South Pacific Voyage 2012-2013

Pitcairn Island

By Kate “Bob” Addison

“Pitcairn Island – wow!”

That’s a pretty good one-line summary for someone who’s never been to Pitcairn, and “Wow!” is also the new name given to Dkembe on the island, because that was his response to so many things there…

A new name is one thing you can expect to take away from a stay on Pitcairn, as well as fabulous friends, photos, and treasure of the wood-carving, honey, jewelery, basket, and t-shirt variety. Topher has been known as “Mr T” since Pitcairn because of an incident with the Galapagos turtle, Miss T, who has lived over in Tedside since the 1940s. Topher was feeding her banana and pawpaw, and then, feeling a little sleepy decided to lay down in the shade of a tree to snooze. Miss T thought that sleeping was quite improper during a social visit, and plodded over to wake Topher – by nibbling on his straw hat. I heard that she muttered “pity the fool” under her breath as she chomped.

Brody became known as Texas, for his cowboy hat and boots, and Allison and Kirsten became Allan and Alyssa, courtesy of two of the smaller children who found the new names easier to pronounce or remember. I am goldilocks there for obvious reasons and, as always, there were a few other new names too rude to publish.

That pretty much sums up the Picton Castle experience of Pitcairn. They treat us like part of the family; the Islanders are incredibly kind and welcoming to us, sometimes cheeky, and often hilarious but they could not be more welcoming, generous or gracious, and it is hard to describe how much we appreciate their kindness. I sincerely hope that they also get something of a kick out of the joy and energy that our Picton Castle crew bring to the Island.

It felt like a 6 day party to us anyway – Bounty Day, Captain and Tammy’s engagement party, Brody, Captain and Hege’s birthdays, a big clothing sale, two evening concerts, fishing expeditions, and all sorts of tours and trips all over the island to swim, hike and explore. Non-stop fun for us, and pretty much non-stop too for the kind folks who drove us all over – up and down the dark red dirt roads on their four-wheel ATVs.

Bounty Day is the 23rd January. This the anniversary of the day the mutineers burned the Bounty after running her ashore in Bounty Bay and taking what they could from her. The idea was that they knew that the Royal Navy would come looking for them and they wanted no big obvious evidence of their being at Pitcairn. This was all done not so many days after finding the island. And we were lucky enough to be there for this celebration this year. It was marked with a big public dinner down at the boat landing at Bounty Bay, with the kids all running around like lunatics and jumping in the water (Picton Castle big kids too!). Everyone on the island brought good things to eat, and the spread on the long trestle tables was very impressive. There was plenty of fish, both fried and battered, that we’d helped catch that morning, fishing with hand lines out in the big aluminium long boat. Worth it just for the boat trip in the sunshine, or for the eating of the fish, the fun of the fishing itself was a bonus really.

Gabe painted a beautiful canvas of the Bounty on a stretched out piece of sailcloth using thinned down ship’s Interlac paint, and if you ever go to Pitcairn you will should go and have a look at his painting, which now hangs proudly in the cultural centre there. And then at dusk a cardboard, wood and palm frond model of the Bounty was set on fire, and fireworks were set off over the glowing embers.

The last night on Pitcairn was another public dinner – this time to celebrate Captain and Tammy’s engagement, and Captain’s birthday – 21 again Captain? Congratulations! The happy couple were presented with a Bounty model by Cookie the Mayor, and this was followed by the second of our series of Picton Castle variety concerts – each watch put on a little show to entertain their island hosts, and had spent all of their free time aboard the ship on watch at anchor planning and practicing their acts.

There was guitar, harmonica and singing (Mr Mate, Dan and Andrew), gas-can banjo and harmonica (Finn), voice (lots of people, but Kendall and Dkembe stole the show, each with a beautiful solo) , hammered dulcimer (Drea), poetry reading (Gabe), sock-juggling (Alex), belly dancing (Susie, Allison and Tonya), a comedy magic show (Konnor, Scott and Gary) , ship aerobics (lead by Kendall, and starring the whole port watch), and a great dance version of ‘jump on it!’ lead by Victor, notwithstanding his being on crutches because of a sprained ankle… Then there was question and answer style tormenting of a certain Chief Engineer (lead by super-glam MCs Kirsten and Victor, DB was surprisingly tactful, and refused to answer their question about who on the island had the biggest breadfruit). Then I got to do a very basic aerial performance with my circus rope, which I enjoyed immensely, but sadly Captain has now decided climbing up ropes is dangerous (as well as going Down Rope), so that’s banned for next time… Baby Dawson who was having a fabulous time on the island also took a turn showing off his latest trick of blowing raspberries – he gets to drool and make noise at the same time – wow!

The concerts were all held in the square in Adamstown, between the Church and the Town Hall with the Bounty anchor outside, salvaged years ago by Captain Irving Johnson and his brigantine Yankee crew. Looking out beyond the square, the moon was full, and the bright silver reflection on the ocean was simply stunning, framed and scented as it was by frangipani, hibiscus and coconut fronds.

Pitcairn has been called a very big little island, and it’s true that it feels much bigger than its five square kilometres. And given the population’s more or less the same as our ship, it feels very spacious – majestic even. Rising precipitously out of the sea the island is all green, fertile peaks and valleys, lush with banana palms, banyan trees, pawpaw and coconut. Passion fruit plants creep over fences and climb up trees and giant avocados, melons and pumpkins seem to sprout from nowhere by the side of every road. There are pineapples, tomatoes and cucumber too – and together with the famous Pitcairn breadsticks and seemingly unlimited fresh eggs and fish it was very much a feast after three weeks at sea. No breadfruit though – not in season for another month, oh boy, where have we heard that one before?!

We left Pitcairn with a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables too. We’ve been having fresh fruit with breakfast; salads, veggies and more fruit for lunch and dinner. So awesome! In fact Susie just came into the office with fresh fruit smoothies for me and the mate – tasted like banana, passion fruit and lime heaven to me, yum.

I know that to people who’ve never been to Pitcairn this probably sound like the gibbering of a half-mad, sun-baked romantic, who’s spent too long playing native in the South Seas. Or perhaps, to the cynical, it may sound like their tourist board are bribing me to promote their cause. But the truth is it’s nearly 10pm ship time and I just don’t want to leave the office. I can’t tell you how easy it is to keep writing about how great Pitcairn is. And if you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who’s been.