchanged for another century?

Religion

The first and most important Christian sign in Pitcairn is the Bible of the Bounty. The Mutineers were not a particularly religious group to begin with. Most of the Bounty mtineers died within a decade of the mutiny. This meant that the community was in a religious state of flux. No one on the island had any Christian religious training. Adventist churches in America sent literature to Pitcarin (1870s). John Tay, an Adventist missionary, landed on Pitcairn Island (1886). In only a few weeks all the Pitcairn islanders ers joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It is the only church in Adamstown.

School

There is a one-room school for the children which uses the New Zealand curriculum. Pitcairn’s school system follows the New Zealand public school curriculum. Attendance is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16 years. The school is a one room building where all the children are taught. New Zealand provides a teacher and the school uses a New Zealand curriculum. There wwre eight pupils in 2007. There is no uniform and the children like most of the adults go barefoot.






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Created: 8:25 PM 2/3/2006
Last updated: 11:11 PM 9/26/2010