On this day, 3rd July 1767, Pitcairn Island was sighted by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Philip Carteret. The island was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crew member who was the first to sight the island.
The Pitcairn Islands, form a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. The four islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total land area of about 47 square kilometres. Only Pitcairn, the second-largest island that measures about 3.6 kilometres from east to west, is inhabited.
Pitcairn is inhabited mostly by descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 56 inhabitants, originating from four main families, Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world. (Wikipedia)
The earliest known settlers of the Pitcairn Islands were Polynesians who appear to have lived on Pitcairn and Henderson, as well as nearby Mangareva Island 400 kilometres (250 mi) to the northwest, for several centuries. They traded goods and formed social ties among the three islands despite the long canoe voyages between them, helping the small populations on each island survive despite having limited resources. Eventually, important natural resources were exhausted, inter-island trade broke down and a period of civil war began on Mangareva, causing the small human populations on Henderson and Pitcairn to be cut off and eventually become extinct.
Although archaeologists believe that Polynesians were living on Pitcairn as late as the 15th century, the islands were uninhabited when they were rediscovered by Europeans
Illustrations from the State Library of New South Wales
Drawings of Pitcairn Island, 1848 / Conway Shipley
One of the world’s biggest colonies of penguins is at risk from a
volcano that has erupted on their small sub-Antarctic island in a
British overseas territory.
British scientists fear that Mt Curry’s eruption could have a serious
impact on the 1.2m chinstrap penguins and nearly 200,000 macaroni
penguins based on Zavodovski, one of the South Sandwich islands.
“They can’t escape. We don’t really know how bad things are on the
island, it may be that they’re fine, it may be that they’re not. But
there is a concern,” said Mike Dunn, seabird ecologist at BAS. “Had they
not been moulting at the time, there would be no issue at all, because
the penguins would simply swim off.”
The chinstrap penguins on the island are currently moulting, which means
they are not waterproof and cannot go into the water to escape the ash.
Photograph: British Antarctic Survey