Sunday, May 22, 2022

PITCAIRN ISLAND: REMOTE OUTPOST

 22 May 2022: Hope you all are enjoying a taste of spring/summer (in some places) and getting out on the water a possible. We hope to be out this coming week - in time for Memorial Day here in the states.

The following is post fairly timely, given that the event occurred on April 28th, albeit in 1789. And, while it is not, in itself, strictly maritime, it stems from a maritime event. Everyone knows the story (or should!) of the Mutiny on the Bounty, where Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian took command of HMAV Bounty from Lieutenant William Bligh and with 9 crewmen (the other 19 stayed in Tahiti) and sailed off to find a remote location where the Royal Navy would be unable to find them. Bligh, along with 18 followers was put in the longboat and completed one of the most famous open ocean feats of navigation, seamanship, and survival ever recorded. (And for the record, Bligh was not the tyrant he was depicted as in history. A great seaman but an inept administrator and leader, who was given a ship pretty much doomed to failure from the start.)

Christian and his 9 English crew along with a bunch of Tahitian islands ultimately found a mis-charted Pitcairn Island and took up residence. Christian stripped and burned Bounty to preclude any change of heart. Here is a modern look at Pitcairn today:

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 The story seems quite implausible. In 1789, several sailors led by Fletcher Christian seized control of the HMS Bounty, then set Capt. William Bligh and his supporters adrift in the South Pacific sea. (The story was told in the movies "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "The Bounty.") Fearing prosecution if they settled in a local community, the British mutineers spent several months scoping out remote locales, picking up 19 Tahitian companions along the way. Eventually, the group decided to make their new home on a deserted volcanic island they'd discovered some 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) southeast of Tahiti. Today, against all odds, their descendants still live on that same subtropical island, Pitcairn.


 Pitcairn is part of the four Pitcairn Islands, a British Overseas Territory considered one of the world's most remote inhabited islands. The other islands in the group, all uninhabited, are Ducie, Henderson and Oeno. Pitcairn is small — just 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide. It's also rugged, with steep cliffs and no easy way for boats to dock. In fact, visiting ships still drop anchor several hundred yards from Bounty Bay, then are met by residents steering longboats.

Despite being settled for more than 200 years, Pitcairn's population hasn't changed much. While it reached a peak of 233 in 1937, today the island is home to just 50 or so residents, not many more than when the mutineers first arrived.

With limited acreage and few residents, amenities on the island are minimal. There's a general store, health clinic, post office, museum, library, treasury and tourism center, plus Pulau School, which educates kids through primary school. (Currently, it has just three students.) After that, children typically receive their higher education at boarding school in New Zealand.

 

Since there's no airport on the island, residents are linked to the outside world mainly via a passenger/cargo ship, the MV Silver Supporter, that travels between French Polynesia and Pitcairn on a limited basis. The trip requires spending at least two nights at sea and there are just 12 visitor berths. The ship comes about once a month.

Interestingly, most native Pitkerners are Seventh-Day Adventists. Originally followers of the Church of England, the mutineers' religion, the group was converted in 1887 by an Adventist missionary and the only church on the island is a Seventh-day Adventist church.

How Pitkerners Make a Living

In the early days, the settlers on Pitcairn were self-sufficient, growing crops, constructing homes and crafting clothing. After American whalers discovered the island in 1808, ships began regularly stopping in, including English vessels that brought over books and various supplies. In 1898, Britain assumed control of the island and began providing additional assistance.

By 1937, after searching for ways the island could become more self-sufficient, the British government landed on the idea of postage stamps. At that time, the island had no post office and had been using New Zealand stamps. Three years later, in 1940, the Pitcairn Islands opened its first post office. Its initial set of stamps were an immediate hit, quickly becoming popular with philatelists around the globe. Soon stamps were the island's largest source of revenue. However, revenue declined at the end of the 20th century with the general decline in letter writing and stamp collecting.

Today, while stamps are still available, the Pitkerners power their nano-economy by selling a well-regarded island honey, known for its rich, fruity flavor, as well as handmade crafts such as wood carvings, jewelry, clothing, soap and stationery. Its main private revenue generator, and one to which it is currently devoting much effort, is tourism.

 

In 2015, the British government established a marine reserve around the islands. At 324,000 square miles (834,000 square kilometers), it's the largest in the world. A few years later, in a bid to foster astro-tourism, Pitcairn applied to be named an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. It received this designation from the International Dark Sky Association in 2019, the only island group in the world to carry it. Pitcairn is also marketing itself to adventure travelers in search of unique, hard-to-access destinations and to cruise ship travelers.

