Pitcairn Island, an island of the Pacific ocean, in lat. 25° 3' S., Ion. 130° 8' W.; extreme length about 2 1/4 m., breadth 1 m. It is elevated, the greatest height being nearly 2,500 ft. above the sea, and is surrounded by cliffs which preclude the possibility of landing except in two or three spots. The temperature ranges between 59° and 90°, and the climate is remarkably healthy. There are a few small streams, but they are-liable to fail at certain seasons, when the inhabitants depend upon water preserved in tanks. The soil is rich and fertile, and the island is everywhere thickly clothed with a luxuriant vegetation. Several tropical fruits and vegetables are indigenous, and many others, together with some of those belonging to temperate regions, have been successfully introduced. All the domestic animals except the horse have also been introduced, and goats are very numerous in the more inaccessible parts of the island. - Pitcairn island was discovered by Carteret in 1767, and named after one of his officers who was the first to see it.
Its chief interest, however, is derived from the mutiny of the Bounty, a vessel sent by the British government to convey plants of the breadfruit tree from Tahiti to the West Indies. (See Bligh, William.) The Bounty arrived at Tahiti at a wrong season for transplanting, and was compelled to remain there six months, during which time the crew formed connections with the natives. A few days after sailing, April 28, 1789, the crew mutinied, and when they had sent Capt. Bligh and those who would not join them adrift in an open boat, they bore away for Tahiti. Here one of the crew named Christian and eight others, after the rest had landed, induced nine native women and nine men to come aboard, when they put to sea and were not heard of for many years. In 1808 Capt. Folger of Nantucket, while on a sealing voyage in the Pacific, called at Pitcairn island, and, having supposed it to be uninhabited, was much surprised to see a canoe with two men of a light brownish complexion approach his vessel, and request in good English that a rope should be thrown to them. They were descendants of the remnant of the long lost crew. Determined to cut off all traces of themselves, when the mutineers reached Pitcairn island they ran the Bounty ashore, where they stripped and burned her.
Christian and his associates took the Tahitian women as wives and reduced the men to bondage. They appear to have got on well for a time, made good houses, and cultivated a considerable extent of ground; but at length the slaves rebelling, they were forced to destroy them all, not however before several of the masters had been killed in the affray, among whom was Christian. "Within the next few years several of the others died, and at the time of Capt. Folger's visit Adams was the only survivor of the mutineers. (See Adams, John.) He drew up a simple code of laws by which the islanders are still governed, and to which they are very much attached. They are an honest, kind-hearted, religious people, of very simple habits. In 1856, the island being too small for them, the whole community was removed, by some well-wishers in England and Australia, to Norfolk island; but the greater part of them were dissatisfied with the change, and early in 1859 two families, numbering 17 persons, returned to Pitcairn island.