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Pitcairn Island

Travel back in time through the history of this small, raucous island.

(page 1 of 6)

PITCAIRN ISLAND. THE name alone may not ring any bells, but perhaps the HMS Bounty will. Fletcher Christian’s 1789 uprising against Lieutenant William Bligh on that vessel inspired Charles Nordhoff’s and James Norman Hall’s 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty, several movies, and even a musical. Marlon Brando played Christian in the 1962 film, and the star-studded cast of 1984’s The Bounty featured Anthony Hopkins as William Bligh, Daniel Day Lewis as John Fryer, Laurence Olivier as Admiral Hood, Liam Neeson as seaman Charles Churchill and a young Mel Gibson as Christian.

The remote volcanic island, located about 1,350 miles southeast of Tahiti, was named after British midshipman Robert Pitcairn, who was the first person to spot it on July 2, 1767. Two decades later, after overthrowing Bligh, Christian sailed to Tahiti, where 16 out of the 25 sailors and mutineers decided to stay. The remaining eight crewmen, their Tahitian women, several Tahitian men, and Christian sailed forth before settling on Pitcairn on January 23, 1790. The island’s location had been charted inaccurately, making it an attractive hideaway option, and a British ship searched for the rogue crew for three months to no avail. The mutineers who stayed on Tahiti didn’t fare as well — they were captured and brought back to England, and some were later hanged. The Pitcairn settlers weren’t discovered until 1808, but by that time they were only survived by mutineer John Adams. The majority were killed by either each other or the Tahitians who accompanied them; Adams wasn’t prosecuted and the descendants of the original group continue to live on the island.

Tony Probst is an avid maritime collector and owner of San Rafael’s Audio Video Integration. His interest in the Bounty and Pitcairn Island dates back to age 7, when he and his family left England for a 14-year sailing trip around the world. For entertainment, his father provided him with two books: Mutiny on the Bounty and Men Against the Sea. The stories resonated with young Probst, and though the family didn’t make it to Pitcairn, he decided that one day he would. In January 2010, he made his first visit. In a series of subsequent trips, Probst formed bonds with inhabitants of the island, gaining unprecedented access to artifacts, family stories and other uncommon information about the world’s most isolated place. The ties he developed were so deep, in fact, that he’s been entrusted with Christian family relics throughout the years. His photographs document these visits.

Click through to each page to see more photos of Pitcairn Island and learn more about its history.

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