The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands in the South Pacific, lying around 2,200km from Tahiti to the north-west and 2,100km from Easter Island to the east. The four islands that make up the group are Oeno, Pitcairn, Henderson, and Ducie. The islands are an Overseas Territory of the UK.
Both Pitcairn and Henderson islands were inhabited by Polynesian settlers before they were discovered by Europeans, probably from around 900 – 1400 AD. Numerous artefacts and carvings that attest to their presence have been found on both islands.
Henderson and Ducie were discovered by Europeans in 1606, but it was not until 1767 that Pitcairn itself was encountered by the HMS Swallow, and named after the 15-year old Midshipman who sighted it.
Pitcairn Island is famous throughout the world as the final resting place of the HMAV Bounty and her crew of mutineers. In 1789, first mate Fletcher Christian led a rebellion against Captain William Bligh and took possession of the Bounty.
Fletcher and his fellow mutineers and Tahitian companions found Pitcairn and settled there, burning the Bounty in order to remain as hidden as possible from the British navy. Their presence was not discovered by the British until 1814, at which point John Adams was the only mutineer still living. In 1838, Pitcairn became a British colony. In the same year, as part of the development of its first Constitution, Pitcairn became the first territory in the world to grant women the right to vote. It was not until 1938 that all four islands were grouped together as one single political entity.
Today, Pitcairn remains the only island of the group that is inhabited. With around 50 residents, the Pitcairn Islands are the least populous jurisdiction in the world.
Pitcairners speak both English and Pitkern, a creole based on an 18th Century dialect of English and Tahitian. There is no airport on Pitcairn, and so the only way of reaching the island is by quarterly chartered supply ship from Mangareva in French Polynesia, and occasionally via cruise ship. Pitcairn’s economy depends largely on tourism, and sales of honey and curios.