Pitcairn Flag

Pitcairn Islands Guide

An early 19th century view of Adamstown, Pitcairn Island (M.G.L. Domeny de Rienzi).


Most of the fewer than 60 permanent inhabitants of Pitcairn are direct descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian wives. In 1831, there was an attempt to resettle them on Tahiti, out of fear of drought, but the Pitcairners returned to their island the same year.

In 1856, all 193 islanders were forcibly taken by the British to Norfolk Island, between New Zealand and New Caledonia, where many of their descendants live today (194 Pitcairners actually arrived on Norfolk as a baby was born en route). Two families returned to Pitcairn in 1858, followed by four more in 1864. The present population is descended from those six families.

Nearly half the people bear the surname Christian; all of the others are Warrens, Browns, and Youngs. The population peaked at 233 in 1937.

In 1967, David Silverman wrote in his book Pitcairn Island that there were around 1,500 true Pitcairners: 45 on Pitcairn, 150 in French Polynesia, 160 in New Zealand, 400 in Australia, and most of the rest on Norfolk Island.

The Pitcairners speak a local patois of English and Tahitian. For example, rough seas is illi illi from "hilly" plus Tahitian repetitive emphasis. There's a primary school with a N.Z. teacher who also assists the post-primary students with their N.Z. correspondence-school lessons. Scholarships are made available by the Island Council for older postprimary students wishing to further their education in New Zealand (and many never return).

In early 2000, a rape investigation led to accusations of the systematic sexual abuse of girls as young as 10 dating back 40 years. After trials in 2004 and 2006, six of seven accused men were convicted. A special prision was built on the island to accommodate some of the convicts. The island community is reeling from the case.