Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pitcairn Island to Gambiers

0800 report/1600 GMT
South Pacific oOcean
24 15.1S/131 47.4W
104 nm WNW of Pitcairn Island
Winds 8 - 12 Kn ENE, Seas 4' south swell

Calm and easy night, although swells are first beginning to make themselves apparent right now. There has been light rain on and off, but overall this is lazy man's sailing as there is not enough wind to even hoist a sail. So with that in mind...

here is a bit about Pitcairn and Pitcairners. The islands of Polynesia are emerged (underwater) volcanic islands, and Pitcairn, and the Marquesas, are young ones which have not yet developed fringing reefs. As islands mature, they slowly drift and subside. The Galapagos (and Marquesas) are middle aged islands and eventually over millenia an atoll will be formed. First the central crater fills and forms a high island lagoon surrounded by a fringing reef, and finally, an atoll will be created as the island sinks further and only the fringing reef prutrudes above sea level.

Pitcairn and other high islands have fertile volcanic soil, although finding a flattish plot is not easy. The islanders are, out of necessity, independant and most have their own gardens, raise goats, some chickens, and are avid fisher people. The local "economy" is based very much on this self suffuciency and many local rules/laws are involved with ownership or allowance to farm or pick "bounty" (ha ha) from differnt areas on island. There is a fair amount of bartering and cash is used some as well, but more I suspect for off island dealings. Quite a few islanders have government positions, but still, the island is relatively poor - at least by a dollar measure. The Pitcairners however are self sufficient and lack for little, as far as they are concerned. They have the lifestyle they enjoy.

This of course, comes with the "relative price" of isolation, and may not be something easily understood by what we in Maine might call "come from aways". The population is aging and their is a paucity of young adult Pitcairners moving back to the island once schooling has been completed and the outside world has been explored. The island remains a British dependancy, with NZ administration. I believe that 45 Pitcairners currently live on island, and there are 10 additional administrative people there, including pastor, doctor, constable, (social worker??), and others such as an on site ambassador! I understand that the island is seen to be of significant strategic import to the UK, as it is their only remaining territorial presence in the S Pacific. They value it immensely and provide much financial support for that reason. For instance, the gov't provides an on island physician; I spent some time with Dr. Bruce, a very talented family/general (in the older sense) practioner from the Bushland in Australia. He took time to show us around and we had lunch with Bruce and his lovely wife Jillian, at their home. In very short order we seemed to have met many people and as the island is so small, all the "yachties" seem to meet and mix with many Pitcairners during their stay. It is between growing seasons right now, but after the call went out for fruits and veggies, gifts of fruits and a home baked loaf of bread were delivered to us by Brenda and Mike, and Bruce and his wife gave us herbs and fruits as well as a Pizza (that Jo was craving). Thank you to all on the island.

The Pitcairners and their islands remind of very intensified Maine out islands, struggling to retain their year round population and identity in a changing world. Brenda in many ways remainds me of Jenny, the lighthouse keepers daughter of Nash Island off South Addison. Outdoor capable and comfortable, they are the kind that you can take from the island, but could not take the island from the girl. Six years ago the island was rocked by multiple arrests (I do not know details or outcomes) and revelations of inappropriate adult/child interactions. Apparently they are first now getting back on their feet again and I hope that these issues are behind them. I wish them well.

190 nm to go.

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