Weekend Warm-Up: Take Me to Pitcairn

What comes to mind when you think of Pitcairn Island? Mutiny? Isolation? Breadfruit, maybe? The famous story of the Mutiny on the Bounty has inspired numerous novels and movies. 

It also captured the heart of British kite salesman Julian McDonnell, who was prepared to move heaven and earth to achieve his lifelong dream of visiting this lone island in the South Pacific. 

Julian McDonnell runs into some rain on his journey. Photo: Julian McDonnell


Pitcairn Island is not like any other Polynesian island, with their breathtaking mosaic of light blue seas, rugged terrain and over-water bungalows. No. Pitcairn has a tumultuous past. In 1789, the crew of the Bounty, whose mission was to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the plantations of the West Indies, mutinied and established themselves on Pitcairn with several Tahitian women, far from the eyes of the British empire and its renowned navy. Their extraordinary tale of survival has drawn both the brave and the mad to revisit this little-known corner of the world.

Julian McDonnell was one of these eccentrics. The humdrum of the Londonscape proved too mundane for him and he fixated on visiting the infamous island to witness  the burning of the Bounty, an annual reenactment commemorating the mutineers’ burning of their ship. 

Obviously, his bucket list was very different from the average person, who merely wishes to backpack in Europe. However, he was not alone in his obsession with the naval fugitives’ story. He eventually joined a tour to Pitcairn in the company of expert sailors, well-seasoned travelers and elderly folk in pursuit of the unknown. 

Upon arriving in Tahiti, the trip took a turn for the worse, as their romanticized expectations of local dancers, flower necklaces and hospitality were replaced by the most appalling experience in customer service ever caught on camera. 

A trip to Pitcairn is not simply a trip. It is an investment. Thousands of dollars have gone into plane rides, boat rides, accommodation and safety. Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong within the span of a few days, when traveling from Tahiti to another island called Mangareva, from which a chartered boat was to transport them to Pitcairn. A severe language barrier, bad weather, a damaged boat and no money taught the group valuable lessons in adaptability and keeping calm in the face of incompetence. The line between dream and nightmare began to blur, as the group battled rough weather and waves in a ship that was ready to fall apart in the deep blue. 

The beautiful and isolated Pitcairn Island. Photo: Visit Pitcairn


However, as the island eventually materialized over the horizon, McDonnell and this unlikely band of adventurers came to appreciate what was happening to them. They had the privilege of traveling back in time, retracing the Bounty’s path and connecting with the emotions of the mutineers: the desperation, anger, frustration and most important of all…hope.