The Pitcairn Islands have exceptionally stunning dark skies, free from all light pollution. In late 2018 the Government of Pitcairn Islands made application to the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) for the 4 islands in the Pitcairn Islands group to be granted the status of an International Dark Sky Sanctuary (IDSS). On March 18th 2019 the IDSA formally approved Mata ki te Rangi – being designated an official International Dark Sky Sanctuary
It is currently the only island group in the world to be listed as an IDSS.
Mata ke ti Rangi – Eyes to the Sky International Dark Sky Sanctuary encompasses all 4 islands in the Pitcairn Islands Group, a total land area of 43.25 km2 .
Pitcairn is one of the 4 islands in the Pitcairn Islands Group. The other three islands (Oeno, Henderson and Ducie) are uninhabited. Henderson is a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to many endemic species of flowering plants, birds and insects. All 4 islands are surrounded by a Marine Protected Area. At 834,000 sq. km, it is the world’s 3rd largest such area.
Pitcairn Island itself is one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands. It lies in the South Pacific approximately 2300 km east of Tahiti and 6500 km west of northern Chile. At latitude 25.1 degrees, it is just south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate and vegetation are sub-tropical.
The Pitcairn Islands group has a rich history but Pitcairn itself is best known for the place where the mutineers of HMAV Bounty chose to settle in January 1790, together with 12 Polynesian women and six Polynesian men, mainly from Tahiti. Today the population of Pitcairn is less than 50, although the population reached a maximum of over 230 in the 1930s. It has been declining steadily since and the government has initiated a repopulation strategy.
Pitcairn Island has been working toward this application since August 2017. Small Astro-tourism ventures are currently being established as a new activity to help boost the island’s visitor economy. A start has been made to train a small group of islanders in the essentials of star-gazing and using telescopes and binoculars.
A Government of Pitcairn Islands (GPI) Outdoor Lighting Management Regulation has been approved and enacted. Marketing Pitcairn’s pollution free night skies has begun, and an education and outreach programme has been developed for implementation from 2019.
In March 2019, Pitcairn Islands became the only Island group in the world to be a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), making it only the eighth sanctuary on earth. Additionally, the Pitcairn Islands Group is the first British Overseas Territory to have been granted IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary status.
Pitcairn Islands Exclusive Economic Zone
Milky Way by Rhiannon Adam
This designation means everything in the world of night sky conservation and international astro-tourism. The declaration has strengthened Pitcairn’s commitment to protect one of the planet’s most remote and pristine multi-island environments for generations to come.
Pitcairn Islands Tourism have released a unique Four-Island Explorers Voyage in October 2019. This tour will give visitors a very rare opportunity to visit all of the islands in the Pitcairn group, with visits not only Pitcairn Island but also the pristine atoll of Oeno Island, UNESCO World Heritage site, Henderson Island and Pitcairn’s least visited island, Ducie, where migratory seabirds nest.
With Pitcairn’s world-class Marine Reserve, 9 endemic bird species; 10 endemic plants and Pitcairn now being the declared world’s 8th International Dark Sky Sanctuary and only island territory in the world to hold this status, there is much to attract naturalists, historians, astronomers and those looking to visit four of world’s most remote islands in the world.