(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Pitcairn Island was discovered in 1767 by the British and settled in 1790 by the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. Pitcairn was the first Pacific island to become a British colony (in 1838) and today remains the last vestige of that empire in the South Pacific. out-migration, primarily to New Zealand, has thinned the population from a peak of 233 in 1937 to less than 50 today.|
|History||The original settlers of the Pitcairn Islands (Ducie, Henderson, Oeno, and Pitcairn) were Polynesians who appear to have lived on Pitcairn and Henderson for several centuries. However, although archaeologists believe that Polynesians were living on Pitcairn as late as the 15th century, the islands were uninhabited when they were discovered by Europeans.
Ducie and Henderson Islands are believed to have been discovered by Europeans on 26 January 1606 by Portuguese sailor Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, sailing for the Spanish crown, who named them La Encarnación (“Incarnation”) and San Juan Bautista (“Saint John the Baptist”), respectively. However, some sources express doubt about exactly which of the islands were visited and named by Queirós, suggesting that Queirós’ La Encarnación may actually have been Henderson Island, and San Juan Bautista may have been Pitcairn Island.
Ducie Island was rediscovered in 1791 by the British Capt. Edwards aboard HMS Pandora and named after Francis, Lord Ducie, a captain in the Royal Navy. It was annexed by Britain on 19 December 1902, and in 1938 it was formally incorporated into Pitcairn to become part of a single administrative unit (the “Pitcairn Group of Islands”).
Henderson Island was rediscovered on 17 January 1819 by a British Captain Henderson of the British East India Company ship Hercules. On 2 March 1819, Captain Henry King, sailing aboard the Elizabeth, landed on the island to find the king’s colours already flying. His crew scratched the name of their ship into a tree, and for some years the island’s name was Elizabeth or Henderson, interchangeably. Henderson Island was annexed by Britain and incorporated into Pitcairn in 1938.
Oeno Island was discovered on 26 January 1824 by U.S. Captain George Worth aboard the whaler Oeno. On 10 July 1902, Oeno was annexed by Britain. It was incorporated into Pitcairn in 1938.
Pitcairn Island itself was discovered on July 3, 1767 by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Philip Carteret (though according to some it had perhaps been visited by Queirós in 1606). It was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crewmember who was the first to sight the island. Robert Pitcairn was the son of British Marine Officer John Pitcairn.
Carteret who sailed without the newly invented accurate marine chronometer, charted the island at 25° 2′ south 133° 21’ west of Greenwich and although the latitude was reasonably accurate the longitude was incorrect by about 3° (during the age of sail about two-day voyage under fair conditions). This made Pitcairn difficult to find, as highlighted by the failure of Captain James Cook to locate the island in July 1773.
In 1790, the mutineers of the Bounty and their Tahitian companions, some of whom may have been kidnapped from Tahiti, settled on Pitcairn Island and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay. The ship itself was discovered in 1957 by National Geographic explorer Luis Marden. Although the settlers were able to survive by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among the settlers. Alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men. John Adams and Ned Young turned to the Scriptures using the ship’s Bible as their guide for a new and peaceful society. Young eventually died of an asthmatic infection. The Pitcairners also converted to Christianity; later they would convert from their existing form of Christianity to Adventism after a successful Adventist mission in the 1890s. After the rediscovery of Pitcairn John Adams was granted amnesty for his mutiny.
The islanders reported that it was not until 27 December 1795 that the first ship since the Bounty was seen from the island, but as she did not approach the land, they could not make out to what nation she belonged. A second appeared some time in 1801, but did not attempt to communicate with them. A third came sufficiently near to see their habitations, but did not venture to send a boat on shore. The American trading ship Topaz under the command of Mayhew Folger was the first to visit the island and communicate with them when they spent 10 hours at Pitcairn in February 1808. A report of Folger’s find was forwarded to The Admiralty mentioning the mutineers and a more precise location of the island—latitude 25° 2′ S and 130° longitude/,—however this rediscovery was not known to Sir Thomas Staines who commanded a Royal Navy flotilla of two ships (HMS Briton and HMS Tagus) which found the island at 25°.4′ S. (by meridian observation) on 17 September 1814. Staines sent a party ashore and wrote a detailed report for the Admiralty.