Visitors can sign up to go whale-watching or fishing on one of the island's famous longboats. You can check out the grave of John Adams, one of the original mutineers, then swim in a sea-carved tidal pool. There's a guided tour down a 700-foot (231-meter) cliff, which features ancient Polynesian petroglyphs at the bottom, evidence of earlier inhabitants. And, if you're a certified scuba diver, you can explore the ruins of the HMS Bounty, which the mutineers sank after arriving to avoid being discovered by the British. (Wisely, they did first strip it of all useful items.) You can also simply wander around the island to take in the incredible views. Everything is well signed, and maps are available.

If Pitcairn's marketing efforts are successful, there may be one potential problem: lodging. There are no hotels or resorts on Pitcairn Island, although the tourism department helps arrange accommodations with local families. There is also a smattering of private homes and units for rent.

Searching for New Residents

Living on a remote tropical island may sound very enticing. But as we said earlier, Pitcairn's population has been decreasing since the end of World War II, with scores of young people opting to live elsewhere. Immigration, Pitkerners know, is key to their future.

To encourage new residents, the island is working to make immigration less onerous. It's now easier to obtain land for a home, for example, as well as subsidized medical treatment. Same-sex marriages are welcome. Yet despite these changes, the government warns you shouldn't move here on a whim. For life on such a remote island can be challenging, both physically and mentally.

Since there are so few people and so little contact with the outside world, islanders are expected to be able to perform a variety of tasks and pitch in as necessary. And while internet and cell service are available, the speeds and service quality aren't on par with what you'll find in developed and less insolated countries. There is only one television channel, too, although they're working on increasing coverage. As far as jobs, there may be a limited number of government jobs available, but many people support themselves through selling items to tourists or hosting them in their homes.

The government website warns that life on Pitcairn island is not for everyone. "It is not a place to get rich. The island's isolation and small size at times make life on Pitcairn physically demanding and emotionally challenging." Still, the website says, life there is diverse, both quiet and vibrant, and certainly never dull — probably the same conditions experienced by Fletcher Christian and crew more than 200 years earlier.

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So, friends, if you want to disappear or drop out from society, here's the spot to do it! But as it mentions in the post, don't do it on a whim! Sounds pretty bleak

Until next time, 

                                      Fair Winds,

                                            Old Salt

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

DEEP DIVING VESSEL

 16 May 2022: Well, maybe the warm weather is actually here! Wouldn't that be great! Last week's post was well received - we bumped up to over 135,000 readers now (thank you all so much!) - and while the following is not exactly historical, we think it will lead to some historical finds and perhaps some amazing images! It's from the on line magazine Yachts International.

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 The ‘first-of-its-class” world’s deepest diving three-person acrylic submersible was built by Triton Submarines LLC for REV Ocean. Its final assembly took place at the Triton facility in San Cugat, Spain. A deep-submergence vehicle (DSV) is a deep-diving crewed submersible that is self-propelled. The sub offers scientists, researchers and guests an experience in ocean observation achieving depths up to 2300 m (7500 ft). Aurelia’s huge acrylic sphere provides a truly immersive experience for occupants, with near 360-degree unobstructed views. The sub is also fitted with comprehensive scientific sensors, tools, cameras, and sampling equipment.


 A public naming competition for the sub was launched in February and the winning name was submitted by Ivar Ruijten an ROV supervisor/pilot from the Netherlands. The name is fitting because it means gold, or “The golden one” (from the Latin Aurum) and because Aurelia aurita is the commonly seen moon-jellyfish which can easily be recognized by its distinctive four horseshoe-shaped pattern, seen through the top of the bell.

REV Ocean’s other deep-sea vehicle, ROV Aurora entered service in October 2021 and successfully dove the Malloy Deep and the Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean (3800 m), successfully sampling hydrothermal vents for the first time.

REV Ocean’s CEO Nina Jensen said, “Aurelia is absolutely incredible and perfectly designed for REV Ocean’s scientific goals and ambitions. With both Aurelia and Aurora now in service we have the best tag-team in the world for conducting cutting edge ocean science, education, and communications.”


 The whole REV Ocean team was on site to observe the final certification (harbor tests) and participate in the baptism ceremony

Aurelia will now go through extensive sea trials around the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean over the coming weeks to test its capabilities, performance and science equipment. The sea trial is the last phase of construction. Representatives from Triton, governing and certification officials, and representatives of the owner will participate. This will lead to Aurelia's certification for commissioning and acceptance by its owner.

