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The People of Pitcairn Island

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The majority of Pitcairn Islanders are descended from the nine mutineers of His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty who, led by Fletcher Christian, landed on unihabited Pitcairn Island in 1790 with six Polynesian men, twelve Polynesian women, and an infant girl. These European and Polynesian roots can be clearly seen in the faces and customs of the people of Pitcairn today. Into this mix have come other settlers, whether from other Pacific islands, Australasia, America or Europe, continuing a tradition dating from the island’s earliest history of attracting migrants from other nations and creating a community rich and diverse in its cultural heritage.

Following the landing of the Bounty, the next reliable population estimate was provided by Captain Folger of the ship Topaz in 1808 when he stated it to be 35. From that point it grew to a peak of 233 in 1937, and more recently decreased slowly to hover for the past several decades around the 50 figure. The census of December 2017 gave a total of 49 permanent residents and five expatriates. The decline of Pitcairn’s population following the Second World War is largely due to migration, principally to New Zealand, where the younger generation have the opportunity to improve their economic status. In recent times, TV, film and the internet have also brought awareness of opportunities elsewhere. Today the majority of Pitcairn’s children leave the island at the age of 13 to attend secondary school in New Zealand, returning when they have completed their studies. Although many young people do not return to Pitcairn, in recent times a number have chosen to do so, bringing new vitality to the population.

While the population of Pitcairn is feeling the effects of outward migration, it is also aging: at present there are only a handful of resident children and few adults under 40. The community is aware of the urgent need to grow in order to sustain itself and ensure a viable future. The Pitcairn government has reviewed its legislation and policies to encourage immigration and support those who choose to move to Pitcairn – including making it easier to obtain land, removing restrictions on government employment, and providing more information to potential settlers via its immigration pages. Pitcairn undoubtedly needs more people, especially (but not only) fit and able younger people and couples with children who are keen to rise to the challenges Pitcairn offers, and who are resourceful, adaptable and culturally sensitive. Life on Pitcairn will not be for everyone. It is not a place to get rich. The island’s isolation and small size at times make life on Pitcairn physically demanding and emotionally challenging. Residents need to be able to turn their hand to a wide range of tasks, and to deal with difficulties with pragmatism and creativity. They need to be comfortable living among a tiny community, many of whom have lived on Pitcairn for their whole lives, and respect the quiet way of life on Pitcairn. There’s no access to shopping malls, coffee shops, fancy restaurants, or super-fast internet, and few opportunities to leave the island outside the regular shipping schedule. But the community is - perhaps surprisingly - vibrant and diverse, and there is plenty to occupy your time on Pitcairn. For those who choose to make Pitcairn their new home, life is never dull. Pitcairn offers huge rewards and a lifestyle which is difficult to find elsewhere.

Please see our FAQs for more details of life on the island.


Updated: August 21st, 2018