Pitcairn: The Real Bounty Revealed

Regular readers of NG blogs will remember Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala’s epic journey earlier this year to study the unknown marine world around the Pitcairn Islands, fabled home of the Bounty mutineers and their descendents. In the video above, get a taste of the upcoming NatGeo Wild television special chronicling this remarkable project.

This Monday night, history was made and repeated in an NG Live event as Enric reported back on his findings, taking the stage just as his predecessor Luis Marden had done more than 50 years earlier to tell the story of his own journey to the island as chronicled in the December 1957 National Geographic Magazine.

Pitcairn appears on the horizon today just as it did when Fletcher Christian and company arrived more than 200 years ago. Photo by Andrew Howley


Where Marden’s voyage focused on describing Pitcairn’s past and present, Enric’s is all about its future. Hundreds of miles from the other nearest islands, and thousands from any continent, the Pitcairn Islands and their associated sea mounts have largely been protected by distance from the worst effects of modern human fishing, a fact discovered by Enric and his team with support from the Pew Global Ocean Legacy, and revealed in an upcoming film on NatGeo Wild.

Beneath the waves, the team found abundant carnivores including groupers with all the colors of a peacock. Photo by Enric Sala


As reported in this week’s Sunday Times, when the 52 inhabitants of Pitcairn saw for themselves through the team’s reports and photography the natural treasures beneath the waves surrounding their tiny home, they unanimously voted to protect the ecosystem by banning commercial fishing from their “exclusive economic zone,” the 200-mile-radius area around each of their four islands.

It is now up to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to decide whether to implement the plan, which would create the largest marine reserve in the world. To help make the case, Enric will be in Britain this Wednesday for the world premiere screening of the film, giving Londoners the first glimpse among outsiders of the real “bounty” hidden in Pitcairn’s waters.

During Enric’s presentation in Washington, D.C. on Monday, he put it all into perspective. “This is a story,” he began, “of rebellion, romance, isolation, exploration, destiny–and finally, a story of hope.”


Learn More

See All Pitcairn Expedition Blog Posts

Feature in London’s Sunday Times

Pew Global Ocean Legacy’s “Protect Pitcairn” Site

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.