The island where you can disappear
May 2, 2015 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Pitcairn Island is one of the most remote communities in the world, a five-square-kilometre volcanic outcrop in the Pacific Ocean almost 6000 kilometres from the nearest continent. It has a population of less than 50 people, many of whom can trace thier family history to the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian partners. You can immigrate, but if you don't want to do that (or visit) you can enjoy Google Streetview, or read one of the two local publications for some local colour. Previously.
posted by Mezentian (19 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
And abuse...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:35 PM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Sorry. Didn't check the previously.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:36 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's okay. I recall the Pitcairn trial from back in the day, but somehow the detail that there were so few people on the lsland escaped me, and I figured it had a population similar to Norfolk Island.

The rape allegations are touched on in the local paper (PDF), talking about the only child on the island (which is sad in and of itself) and her education at the school. It mentions she can't be in the school with less than two adults.

When I read the original article yesterday I thought that was unusual, but sensible. At that stage I'd quite forgotten about the island's more recent, seedy history.
posted by Mezentian at 11:42 PM on May 2, 2015

From the immigration FAQ:

What sort of work is available on Pitcairn?
There are no current vacancies but temporary positions do come up from time to time.

The photographs make it look beautiful but living in a place that isolated would be difficult. Reading the link above about the sexual abuse scandal makes me think that the social aspects of the isolation might be worse than the material deprivations.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:23 AM on May 3, 2015

I saw a travel show on this.
posted by clavdivs at 12:35 AM on May 3, 2015

To me, Pitcairn Island is memorable only because I use it to be an insufferable knowitall.

"Okay, so the call will be at 3 o'clock PST."

"PST? In June? Oh, are you on Pitcairn Island? I know they don't use PDT there..."

Yes this gets me many exasperated ಠ_ಠ but it also seems to work.

Of course I long ago moved from PST/PDT to GMT/BST, and good luck getting anyone to think of the time in London as anything but "Greenwich Mean Time". I mean they went out of their way to learn the pronunciation of Greenwich and everything!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:28 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

You must be fun in pubs.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:50 AM on May 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

The link to the newsletter Dem Tull Pitcairn is interesting. I read through several, starting at the beginning with the 2007 issues.

It's a typical small town newspaper in some ways, largely aimed at all the people who've left, who never want to go back (permanently), but still miss the place. Lots of interesting glimpses into the mundane daily life where not much happens. But local feuds and a bit of gossip manage to creep in around the edges.

And overshadowing everything are the crimes, and the newsletter authors don't seem to know how to handle it. There's a lot of defensiveness and denial, as well as a look on how the punishments of the men affects life and culture.

What's particularly interesting to me is the original editor and writer of the newsletter was a woman who was the right age to have been caught up in the early stages of the abuse and assaults. I'm not sure what to make of how she handles it. Why her coverage acknowledges something happened, but still lands firmly on the side of the accused men. Maybe she wasn't directly affected? Or maybe this is the only safe course if she wanted to stay friendly with everyone still on the island?

Anyways, if you're looking for a way to kill an hour or so this Sunday afternoon, it's an interesting set of reading.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:58 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

The link to the newsletter Dem Tull Pitcairn is interesting. I read through several, starting at the beginning with the 2007 issues.

Are we related?
posted by Mezentian at 4:45 AM on May 3, 2015

I feel like Manhattan or Hong Kong would be islands where you can disappear. On Pitcairn, I'm pretty sure I'd be conspicuous.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:16 AM on May 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've never traveled outside of North America and I haven't been anywhere in over a decade. While I read the links and looked at the beautiful pictures, I fantasized about visiting this tiny green dot in the middle of a huge blue ocean. A huge blue ocean that itself is very far from my humdrum life in the Midwestern U.S. I could get my sea legs on ocean swells. I could eat a pineapple right after it was cut from the tree (or bush or whatever pineapples grow on.) I could see all of the stars in an inky black sky.

