Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn Island, volcanic island (2005 est. pop. 45), 2.5 sq mi (6.5 sq km), South Pacific, SE of Tuamotu Archipelago. Adamstown is the capital and only settlement. The first British Pacific Islands possession (1838), the island is officially administered by a governor (the British High Commissioner to New Zealand) as part of the overseas territory of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands (Pitcairn and three neighboring, uninhabited atolls). Under the 2010 constitution, executive and legislative powers reside with the governor, who must consult with the mayor and Island Council in making laws. Handicrafts, honey, and postage stamps along with tourism (developed in the 21st cent.) are the main source of income, and the remote island is dependent on British and European Union aid. Pitcairn has no port or natural harbor; goods must be ferried from ships anchored offshore.

The island was named in 1767 by Capt. Philip Carteret, a British naval officer, after Robert Pitcairn, the midshipman who first sighted it. It was colonized in 1790 by mutineers from the Bounty and Tahitian women, who discovered vestiges of previous Polynesian settlement. Their descendants, who speak an English dialect and are Seventh-day Adventists, still inhabit the island. In 1856 overpopulation caused the removal of the inhabitants, at their request, to Norfolk Island, but some soon returned to Pitcairn. In 1957 the remains of the Bounty were discovered off the southern end of the island.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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