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Captain’s Log: Pitcairn Island

24 January 2013

In 1767, a young British Midshipman, Robert Pitcairn, on the British sloop HMS “Swallow” sighted land and thus the 15-year old had the distinction of having an island named after him. The island was uninhabited on that day. In 1790, the mutineers of HMS “Bounty”, along with some Tahitian companions (who may have been kidnapped by them), settled on the island and set fire to the “Bounty”, (taking the phrase ‘burning one’s boats’ to the ultimate :)). The wreck is still visible in Bounty Bay, although we were in deep water during our call.

Pitcairn’s population is now 57 and under normal circumstances we would have welcomed them on board, where they would have sold their souvenirs, postage stamps and imparted to the local knowledge. Unfortunately the circumstances were not ‘normal’ today, for we were informed 3 days ago that a large number of the populace had contracted flu, the H2N3 strain that is ravaging North America at the moment. It is thought that this was brought to the island by a passing cruise ship, some 2 weeks ago.

Under the circumstances, a decision was made by our Corporate officers, that it would be prudent to not let the islanders on board for the sake of the well-being of all on board. So it was a scenic cruise morning, arriving off Bounty Bay and the settlement nearby, Adamstown, just after 10 a.m. and here a longboat from the island came alongside to pick up (and pay for) provisions; this consisted of meats, milk, ice cream and beer and once this was completed, with a blow of the ship’s whistles and much waving, we departed for a circumnavigation and scenic cruise of the island. It became apparent why there was discord amongst those mutineers – the island is small, mountainous with precipitous cliffs, having burned their ship and now being ‘marooned’, the atmosphere could not have been pleasant.

Landfall Pitcairn.

Adamstown and the boat harbour.

Adam's Rock, named after the last survivor from the Bounty.

Supplies into the boat.

Along the way, on the west side of the island, we stumbled upon a sailing ship, the “Picton Castle”, a magnificent sight as it lay at anchor. It was on an 8-month voyage, originating in Nova Scotia and had 12 professional crew and 41 ‘apprentices’, she was a sail-training ship and was sailing the South Pacific.

Picton Castle at anchor.

So, after a call and scenic cruise, we are now on our way to Papeete, Tahiti, where we are due to arrive on Sunday.

Before I leave you on this post, we have some guests on board, Mr. and Mrs. Giese, who told me that her school, Randallstown Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland, are avid readers of this blog and so boys and girls I pass on this from your teacher: “Greetings to our Principal, teachers and students, I know you are following us on our trip around the world. We would like to give a shout to you and let you know our trip thus far has been really super.” My best wishes from me too!

Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.

  • Hein Hogervorst

    while sailing on the ss Rotterdam during her Grand Circle cruise as Ch. Purser in 1987, I was one of the few privileged ones allowed to go ashore in Pitcairn to “deliver papers to our local agent” as Captain van Driel suggested te me. Having read he book “Mutiny on the Bounty”by Nordhoff and Hall when I was 16 years, this visit was tops on my list of places to visit. In 1987 Pitcairn was inhabited by 68 people.
    I was brought ashore by one of their longboats. 60 out the 68 inhabitants were on board the ss Ro to sell their stuff, such as great woodcarvings and stamps. I spent about 2 hours on the island and enjoyed every minute of it.

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