Then I read about the culture of child abuse. Yeah, fuck that.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:03 AM on May 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can also follow Pitcairn resident Nadine Christian on Twitter, though I think she's on a trip to New Zealand at the moment.
posted by penguin pie at 10:09 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG! Isolated rural communities in populated countries are bad enough. Any incomer would be buying into a life amid permanent nepotism based on Bounty ancestry.
posted by raygirvan at 8:22 PM on May 3, 2015

Years ago, maybe in 2000 or 2001, when the internet was still amazing and not fully charted, i stumbled upon a website that detailed life on Pitcairn, in depth. It was a first-person account, written by an outsider, not a journalist, who ended up spending a lot of time there. I don't remember the ins and outs of how he ended up there but the Pitcairn pages were part of a larger blog that talked about his South Seas travels. He not only detailed the history, both past and more recent, and what day to day life was like, for him at least, but really got up close and personal with some of the victims and perpetrators of the sexual abuse before and after it was revealed. Hs recounting of the abuse was just happenstance within the course of his having traveled there. If Google still had its Directory i'm sure i could somehow find it again. It was chilling and still one of the best internet experiences I've had. I would go there in a heart beat.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:33 PM on May 3, 2015

I think I remember that same thing, Conrad-Casserole. Hmmm, maybe some sleuthing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:35 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can brag that one of my friends (who I don't think is a Mefite; I'll have to ask) grew up on Pitcairn Island. And yes, he's descended from Spencer Christian. He moved to the Australian mainland when he was in his early teens. He said his childhood was pretty much wild, kind of what you'd expect living there.
posted by zardoz at 12:07 AM on May 4, 2015

I didn't know they were down to one child, but honestly, it's a place better extinguished. There was no real repentance post trials -- it was clear that nearly all older residents, both male and female, were thoroughly programmed with the idea that girls existed for men to fuck, and age and consent were irrelevant. You'd have to be quite mad to immigrate there a family or the intention to have one, or even visit; part of what led to the uncovering of the abuse was the rape of an 11 year old tourist.

But really, that poor kid. Imagine growing up as the only child, with most of the adult men watching you and calculating whether they could get away with raping her, and most of the adult women willing to let them.

Isolated societies can get so warped that there is no saving them. I'm glad at least that most of the younger people seem to have escaped.
posted by tavella at 12:49 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Back in the day, top level country-code domains like .uk and .de were created by an amazing person by the name of Jon Postel. He identified acquaintances and colleagues to manage registrations under those domains, waiting to hand over management to a country's authority or other more formal group until they were ready and everyone agreed.

In the case of Pitcairn Island, management of .pn was given in 1997 to Tom Christian, great-great-great grandson of Fletcher Christian. Shortly after that was done, the Commissioner for Pitcairn Island objected. Jon suggested he work it out with Tom Christian. Two years of back and forth didn't result in any change, and in 1999 all but two adult residents of Pitcairn Island (!) signed a petition asking for a transfer of management of the domain. The two holdouts were ... Tom Christian and his wife.

You can read ICANN's report, the product of years of process and deliberation, ultimately deciding to redelegate the name here.

Internet governance is ... strange.
posted by zittrain at 3:04 PM on May 4, 2015

All respect to the late Jon Postel, but holy shit that exchange really shows how badly the country domain system was being handled at the time. They appear to have handed the colony's domain over to some dude with no official standing (presumably recruited by the Orichalk domain scammer) without checking with the relevant governments. And when said relevant government agencies promptly objected, instead of IANA acknowledging their error they blew them off for over two years, despite the intervention of the Pitcairn Council, the Governor of Pitcairn, the UK Minister in charge of Pitcairn, and the *entire adult population* of the colony apart from the guy (and his wife) who were working with the scammer. IANA basically said 'oh, well, not our problem, you'll have to convince that dude to give you your domain name back. Good luck!'

Seriously, this bit is just *embarassing* -- they delayed for close to a year just because the scammer was blowing smoke about how really, he was TOTALLY having high level meetings with the UK government and they were totally going to let him keep the domain name instead of having it used by the actual Pitcairn island:

"There ensued, at Mr Roberts' behest, a series of discussions in the UK Government, and Mr Roberts reported to the IANA in a November 23, 1997 e-mail that "the very highest level in London" was considering whether to recommend a course contrary to the request of the Pitcairn Island Council. "
posted by tavella at 4:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older 2nd generation Spencer Tunick   |   Shit people say to Women Directors Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments