As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, Pitcairn Islands’ isolation deep in the South Pacific ensured its tiny population of just 50 or so, has remained one of the few COVID-free places on earth. But it also meant that the island’s visitor economy came to an immediate standstill.
Now there is more positive news ahead for Pitcairn’s community and its strained tourism sector. On May 3rd Pitcairn’s supply ship, MV Silver Supporter, left the port of Tauranga, New Zealand, bound for Pitcairn with a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccinations. Whilst it took approximately 14 days to reach Pitcairn, its arrival signalled a much-needed boost for the remote island’s visitor economy and on-going infrastructure development needs.
From the on-set of the pandemic Pitcairn closed its borders to all but essential travellers and this strategy served them well. “We had to wait it out but we were confident Her Majesty’s Government would expediently roll-out its vaccination program, across its overseas territories, when possible.” says Pitcairn’s Mayor, Charlene Warren. “That time has come. Pitcairn Island is now in a position to vaccinate its entire population and that means we are one step closer to opening up our borders and creating our own new normal – we have much to be grateful for.”
Mayor Charlene Warren celebrates with our medical officer, Dr Jack Dascalu, after receiving her COVID vaccine. Credit: Government of Pitcairn Islands
As the promise of opening Pitcairn’s borders comes nearer, the island is poised to come back stronger than ever. A virtual tour, built during the early days of the shutdown, on Pitcairn’s tourism website is inspiring would-be travellers. This has been accompanied by an online photo exhibit with photographer Mandy Barker, highlighting the importance of climate resilience and an online artisan gallery for locals to sell their crafts and curios to Pitcairn fans from afar.
Looking ahead and planning for change is pivotal for remote, secluded tourism destinations like the Pitcairn Islands. Commenting on the possibility of the visitor economy re-opening, Pitcairn’s Travel Coordinator, Heather Menzies, who leads a small, but energetic tourism team, says, “The very real possibility of being able to offer intrepid travellers a COVID-19 virus free visitor experience, fits seamlessly with our standing conservation initiatives, which include both our International Dark Sky Sanctuary and our exceptional Marine Protected Area. We’re exploring pragmatic, new-normal solutions for post COVID tourism that are firmly underpinned by the principles of sustainable island heritage tourism and we’re excited.’’
Travel Coordinator, Heather Menzies receives her COVID vaccine form Dr Jack Dascalu. Credit: Pitcairn Islands Tourism.
Following an EU commissioned study in 2017, the EU agreed to fund a Renewable Energy project for Pitcairn to replace fossil fuel with Solar Power under the EDF 11 Regional Envelope and we have been working with our partners in New Caledonia who manage the project on behalf of the four Pacific EU Overseas Territories.
The initial intention was for a one-off tender process for a site visit for the successful bidder for a Design/Build/Install and Train contract but then Covid-19 intervened and with borders closed, a rethink was necessary. So, it was decided to progress with Stage 1 to design the project and thereafter to go out to tender for the Build/Install and Train component. Solar Power to replace fossil fuel fits well with Pitcairn’s blue and green economic objectives.
A large number of companies from around the world tendered for the project, all were of a high calibre and after much deliberation the project design contract was awarded to One Energy Island, a South Korean Company who have successfully undertaken other similar projects in the Pacific Region.
While a site visit was obviously preferable to desk study, a number of instruments were developed such as very high-resolution satellite photography and data which enabled the topography of the Island to be factored into the planning process.
Pitcairn Power Grid. Credit: Government of the Pitcairn Island
Several meetings were held on Island and by teleconference with our partners and the Solar Energy project began to take shape. The aim of the project is to ensure that every Pitcairn home and government building has a power connection from the grid to the household or building. Removing demand for fossil fuel.
The final draft was submitted and approved by all parties in early November.
We are proceeding to International tender for the next stage to build design and install Pitcairn’s Solar Power System. We are hopeful, if Covid restrictions allow to have the process completed by early 2022.
Stay tuned to our blog for updates on this exciting project!
Did you know Pitcairn is home to one of the largest marine reserves on earth? Here’s the backstory:
The project began March 2012 when the Pitcairn Islands Council began working alongside National Geographic’s “Pristine Seas” project and UK-based PEW Charitable Trust. Together, they set out to conduct scientific exploratory expeditions.
