Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 2

I got up at 7 AM, and Simon cooked bacon and eggs for our breakfast.  I told him that I wanted my eggs scrambled, but he had no idea how to make scrambled eggs.  So for the first time in my life, I taught somebody how to make scrambled eggs.

Simon gave me a walking guide to Pitcairn, which had a map of the island and a description of all the points of interest.  It also had a list of all the Pitcairn inhabitants based on the January 2006 census.  Simon graciously updated the list for me, so here is the current list of inhabitants, grouped by last name:

  • Brown: Len, Dave + Lea, David
  • Christian: Randy + Nadine with children Emile Ryan Adrianna Isabel, Steve + Olive, Shawn + Michelle, Irma, Dennis
  • Griffiths: Turi + Darralyn
  • Jaques: Leslie
  • Lupton: Mike + Brenda
  • Menzies: Heather
  • Peu: Vaine + Charlene with child Cushana
  • Randall: Andrew
  • Warren: Mike, Pawl + Sue, Kean + Daphne, Royal, Melva, Mavis, Meralda, Jay + Carol, Reynold + Nola
  • Young: Simon + Shirley, Kerry

The total count is 42 permanent inhabitants on Pitcairn, plus about 10 outside contractors.  The only mutineer names still present are Christian and Young, from Fletcher Christian and Edward Young (and Simon and Shirley don't count since their Young name is not related to the mutineer).  The rest of the names came from outsiders who married Pitcairners.  For example, Samuel Warren was an American whaler who married a Pitcairner in the mid-1800s.  Some of the names were introduced more recently when Pitcairners left the island for university and then came back with an outsider husband.  Most of the inhabitants are still mutineer descendants even if their name doesn't reflect it.

After breakfast, I decided to explore the island.  I walked by an abandoned house.  With no real estate market on the island, houses become abandoned when an islander dies or decides to leave.

I walked by Flatcher's Cafe, a defunct restaurant on the island.  I also walked by Delectable Bounty, another defunct restaurant.

I visited the cemetery, which is full of Christians, Youngs, and Warrens, among other names.  While visiting the cemetery, I bumped into Vaine (pronounced Wayne) Peu, a Polynesian Pitcairner.  We chatted for a bit, and he told me to visit him at his house sometime for a cup of tea.

I visited the hospital, which is just a small building with a few rooms.  The hospital is pretty basic, and anybody with a serious injury or illness needs to leave the island for treatment, which is one of the biggest obstacles on the island since leaving the island is difficult and expensive.  If emergency medical treatment is required, the islanders will find the closest passing ship and attempt to hitch a ride on that ship to Mangareva.  For non-emergency treatment, islanders take the Claymore and usually get treatment in New Zealand.  Then they have to wait three months to return to the island.  Medical treatment is heavily subsidized by the UK.

I walked by the public notice board at the store.  There was a schedule of all the cruise ships passing by the island.  There was also a notice about the importance of reporting wild goat sightings.  At one time, wild goats roamed the island, which was an ecological disaster since they ate vegetation.  There was a vote to eradicate the goats, but the island was split on the issue.  Apparently many of the islanders had some sort of attachment to the goats.  The goats were eventually eradicated, but it was a controversial decision.  This is an example of Pitcairn politics.

Police station
I visited the police station, which is just a small building with a tiny office and a single jail cell.  The police officer is a contractor from New Zealand on the island for a one-year rotation.  I asked him about his job, and he said the Pitcairners are great people, making his job pretty easy.  He said that he has never had to use the jail cell.  I asked him if he ever gave a speeding ticket, and he said that he hadn't, but sometimes he will tell somebody to slow down on their quad bike.

I then left town and walked into the island's interior on a dirt road.  I walked by a sign that talked about Miz T, a Galapagos tortoise that wanders around the island.  Between 1937 and 1951, five Galapagos tortoises were brought to the island by an American sailor.  Miz T is the only one left.

Saint Paul's Point
I continued my walk to Saint Paul's Point, which is a natural pool on the east side of the island.  I did some snorkeling and saw a number of fish.

