Changing Planet

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.

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.
  • Dennis Howley

    The pictures and summaries of your days have been awesome. I have several friends and co-workers who are eagerly following each posting. How fascinating to be visiting this special place and speaking with the descendants of the sailors of the Bounty.
    We have a question. What kind of foods have you been eating in Tahiti, on the ship, and along your journey?


  • Clayton Page

    Trying to find a bigger than thumbnail picture of the cloud above Pitcairn approach pic, but when I click it just links to the story, but no pics 🙁

    Looks like an epic journey – how does one become “Explorer in Residence”?

  • Meralda Warren

    Wut a way.
    Thank you for the great work you all are doing for Pitcairn.
    I hope you all have a wonderful time in our waters.
    It was so great to share our community traditional dinner with you all last night. Thank you so much for the wonderful gifts of National geographics.
    Sanks fer uckland.

  • Captain Bligh

    So, you’re staying with a convicted sex offender. I trust you spare a thought for the victims of this evil man whose sentence was ridiculously lenient. Pitcairn is fascinating, but far from being any sort of paradise. Nor should its inhabitants be held up as an example of anything other than a deeply dysfunctional small community that is a drain on the British taxpayer.

  • michael hack

    Fabulous photos, making me want to fly there today. I hope the expedition’s going well. Hello, Jennifer.

  • […] from Garnet’s Ridge, and the community potluck welcome dinner referenced in expedition leader Enric Sala’s last post, a bright double rainbow appeared in the sky. Little did any of us realize that this traditional […]

  • […] Arriving at Pitcairn Island […]

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