These expeditions were nothing short of spectacular. “The clearest visibility ever measured in the Pacific Ocean” is how marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala described the waters around the British-governed Pitcairn Islands in an interview with Nat Geo. He went on further to say that Pitcairn’s waters were “hypnotic, teeming with schools of thousands of fish—red snappers, parrotfish, rudderfish—in an ocean from a thousand years ago.”
Scuba Driving Credit: PEW Trust
After these fruitful expeditions, the team prepared a proposal calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect all that they had discovered and more.
On March 18th, 2015, The British Government established the Largest Marine Reserve in the World around the Pitcairn Islands. Covering an area of 841,910-square-kilometres, Pitcairn’s reserve is slightly larger than the state of New South Wales in Australia. Our waters are home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish, the reserve protects some of the most near-pristine ocean habitats on Earth.
Humpback Whale at Oeno Island Credit: Christopher Pegman
“Pitcairn Islands Tourism is guided by the principles of sustainable tourism development. The marine reserve adds a new dimension to our tourism offering”, said Pitcairn’s Travel Coordinator, Heather Menzies. “Together with our World Heritage listed Henderson Island and our warm and hospitable people, who are a living history from the Bounty mutiny in 1789, we are a truly unique travel destination”.
With the support of a number of international scientific and conservation organisations, Pitcairn Islanders are committed to preserving our pristine environment. For international tourists, Pitcairn offers the exceedingly rare opportunity to visit some of the most intact natural marine areas in the world.
Sea Turtle Image Credit: Andrew Randall
Interested in learning more? Visit our Marine Reserve page (https://www.visitpitcairn.pn/marine_reserve/reserve/index.html) on our website or subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to surge around the globe, the Government of the remote Pitcairn Islands has maintained a judicious and cautious approach to its border control in order to protect its approximately 50 inhabitants. Moving forward, the Pitcairn government is intent on keeping the island healthy, safe, and one of the few COVID-free territories in the world.
Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, keeping Pitcairn’s remote population safe has been the top priority. The Government of Pitcairn Islands quickly established its COVID-19 Management Protocols and continues to strictly control its borders.
“Whilst we are looking forward to the prospect of a vaccine in the near future, our small community and our government leaders recognize the need for us to exercise utmost caution and care for one another during these challenging times”, said Mayor Charlene Warren “Therefore, It is essential that we continue to maintain a secure border”.
Effective immediately, Pitcairn’s shipping service will operate on a reduced schedule throughout 2021 and into early 2022.
Pitcairn’s supply ship, MV Silver Supporter, will now operate on a quarterly basis between New Zealand and Pitcairn until March 31st 2022. In addition to carrying essential supplies to and from Pitcairn, the service will be reserved exclusively for Pitcairn Islanders and Government contracted workers, with strict quarantine and other COVID-safe protocols in place.
Silver Supporter Cruising off Pitcairn. Credit: Andrew Randall
All cruise ships, tour vessels and yachts will be unable to land passengers at Pitcairn Island and the exchange of provisions (unless urgently required) is not permitted. This restriction will also now remain in place until March 31st 2022.
Regular review of the service will take place through 2021 and any changes regarding Pitcairn’s border controls will be advised as and when required.
The Government of the Pitcairn Islands thanks all stakeholders for their understanding. We look forward to once again sharing our warm hospitality, our unique culture, and our pristine land and sea environments with those lucky few who visit us every year!
To stay up to date on Pitcairn’s COVID-19 measures and travel restrictions, please visit our tourism website www.visitpitcairn.pn
Lying half way between New Zealand and Peru, deep in the South Pacific, the Pitcairn Islands group is certainly one of the world’s most remote tourism destinations. With a permanent population of less than 50, Pitcairn Island is also the smallest populated territory in the world.
From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Pitcairn’s remote population safe has been a priority. The Government of Pitcairn Islands quickly established its COVID-19 Management Protocols and continues to strictly control its borders.
All passengers’ services, on the Silver Supporter, between Mangareva and Pitcairn, are suspended. Pitcairn’s shipping schedule has been revised and the supply ship, will now travel only between Pitcairn & New Zealand. This restriction will remain in place until March 31st 2021.
In order for Pitcairn to operate at full capacity throughout the coronavirus pandemic only Pitcairn residents, essential contracted staff and their partners, are permitted to travel on the Silver Supporter between NZ and Pitcairn. This restriction will remain in place until 31st March 2021.
