Sunday, June 11, 2017

Norfolk Island - where convicts, Cook, Captain Bligh and BOUNTY left an indelible mark on its history

Norfolk Island is a tiny old volcanic outcrop in the South Pacific. Apart from being isolated, it is steeped in history – both heroic and brutally inhumane.
On his voyage of discovery aboard RESOLUTION, Captain James Cook stepped ashore briefly on this section of the coast of the small island (6 x 8 km). The year was 1774.
Though the sheer cliffs and inhospitable rocky shore made further investigation impossible, Cook named the island NORFOLK. He saw value in the natural vegetation - the tall timbers (now called Norfolk Island pines) for shipbuilding and the flax-like plants for sail making.

The Island is a natural paradise and, today, is World Heritage listed with the best examples of Georgian architecture in the Southern hemisphere. It’s a place where the cattle graze the long paddock and have right of way on the roads.
Unfortunately, Norfolk Island has no natural harbour and the transport ships which arrive once a month are off–loaded in the old-fashioned manner by lighters (longboats/whaleboats).

Its museums reflect a history of shipwrecks (HMS SIRIUS) and settlement and events from N.I.’s early visitations by Polynesians around 700 years before Captain Cook ‘discovered’ it and gave the island its name; to the eras of the early colonial settlements and its dark convict stain; to the arrival of the descendants of the ‘BOUNTY’ mutineers from Pitcairn Island in the mid-1800s. 

Despite this bronze memorial standing in the square, the BOUNTY itself never came to Norfolk Island After the mutiny against Captain Bligh, the ship was sailed to Pitcairn Island by Fletcher Christian and his ‘crew’ where it was fired and sunk. In the years that followed, the mutineers and their Tahitian women spawned a unique population and it was their descendants who landed on Norfolk Island in 1856. 
The 'Pitcairners' consisted of 40 men, 47 women, 54 boys and 53 girls, in all, 194 people whose names appear beneath this monument. They were to become the ‘torch bearers for the Norfolk Island heritage’.  

Today’s small population (less than 2000) is made up of many direct descendants of Fletcher Christian, Quintal, Nobbs, Adams and McCoy. Their names are engraved on the gravestones in the cemetery.

I have just spent a week on Norfolk Island and would thoroughly recommend a visit.
The following posts have more details and pics.

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