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Lovely Anson Bay on Norfolk Island. | by denisbin
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Lovely Anson Bay on Norfolk Island.

Brief History of Mutiny of the Bounty and the Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk.

It all began with the ship the Bounty setting out for Tahiti in 1787 to collect breadfruits and observe a transit of Venus. During the voyage out Captain William Bligh demoted the sailing master John Fryer and replaced him with Fletcher Christian beginning ill feeling between the crew. But their five month stay in Tahiti cheered the men up. They lived on shore, cohabitated with Tahitian women and got their bodies tattooed in the Tahitian style. The chiefs encouraged the crew to stay in Tahiti with their women. Bligh administered frequent floggings and castigated Fletcher Christian for not controlling the men better. The men did not want to leave but they did in April 1789. Near Tonga the crew mutinied led by Fletcher Christian and set Bligh and 18 men adrift in a small open boat. Amazingly Bligh and his men reached Timor still alive some 47 days later. The mutineers returned to Tahiti. The British Navy sent the SS Pandora out to Tahiti to find the mutineers in 1790. Fourteen of the original mutineers were taken on board the Pandora and it set sail for England, before being shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Like Bligh, these men and the captain of the Pandora sailed on to Timor in small boats.

Meantime Fletcher Christian and 9 other Europeans and 26 Tahitians and some children set sail in the Bounty for a safe haven in 1790. They eventually found Pitcairn Island and made it their home. Some of these mutineers in turn mutineer against Fletcher Christian and returned to Tahiti in 1794. The Tahitians killed Fletcher Christian and some of the other original British mutineers. It was 1808 before the remaining community of Pitcairn Islanders was found by the British Navy after an American ship visited the island previously. No action was taken by the British government and in 1825 the mutineers were granted amnesty. By then only 66 Pitcairn Islanders lived there but their water supply was low and they were short of food sources. They asked to be moved to Australia but this did not happen. Because they were facing famine some moved back to Tahiti in 1831 but many died of disease there and so some returned to Pitcairn in the same year. By 1848 Pitcairn population had reached 100 and just two years later it had reached 156 people. The island could not sustain that number and so in 1856 the Pitcairn Islanders were moved to the newly uninhabited island of Norfolk. Each family was given 50 acres of freehold land. The main family names of those who moved to Norfolk are Christian; Adams; Quintal; McCoy; Nobbs; Buffett.


But the Pitcairn Islander story did not finish there. Some were so homesick that a few returned in 1858 to Pitcairn and some more in 1864. These families still reside on Pitcairn Island which is a British colony. Back on Norfolk the Pitcairn Islanders were left very much to their own devices. Most of the island remained Crown land, under direct control of the Governor of NSW. Once the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 Norfolk by act of parliament became a federal territory administered by the federal government. Several more acts of have been passed in the last fifty years and the island now has much autonomy but despite the grievances of some Pitcairn Islanders it has always been a territory of Australia. After a long review which ended in 2006 it was decided that there would be no more self government changes and the islanders on Norfolk would pay income taxes for the first time. Norfolk has its own Legislative Assembly with 17 elected members. They elect a Speaker of their house and the head of the government is the Chief Minister as in other Australian territories. The Administrator is the equivalent of a state governor and chairs Executive Council just as state governors do. Australian laws apply in Norfolk. In June 2012 the government of Norfolk was forced to seek financial support from the Commonwealth as they have basically run out of money. I presume a drop in tourism from Australia has affected their island budget rather dramatically.


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Taken on January 10, 2012