All cruise ships, tour vessels and yachts are prohibited from landing passengers at Pitcairn Island and the exchange of provisions (unless urgently required) is not permitted. This restriction will also remain in place until 31st March 2021.
“Extending our border controls until the end of March next year has been a difficult decision, but the right one for Pitcairn. Our small community and our government leaders recognize the need for us to stay safe and care for one another during these challenging times”, said Heather Menzies, Pitcairn Islands Tourism Travel Coordinator. “COVID-19 presents serious challenges for the global community, but even more so for a remote destination like Pitcairn – our best defense is to do all that we can to keep the virus from reaching us.”
A review of Pitcairn’s border controls will take place in early 2021 and we look forward to once again sharing our warm hospitality, our unique culture and our pristine land and sea environments with those lucky few who visit us every year!
To stay up to date on Pitcairn’s COVID-19 measures and travel restrictions, please visit our tourism website www.visitpitcairn.pn
Pitcairn Islands Tourism is pleased to announce the launch of our all new Virtual Tour.
We’ve been keeping busy during the recent challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The apiaries continue to produce our amazingly pure Pitcairn honey, the community has been focusing on planning and building projects and the Pitcairn Islands Artisan Gallery is working on moving its store online (stay tuned for the online Grand Opening shortly!).
The big news of the day, however, is that Pitcairn Islands Tourism has created a virtual tour of the island on our website for travelers to get a taste of Pitcairn whilst local and international travel restrictions remain in place.
During your virtual tour you can visit our public square, go underwater in our marine reserve, have an afternoon swim at Bounty Bay, check out a local homestay, hike up to Christian’s Cave, and stargaze in our international dark sky sanctuary: Mata ki te Rangi, meaning “Eyes To The Skies”.
But don’t take our word for it. Check-out Pitcairn’s new Virtual Tours by clicking the image below!
With borders closed around the globe and the world facing one of its greatest challenges, Pitcairn Island's long history of resilience is shining through.
“As the UK’s only remaining territory in the Pacific and one of the world’s most remote tourism destinations, we are reminded today of our rich history of survival and overcoming challenges” said Pitcairn Islands Mayor Charlene Warren-Peu. “Our remote location in the South Pacific enabled us to quickly self-quarantine, and now we are doing all we can to remain safe and free from the virus.”
Although passenger services to Pitcairn are currently suspended, vital freight and supplies are still being delivered from New Zealand via Pitcairn’s supply ship, the MV Silver Supporter, while Pitcairn’s resilient community of 50 residents continue to go about their daily lives.
Apiaries on island continue to produce and export their famous Pitcairn pure honey and local artisans continue fashioning their handicrafts and curios for international buyers. The region’s endemic birds still flock to Pitcairn and its outer islands, and life underwater remains as untouched as ever, protected by one of the largest marine reserves on earth - where humpback whales will travel from Antarctica to breed this winter as they do each and every year.
Once this global pandemic is over, Pitcairn looks forward to once again sharing its unique culture, Bounty heritage, UNESCO World Heritage site, Mata ki te Rangi International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and endemic flora and fauna with those lucky few who find their way to the islands every year. “In the meantime, we’re keeping a candle in the window for everyone affected by these unprecedented times, and will look forward to the day where we can once again welcome visitors to our islands. It is in these times we are reminded, no matter how remote, we are all intricately connected as global citizens” said Mayor Warren-Peu.
More information about the Legendary Pitcairn Islands can be found at www.visitpitcairn.pn
In 1989, Jack S. Grove discovered the shipwreck of the vessel Acadia at Ducie Atoll, an uninhabited islet and one of four islands in the Pitcairn Island group. The shares his tale of discovery and misadventures to a captivated crowd at the History of Diving Museum’s monthly “Immerse Yourself” talk.
Grove begins by joking how Pitcairn is not “on the map” for anyone. The island chain coincidentally also isn’t printed on the globe that Grove uses to “show” where the islands are. “You see this label? Pitcairn would be right under there,” he grins, pointing to a covered part of the South Pacific.
Grove, a master in “edu-tainment,” begins with a flourish. “The story — the adventure tonight — is part marine biology, part oceanography, part geography, and part geology. It’s about how I almost sank a Zodiac because that anchor was tied to it,” he says. “And I tied it!” Grove hits his stride as everyone in the room realizes this isn’t your normal bedtime story.
