Arriving at Pitcairn Island

I am sitting with Brian Young on a deck overlooking the South Pacific. I only know because of the bright stars reflected on the dark sea – otherwise it is pitch dark out there. Brian is a “blue-blood” Pitcairner – descendant by direct line from midshipman Edward Young, one of the Bounty mutineers. Tonight I am his guest – at Adamstown, a scattered group of wooden houses that make up the only town on the island.

We made it to Pitcairn Island this morning, shortly after sunrise. We saw the island appear exactly like it has been described dozens of times – like a tall ship coming out of the horizon. It is a lush green island, with two large red and ochre patches – landslides that occurred after heavy rains a month ago. Surrounded by mist and rain, it resembled nothing more than a long-lost treasure island.

The next thing we saw was a long boat, about 11 meters long, with a small crew of Pitcairners who came to pick us up and take us on land. We received a warm welcome, including a gorgeous flower necklace, and then were taken to the main square of Adamstown, where we saw the famous anchor of the Bounty.

Shortly after, Neil Gelinas and Manu San Felix – our cameramen – and myself joined five locals on a fishing party. They dropped 25 lobster traps, at depths between 80 and 100 meters. It rained so hard that we almost lost sight of the island. We came back to the island, changed to dry clothes, and enjoyed a wonderful potluck party where the entire Pitcairn population (about 50 people) assembled, curious to meet us.

After almost year of preparation, we are all very excited and happy to be here. I now understand why the Bounty mutineers chose this place as their shelter – it is in the middle of nowhere. But remoteness comes with benefits. I’ll write about these in the next few days. Now I am exhausted after such a long trip and a full day. It’s time for bed – and trying to imagine what the first European colonizers felt after they burned their ship and isolated themselves voluntarily in this fascinating island.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.