Triton Co-Founder and President Patrick Lahey says, “Triton is proud to support Project REV Ocean’s ambitious initiative to dive deeper, explore further and learn more about the ocean. With the introduction of the Triton 7500/3 (Aurelia), it is now possible for REV Ocean to take a pilot and two crew members on dives as deep as 2,300 meters or 7,500 feet while they enjoy the most compelling viewing experience achieved to date from inside the thickest acrylic sphere ever created. Aurelia will also feature several other new technologies, which increase endurance, expand utility, and enhance effectiveness in ways not possible before.”

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So! We think this is pretty amazing and while it won't make it to the bottom of the Marianna's Trench (36,000' deep) it will show some pretty wonderful things that we have not before seen. And no, your humble scrivener will NOT be taking a ride!

Until next time,

                                      Fair Winds, 

                                                Old Salt

 

 

Monday, May 9, 2022

SAVANNAH RIVER CANNONS - FOLLOW UP

 9 May 2022: We're baaaaaaack! Hope you didn't miss us too much! We were discovering the Pacific Northwest on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, following the path of explorers Lewis and Clark. Very interesting, beautiful country, but desperately wet! Not much need for sunglasses! So today, we're bringing you a follow on piece regarding the cannons discovered during dredging in the Savannah River, Georgia (USA). We originally posted on 27 February about the discovery and here is a bit more. From CBS News:

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A warehouse along the Savannah River is holding historical treasures that evidence suggests remained lost for more than 240 years - a cache of 19 cannons that researchers suspect came from British ships scuttled to the river bottom during the American Revolution.

The mud- and rust-encrusted guns were discovered by accident. A dredge scooping sediment from the riverbed last year as part of a $973 million deepening of Savannah's busy shipping channel surfaced with one the cannons clasped in its metal jaws. The crew soon dug up two more.


 Archaeologists guessed they were possibly leftover relics from a sunken Confederate gunship excavated a few years earlier in the same area, said Andrea Farmer, an archaeologist for the Army Corps of Engineers. But experts for the U.S. Navy found they didn't match any known cannons used in the Civil War. Further research indicates they're likely almost a century older and sank during the buildup to the Revolutionary War's bloody siege of Savannah in 1779.

In a timeframe of just over a year, 19 cannons were hoisted from the same area of the river a few miles downstream from Savannah, where Georgia was founded as the last of Britain's 13 American colonies in 1733.

"They're in remarkably good shape," Farmer said. "Many were buried in clay and covered by silt and debris that kind of protected them."

Now officials with the U.S. and British governments, as well as the state of Georgia, are working together on an agreement to preserve the newly found guns before putting them on display. Commodore Philip Nash of the British Royal Navy, a military attache based in Washington, viewed the artifacts submerged in metal tubs of water during a visit Thursday.


 "Some of these pieces are in amazing condition and I'm sure could tell some stories," Nash said. "So the team here (is) obviously doing great work to recover those and preserve them for the future."

The cannons are being kept in water to prevent further deterioration until experts can carefully clean them. Meanwhile, researchers are looking for more definitive proof linking the cannons to British ships from the American Revolution.

Farmer said researchers are very confident of the connection. Savannah had been under British occupation for about a year by the fall of 1779, when colonists planned an attack to retake the city with help from French and Haitian allies.

When French ships carrying troops were spotted off the Georgia coast, the British hurried to scuttle at least six ships in the Savannah River downstream from the city to block the French vessels. The land battle that followed was one of the bloodiest of the war. British forces killed nearly 300 colonial fighters and their allies, while wounding hundreds more.

Farmer said researchers suspect the cannons found in the river came from the British ship HMS Savannah and possibly a second ship scuttled at the same time, the HMS Venus. The longer guns appear to match cannons manufactured in France during the mid-1700s, she said. Researchers are looking for ship logs and manifests in hopes of confirming the armaments aboard those ships.

It's also possible the cannons themselves and other artifacts found at the site - pieces of anchors and a portion of a ship's bell - once cleaned might bear markings or other clues to which ship they belonged to. The wood from those ships, Farmer said, decayed long ago or got destroyed by prior dredging projects over a series of decades.

The question of who owns the artifacts gets a little murky. They were found in state waters of Georgia during a dredging project headed by the Army Corps, a U.S. government agency. The British government could make an ownership claim if there's strong evidence the artifacts came from British ships.

Farmer said all of those parties are working on an agreement to preserve the cannons and ultimately have them displayed at the Savannah History Museum, which incorporates the battlefield where the bloodiest fighting occurred during the 1779 siege.

"Everybody wants to keep the artifacts in Savannah," Farmer said, "because that makes the most sense."

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Things like these wonderful artifacts turn up, it seems, more and more frequently; that is a great thing and we learn more history and correct per-conceived notions with each find.  

Until next time,

                                  Fair winds, 

                                                 Old Salt