For the remainder of the night, the audience roars in laughter, captivated by Grove’s tale of mutiny, close calls, and foolish-in-retrospect decisions. Disguised within the humor, Grove provides a historical account of the watery demise of the Acadia and of his lasting legacy on Pitcairn — retrieving the ship’s anchor.
It all begins with the intentional burning and sinking of another ship — the H.M.S. Bounty, of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame. On the morning of April 28, 1789, led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, a group of mutineers seized control of the Bounty from captain Lieutenant William Bligh. The rebels left Bligh and those loyal to him at sea in a small skiff and took the Bounty to Tahiti and eventually Pitcairn in search of safe haven. They set the Bounty ablaze in what is now Bounty Bay, sitting on shores and watching their last connection to their old lives disappear. The mutineers and Tahitian women they’d taken with them founded the community at Pitcairn, and some descendants still live on the islands to this day.
In 1989, a young Grove discovered the anchor of the Acadia haphazardly while working on a nearby ship. In 1881, the Acadia had sailed from San Francisco for Ireland with a cargo of wheat. On June 5, she sank after going aground at Ducie Atoll. The 11 survivors found themselves at Pitcairn. While most left, one crewmember, Phillip Coffin, stayed and married Mary Jane Warren, a local woman.
Millie Florda Coffin was one of their 10 children. In 1943, Millie Coffin married Warren Clive Christian, a direct descendant of original Bounty mutineer Flethcher Christian, and changed her name to Millie Christian.
Jack S. Grove gives a presentation at the History of Diving Museum’s monthly “Immerse Yourself!” talk. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly
On April 28, 1989, the bicentennial of the mutiny on the Bounty and founding of Pitcairn, Grove was given permission to salvage the anchor of the Acadia. “It was pretty apparent that I had no experience with salvage,” he says. “I never used a lift bag before, and I bought three of them with funding from Stanford. What I should’ve remembered is the laws of physics: air expands as it rises.”
The lift bags were too effective getting the heavy anchor off the reef, and it subsequently bounced up and down between the surface and the bottom before Grove could secure it to his Zodiac.
Through a few more bad choices and sheer luck, Grove pulled the anchor back to the main expedition ship, only to lose it in deeper water and realize that it was still tied to his Zodiac. Barely escaping being pulled down with the boat, he explains his thoughts at the time. “This is gonna be very hard to explain to the office. Not only did I lose the anchor, but I sank the Zodiac…and we also had a film crew.” Amidst laughs, he adds, “The sun was setting by the way, and there were several big tiger sharks.”
They did eventually retrieve the Acadia’s anchor and set it atop a hill at Bounty Bay on Pitcairn Island. With more emotion and fewer jokes, Grove concludes his tale of a lifetime. He describes an old woman with a cane who approached him as he sat atop the anchor. Millie Christian, daughter of Acadia crewman Phillip Coffin, had come to thank him.
“My father’s ship has finally come home,” she said. Grateful, Grove tells the audience, “It was the apex of my life.”
An expedition to Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn archipelago, is slated to take place in June 2019 on the Bravo Supporter. The expedition brings together scientists, journalists, film makers, artists and a beach clean-up-team. The overarching objective – driven by the British Government - is to study the plastic pollution on Henderson Island and raise awareness of the global problem. It provides an opportunity for key Pitcairn and ocean stakeholders to effectively communicate the source, scale, range and impacts of ocean debris on Henderson and the Pacific Ocean through science, art and media. The team will also study and record the Henderson marine environment – promoting the Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve and the benefits of large, fully protected marine protected areas.
The team will also study and record the Henderson marine environment – promoting the Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve and the benefits of large, fully protected marine protected areas. The expedition builds upon a 2015 analysis which brought the pollution of Henderson Island to global attention. The work estimated that Henderson has >18 tonnes of plastic on its beaches. According to the study, the 38km2 island has >38 million pieces of plastic upon its shores – over one million pieces per square kilometre. Conservative estimates suggest that 3,500-13,500 new plastic items wash up on Henderson each day. The 2 km long East Beach, upon which the two-week 2019 expedition will focus, is polluted by 30 million plastic items. The 2015 work served as a reminder that the long-term protection of large areas of ocean needs to be partnered by science and messaging capable of changing attitudes towards the way we live, consume, and discard on land.
The 2019 expedition has been sanctioned by The Pitcairn Island Council and the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands.
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