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Pitcairn Islands

Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook


The Pitcairn Islands are a group of five islands, of which only Pitcairn Island - the largest - is inhabited, in the southern Pacific Ocean, the only remaining British colony in the Pacific. The islands are best known for being the home of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 50 inhabitants (from 9 families), Pitcairn is also famed for being the least populated country in the world (although it is not a sovereign nation). The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The original settlers of the Pitcairn Islands 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 Pitcairn was discovered by Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in 1606. It was rediscovered by the British in 1767, and named after the crew member who first spotted the island.

In 1790, the mutineers of HMS Bounty and their Tahitian companions settled on the island and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay. Although the settlers were able to survive by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by tensions among the settlers that occasionally erupted into murder. Under the leadership of Ned Young and John Adams, these tensions were calmed. After the discovery of the settlement by the British in 1814, the island became a British colony in 1838. By the mid 1850s the Pitcairn community was outgrowing the island and they appealed to Queen Victoria for assistance. Victoria offered them Norfolk Island and on 3 May 1856, the entire community of 193 people set sail for Norfolk Island on board the Morayshire, arriving on 8 June after a miserable 5 week trip. However, after 18 months, 17 returned to Pitcairn and 5 years later another 27 returned.

Since a population peak of 233 in 1937, the island is suffering from emigration, primarily to New Zealand, leaving a current population of approximately 47.

There are allegations of a long history and tradition of sexual abuse of girls as young as 10 and 11, 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.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pitcairn Islands".