National Geographic : 1942 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine about it, two heaving lines came aboard and 50 or 60 jolly tars vaulted over the Yankee's bulwarks. It was a real homecoming. We were welcomed first of all by Parkin Christian, who had been magistrate on our first visit (pages 23, 29, 43). This tall, distin guished-looking man would be outstanding in any group. He was as strong and active at fifty as any of the younger men. Perhaps Par kin's love of the sea and ships is inherited from his great-great-grandfather, Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers. Landing at Pitcairn Like Riding a Roller Coaster Going ashore with the Pitcairners, we mar veled that any boat could land on the island. Bounty Bay is a mere indentation of the coast. Surf breaks continuously on the reefs offshore. From the tops of the waves as we pulled in, we could see no opening, yet the boat was headed directly for a tall sentinel rock, foaming white. Parkin was at the steering oar scanning the passage ahead. Suddenly he rose to his feet and ordered, "Silence in the boat, please." We headed into the surf. With a roar a big breaker shot us ahead and broke right under the boat, but 14 bending oars held her in place. Then a quick pull ad vanced her a little before the next breaker threw her high again. Each comber brought a new crisis, seeming to stand the craft on end. Finally we felt the keel scrape, and the two bowmen leaped overside holding the boat steady for us to disembark. Quickly the islanders hauled the big boat up the rocky beach to a leaf-roofed shelter well out of reach of the waves, which at times dash many feet up the island's steep sides (page 25). We were made to feel welcome as soon as we stepped ashore. There were many would-be hosts, so the Yankee's crew scattered into homes all over the island. Visitors are extremely rare on Pitcairn. The steamers on the New Zealand-Panama run stop for mail, but no one ever comes ashore. Since the outbreak of war even these rare visits have been reduced. Island trading schooners seldom come this far south, as there is nothing to trade. Exy and the skipper climbed the 400-foot hillside to "Big Fence," the home of Ada and Edgar Christian, whom they had visited before. Her father and brother had been magistrates through much of her lifetime. Ada remembered how we long for fresh water baths after many days at sea, so the bathhouse was waiting with pails of hot and cold water. Soon we were enjoying a Pitcairn "breakfast," one of the two daily meals served at10a.m.and4p. m. Werelishedthegood bean soup, the fried chicken, homemade bread, pumpkin pie, and fresh fruit. Food is prepared on Pitcairn in little cook houses, on open fires, and in stone ovens, apart from the main homes. These separate kitchens and the cooking methods are a heritage from the first Tahitian wives. Then we started out on calls, first to Aunt Ann McCoy, an old lady of distinguished ap pearance with her high-arched nose and soft white hair. At the age of five Aunt Ann had been taken to Norfolk Island, 475 miles north west of New Zealand, when the Pitcairn popu lation moved to that spot in 1856. Two and a half years later she had re turned with the first of the homesick island ers. Aunt Ann is descended from William McCoy, one of the original mutineers. She is the last to bear the name. With Ada Christian to guide us, we walked through the village along red-earth paths worn by many bare feet. At every house people came out to shake hands. It was a scene of contented, hard-working people; unpainted, weathered houses, and beautiful tropical flow ers: frangipani, fragrant stephanotis, and In dian shot plant. We continued along the shady road, passing gardenia bushes here and there. The farm land was red and rolling and cut up in patches. As we came to open places we could see white, breaking surf far below. At last we came to a fork where the great banyan tree stands. "It probably looks to day," Ada informed us, "much as it did to the mutineers on their first trip of exploration." Pitcairn raises some of the finest fruit in the world, and all day long we sampled huge, juicy watermelons, peaches, bananas, coconuts, oranges, limes, muskmelons, mangoes, pine apples, and other tropical fruits. We visited the village center with the church and court house and the thatched shacks that house community property, the sugar press, and the sugar-boiling trench. Down toward the sea is the cemetery, with its simple homemade stones of cement or weathered wooden crosses. One stone marks the resting place of a young captain's wife who died on Pitcairn. It bears this inscription: She has left the bouncing billow To lay her head on Jesus' pillow. Up the hill a way, we came to the solitary grave of John Adams (Alexander Smith), the only mutineer whose grave is known, the one who outlived all the rest. Adams, a seaman, learned to read in old age just before the death of his teacher, Midshipman Edward Young.