Memories of Pitcairn / by Sam Low

You arrive at Pitcairn on the back of a swell aboard a silver aluminum speed boat piloted by Jay Warren, the island's mayor, constable, conservation officer and just about everything else. Jay seems to be aiming the boat directly at cliff at alarming speed but, at the last possible moment, he turns abruptly to the left and ducks behind a steel and cement breakwater into a calm but tiny harbor.

The island is tiny, a finger of volcanic rock jutting out of the sea. Our time there was short-- a few hours. Even so, Pitcairn has given us many fond memories:

  • Of dirt roads, the color of chocolate that rise precipitously from the harbor to houses that perch over steep cliffs and look upon a vast murky sea.
  • Of 4-wheel Honda motorcycles--the island's only vehicle.
  • Of Wayne and Charlene's garden where we find banana, papaya, mango, passion fruit, mandarin oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, cabbage, beans, corn, squash, carrots, cucumber, sweet potato, beets, watermelon and taro--as Wayne puts it, "everything you need."
  • Of VHF radios squawking in every home--the island's only reliable telephone service.
  • Of Jay Warren's reply when asked if there was any crime on the island, "Not that I know of. The only time I remember the jail being occupied was in the 60's, and that was a family matter."
  • Of a pet frigate bird soaring over each house or settled into a tree branch overlooking the yard.
  • Of large freezers and shelves crammed with tinned goods to tide people over between supply ships, which arrive once every 4 months.
  • Of Charlene Warren telling us that once a year the entire population of Pitcairn goes to Oeno Island for a two-week vacation. They travel in 2 motorized lifeboats and spend their time fishing and living communally in a large tent.
  • Of someone else telling us that mail is delivered by passing freighters in watertight containers thrown overboard.
  • Of the entire island gathering in the town hall to host us with a sumptuous potluck dinner and singing haunting 18th century songs in acapella harmony.
  • Of Fletcher Christian's Bible in 7th day Adventist church.
  • Of Brenda Christian, 5th generation descendant of Fletcher, talking about the unique Pitcairn "language"--a heritage of the old style English spoken by the Bounty mutineers. Some examples:

    "Bouyou gwen" / "Where are you going?"

    "Fer yo nor lerna us yorly cumin des dey" / "Why didn't you tell us you were coming today?"

    "He yeckle ya es gudon" / "The food (victuals) here is good."

  • And most of all, of the kindness and generosity with which the people of Pitcairn shared their beautiful island home with us.

    For back reports on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to Rapa Nui Back Reports

    For more information on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to The Mangareva-to-Rapa Nui Page

    For more information on the quest for Rapa Nui, go to the PVS Homepage