I continued my walk to Down Rope, which is a near vertical cliff that leads down to the island's only beach.  The place is named because there used to be a rope that people could use to get down, but now the rope has been replaced by footholds in the cliff.  I carefully climbed down the cliff and reached the beach.  I noticed some petroglyphs carved into the cliff, evidence that Pitcairn was once inhabited by Polynesians before the arrival of the mutineers.

After climbing back up the cliff, I walked home.

At 6 PM, Simon and I walked to the town square for a public dinner, which is basically a potluck.  Pretty much the entire island was there, and Simon introduced me to everybody.  My first observation was that pretty much everybody was white.  My second observation was that many were overweight.  My third observation was that most were middle-aged or older.  There were five children, a couple of young guys, and the rest were middle-aged or older.  The only young woman that I saw was Anneka, the administrator's daughter who had come on the Claymore with me.

The food was pretty ordinary, mostly stuff off the Claymore.  I sat next to Leslie Jaques and Michelle Christian, the mayor's wife.  I made some small talk with Michelle, and then Leslie and Michelle started talking about politics, like if the scientists going to Henderson Island were going to benefit Pitcairners, and stuff like that.  The other people next to me didn't talk much.

I later spoke with Melva Warren and her mother Royal Warren.  Royal, who was fairly old, told me that she kept going back to New Zealand for medical treatment.  Since she had to wait three months each time to come back, she was often away from the island.  Listening to her made me think that being old on Pitcairn was a major inconvenience, and expensive for British taxpayers.

After dinner, one of the Pitcairners asked me if I was going to the party at Andrew's house.  I asked him about the party, and he said it was a disco party.  I didn't really believe it, so I had to see for myself.  I didn't want to go alone, so I asked Dennis the German journalist to join me.

The two of us hitched a ride with Mike Lupton.  Mike is originally from the UK but moved to Pitcairn when he married Brenda Christian, a Pitcairner who had spent some time in the UK.

Andrew's house is at the top of a hill in the island's interior with almost a 360-degree view of the ocean.  When we stepped into his house, Dennis and I were blown away.  There really were disco lights everywhere, along with giant speakers and a big screen TV showing American music videos.

Andrew Randall was born on Pitcairn, but had a father not from Pitcairn who died and left him with a lot of money.  Andrew used the money to build a big house with lots of toys, and now hosts disco parties.  He is one of the two young guys on the island.  He is also the only gay person on the island.

Disco party
Andrew was standing behind a bar counter with shelves full of alcohol behind him.  With him was David Brown, the only other young guy on the island.  Sitting at the counter was a middle-aged woman who I started a conversation with.

Her name was Jacqui Christian.  I had briefly met her at the landing when I first arrived on Pitcairn.  She had asked why I was visiting Pitcairn, and I told her that I was inspired by The Bounty Trilogy.  She responded by saying that people who are familiar with the Bounty story are usually much older than me.

Jacqui was born on Pitcairn, went to Australia for university, got a pharmacy degree, and started a successful pharmacy business in Australia.  She got married and divorced a couple of times and went back and forth between Pitcairn and Australia.  She did some traveling around the US and had even visited my hometown of Sacramento, California.  She also spent some time in Europe where she did some council work for the British Overseas Territories, of which Pitcairn is one.  On Pitcairn, she was editor of The Pitcairn Miscellany, which is Pitcairn's monthly newsletter.

Jacqui told me that she was moving away from Pitcairn on Sunday.  She was going to the UK to do some pharmacy work, but to also try to do more council work for Pitcairn.  She was concerned about Pitcairn's future, with its aging and declining population, and wanted to do something to get the population back to a healthy and sustainable level.

I later pulled Dennis into the conversation, and the three of us had a nice chat together.  When I looked at my watch, it was past 10 PM, but the disco lights were still on and the speakers were still blasting music.  Apparently Andrew has his own generator that he can use to power his house beyond 10 PM when the rest of the island loses power.

At around 11 PM, Dennis and I left the party and hitched a ride back to our homes.

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