This little island is literally in the middle of nowhere.
With beautiful cliffs, jungles, and a horrific past.
This is Pitcairn Island.
The small strip of land is a small volcanic island located in the southern Pacific Ocean. It was originally discovered in 1606 by the Portuguese explorer Fernandes de Queirós, who named it La Encarnación.
But it was soon forgotten about, until…
Mutiny on the Bounty
Over 150 years later, in January 1790, the island was settled by a group of British sailors who had mutinied against their captain on board the HMS Bounty and a handful of Tahitian men and women.
Yes, that Bounty.
Led by Fletcher Christian, the mutineers sought refuge on Pitcairn to escape capture by the British navy. There were 15 European mutineers, 6 Polynesian men, 11 Tahitian women and a baby that arrived at the island.
After settling on Pitcairn, the mutineers fought among themselves and struggled to survive on the small, isolated island.
Disease, murder, suicide, and alcoholism took the lives of most of the men.
By 1800, John Adams was the only surviving mutineer living on Pitcairn along with 9 Tahitian women and 19 mixed-race children.
Adams instituted religious practices and Bible readings, hoping to create a peaceful, law-abiding society.
The 19th Century
In 1808, an American ship passing by the island discovered there was a small community living on Pitcairn.
The British did not arrest Adams for his role in the mutiny, instead giving him amnesty.
In 1838, the Pitcairn Islands were officially designated as a British colony.
Pitcairn enacted universal suffrage earlier than most other territories, giving men and women equal voting rights.
The population steadily grew as the descendants of the original settlers had large families.
By 1856, the 194 residents of Pitcairn were struggling to survive on the limited resources of the small island. Many relocated to Norfolk Island, while others returned to Pitcairn after a few years away.
Despite the challenging conditions, Pitcairn’s population reached its peak of 233 residents in 1937.
Immigration, inbreeding, and scandals
In the early 20th century, many Pitcairn islanders migrated to Australia and New Zealand.
The population shrank to fewer than 100 residents.
Marriage between the closely related island families led to concerns about inbreeding.
As the outside world learned about the Pitcairn community in the late 20th century, their unusual culture and high rates of sexual contact between adults and minors became apparent.
In 1999, a British police officer uncovered extensive evidence of child sexual abuse on the island, some of it spanning back 40 years.
This led to legal proceedings in 2004 in which 7 Pitcairn men were tried for sexual offenses.
Several were convicted, including Steve Christian, the mayor and a direct descendant of Fletcher Christian.
After the trials, a new child protection system was implemented on the island. However, the reputation of Pitcairn was severely damaged. Efforts to attract new immigrants have struggled to overcome the island’s horrific history of child sexual abuse.
The 21st Century
Today, Pitcairn Island has a population of around 35–40 residents, most of whom are descended from the original Bounty mutineers and Tahitian settlers.
The island now relies on the British government for financial support and on periodic supply ships from New Zealand for essential goods.
Pitcairn struggles economically, and the past still haunts it.
Michael Warren, was convicted in 2016 of possessing child sexual abuse materials.
While Pitcairn remains one of Britain’s last remaining overseas territories, its future is more than uncertain.
The horrific history, challenging location and tiny, declining population continue to isolate Pitcairn and limit its development.
Just recently, the youngest Pitcairn resident, a young man named Ryan, left his home for New Zealand. With him, many Pitcairners say their last hope leave.
Efforts to attract new residents have so far seen little success.
Although the island looks like a paradise, isolation has taken its toll.