The island became a British colony in 1838 and was among the first territories to extend voting rights to women. By the mid-1850’s the Pitcairn community was outgrowing the island and its leaders appealed to the British government for assistance. They were offered Norfolk Island and on 3 May 1856, the entire community of 193 people set sail for Norfolk on board the Morayshire, arriving on 8 June after a miserable five-week trip. But after eighteen months on Norfolk, seventeen of the Pitcairners returned to their home island; five years later another twenty-seven did the same.
Since a population peak of 233 in 1937, the island has been suffering from emigration, primarily to New Zealand, leaving some fifty people living on Pitcairn.
There are allegations of a long history and tradition of sexual abuse of girls as young as 7, which culminated in 2004 in the charging of seven men living on Pitcairn, and another six now living abroad, with sex-related offences, including rape. On October 25, 2004, six men were convicted, including Steve Christian, the island’s mayor at the time. See Pitcairn rape trial of 2004. After the six men lost their final appeal, the British government set up a prison on the island with an annual budget of NZD 950,000. The men began serving their sentences in late 2006, and all are expected to be freed by December of 2008.
|Geography||Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about midway between Peru and New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 25 04 S, 130 06 W
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 47 sq km
land: 47 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 51 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot and humid; modified by southeast trade winds; rainy season (November to March)
Terrain: rugged volcanic formation; rocky coastline with cliffs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pawala Valley Ridge 347 m
Natural resources: miro trees (used for handicrafts), fish
note: manganese, iron, copper, gold, silver, and zinc have been discovered offshore
Land use: arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: typhoons (especially November to March)
Environment – current issues: deforestation (only a small portion of the original forest remains because of burning and clearing for settlement)
Geography – note: Britain’s most isolated dependency; only the larger island of Pitcairn is inhabited but it has no port or natural harbor; supplies must be transported by rowed longboat from larger ships stationed offshore
|Politics||The Queen is represented by the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, who is the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, currently George Fergusson. The Governor’s Representative is the liaison person between the governor and the Island Council – this is probably the most remote and inaccessible diplomatic posting in the world. The non-resident Commissioner, appointed by the Governor, is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the island as well as for its economic regeneration. But because the high commissioner does not live on the island, its daily affairs are taken care of by the mayor of Pitcairn from 1999 on wards. Island Magistrate is a governor appointed job. Chairman of the Internal Committee is an elected official. Until 30 October 2004, the mayor was Steve Christian; after his rape conviction on October 24, 2004, Christian was dismissed (after refusing to resign). Brenda Christian was selected by the Island Council, to be mayor for November and December 2004, until an election was held. Jay Warren was elected on December 15, 2004. The island Mayor is elected by popular vote for a three-year term.
The Pitcairn Islands have a unicameral Island Council (10 seats – The Mayor and the Chairman of the Island Council both hold membership ex officio; 4 elected by popular vote, 1 co-opted by the Chairman and the 4 other elected members; 2 appointed by the Governor including the Island Secretary (ex officio); the tenth seat is reserved for a Commissioner (non-resident) who liaises between the Council and the Governor. Except for the Mayor, who has a three-year term, and the Island Secretary, whose term is indefinite, members serve one-year terms.
|People||Population: 48 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA
Population growth rate: 0% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: NA (2008 est.)
Death rate: NA (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: NA
Infant mortality rate: total: NA
female: NA (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: NA
female: NA (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: NA (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Pitcairn Islander(s)
adjective: Pitcairn Islander
Ethnic groups: descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives
Religions: Seventh-Day Adventist 100%
Languages: English (official), Pitkern (mixture of an 18th century English dialect and a Tahitian dialect)