Pitcairn Island


Pitcairn Island
a small British island in the S Pacific, SE of Tuamotu Archipelago: settled 1790 by mutineers of the Bounty. 74; 2 sq. mi. (5 sq. km).

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Island (pop., 2000 est.: 54), south-central Pacific Ocean.

It is the only inhabited island of the Pitcairn island group, which also includes Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno islands. It has an area of about 2 sq mi (5 sq km). Discovered in 1767 by the British, it was uninhabited until 1790, when it was settled by mutineers from HMS Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian. Pitcairn was annexed by Britain in 1839. The inhabitants were removed to Norfolk Island in 1856 because of overpopulation. Some returned to Pitcairn, and it is their descendants who make up the present population, subsisting on fishing and farming. In 1970 the British High Commissioner in New Zealand was appointed the colony's governor.

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 isolated volcanic island in the south-central Pacific Ocean, 1,350 miles (2,170 km) southeast of Tahiti. It is the only inhabited island of the British overseas territory of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands, which is commonly referred to as the Pitcairn Islands or as Pitcairn. The main island, with an area of about 2 square miles (5 square km), is a rugged half-crater rising to some 1,100 feet (340 metres) and girded by precipitous coastal cliffs. The climate is subtropical with an adequate rainfall, and the soil is fertile. Henderson Island, a raised coral atoll almost entirely untouched by humans, is a UNESCO World Heritage site (designated 1988).

      The presence of stone tools, burial sites, petroglyphs, and other artifacts indicates that Pitcairn Island had been inhabited, probably by Polynesians, before its discovery by European explorers. The British ship HMS Swallow found the island in 1767, and its captain, Philip Carteret, named it Pitcairn for the sailor who first sighted it. Its population is descended from the mutineers of the British ship HMS Bounty and their Tahitian Polynesian consorts. In 1789, on a voyage from Tahiti to the West Indies with a cargo of breadfruit saplings, the crew, led by the first mate, Fletcher Christian (Christian, Fletcher), mutinied and set their captain, William Bligh (Bligh, William), and a number of loyal sailors adrift and set course for the Austral (now Tubuaï) Islands. The mutineers and their Tahitian companions eventually reached uninhabited Pitcairn (1790), went ashore, and then burned the ship. The island community survived in obscurity until it was discovered by American whalers in 1808. Ships began visiting occasionally from Britain bearing books and other supplies. The population grew, and the island's limited natural resources increasingly became a source of concern. Leaders of the community proposed mass emigration to Tahiti or to Australia, but after the islanders had been resettled on Tahiti (1831), many grew dissatisfied and returned to Pitcairn. Thereafter the island became a port of call for whalers and passenger ships steaming between the United States and Australia. In 1856, because of overpopulation, some of the islanders were removed to Norfolk Island east of Australia, and to this day the mutineers' descendants remain divided between the two places. English and Pitkern (Pitcairnese) are the official languages; Tahitian and an 18th-century English dialect are also spoken.

      Adamstown, the chief settlement, is on the north coast near Bounty Bay, one of the few places where the island-made longboats can land. The islanders subsist on fish, garden produce, and crops (including sweet potatoes, sugarcane, taro, oranges, bananas, and coffee). There is also some beekeeping and honey production. The sale of postage stamps, coins, and local products such as honey to passing ships and via online shopping sites brings cash income. Deposits of manganese, iron, copper, gold, silver, and zinc have been discovered offshore. Absentee landownership and a declining population as islanders emigrate to New Zealand are the island's main problems. Most of the islanders have been Seventh-day Adventists since 1887.

      In 1898 the settlement was placed under the jurisdiction of the British high commissioner for the western Pacific. In 1952 administrative responsibility was transferred to the governor of the British crown colony of Fiji. When Fiji became independent in 1970, the British high commissioner in New Zealand was appointed governor of Pitcairn, administering it with the aid of a locally elected island council. Land area Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno islands, 13.7 square miles (35.5 square km). Pop. (2005 est.) 46.

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Universalium. 2010.

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