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Pitcairn Island Encyclopedia

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.

HMS Actaeon - HMS Fly

Mayhew Folger - Joshua Hill

Hill of Difficulty- Moetua

Morayshire - Pitcairn

Pitcairnese - Teimua

Teio - E. Young

HILL OF DIFFICULTY On Pitcairn: the steep slope extending from Bounty Bay to the plateau called The Edge. The path leading up this “hill” can today be negotiated by terrain motorcycles.

HIMA’A (ahima’a, earth oven) The earth oven was what the settlers on Pitcairn used to prepare their food and the custom survived long after the last original Tahitian settler had died. (Maohi means indigneous to the archipelago; Tahitian. In an extended sense it means Polynesian.)

HITI-AU-REVAREVA According to Teuira Henry, the old Tahitian name for Pitcairn. The literal meaning is “border of passing clouds.”

HUMPUS-BUMPUS A Pitcairn Island dish made of mashed bananas with manioc, prepared for baking or sometimes frying. It is similar to the Tahitian po’e from which it most probably stems.

HMS IMOGENE The British warship which, under the command of Captain H. W. Bruce, arrived at Pitcairn on December 6, 1837, and removed Joshua Hill, the “dictator of Pitcairn,” to Valparaiso.

IRONWOOD The ironwood referred to in books on the Bounty and Pitcairn is actually the beefwood (Casuarina equisetifolia; in Tahitian toa or ‘aito), a hard wood excellent for carving. Many of the artifacts made on Pitcairn are of this material.

“JENNY” Nickname given by the Bounty mutineers to TEEHUTEATUAONOA.

JOHNSON, Irving McClure Captain of the brigantine Yankee. Johnson was born on July 4, 1905, in Hadley, Massachusetts. He sailed around Cape Horn in the for-masted barque Peking in 1929 and was mate of Shamrock V, Lipton’s America’s Cup challenger, on her voyage home in 1930.

Owner and master, first of the schooner and then of the brigantine Yankee, Johnson and his family sailed seven times around the world, taking with them a crew of young sailing enthusiasts. On each voyage Johnson made a point of visiting Pitcairn and helping the islanders get miro wood (for carving curios) from Henderson Island. In February 1957 he raised the anchor of the Bounty which is now mounted in the little square in Adamstown on Pitcairn. Irving Johnson’s name is, and will be for generations, remembered with great affection on the island.

Together with his wife Electa, Johnson has written several books about the voyages of the Yankee. His earlier books, Around the Horn in a Square-rigger and Shamrock V’s Wild Voyage Home, can be counted among the classics of the sea.

LUCY ANN British government barque of 213 tons from Sydney. Commanded by Captain J. Currey and escorted by HMS Comet, the Lucy Ann carried the entire population of Pitcairn (86) to Tahiti in 1831, leaving Pitcairn on March 7 and arriving in Papeete on March 23.

On the voyage a daughter, named Lucy Ann after the ship, was born to Arthur Quintal (son of mutineer Matthew Quintal and his consort Tevarua) and Catherine McCoy (daughter of mutineer William McCoy and Teio). However, like so many of the Pitcairners, little Lucy Ann died on Tahiti (April 25, 1831).

The ship Lucy Ann sailed into literary history under the name of Julia in Herman Melville’s novel Omoo. On August 9, 1842, Melville escaped from the Taipi (“Typee”) valley in the Marquesas and boarded the Lucy Ann which carried him to Tahiti, arriving on September 20. There was, according to Melville, a mutiny on board – it amounted to some of the crew refusing to obey further orders and insisting on staying in Tahiti. They were then put into the “Calabooza Beretanee” (British jail) where Melville – contrary to what he claims in Omoo – joined them voluntarily.

MANARII (Manalii, sometimes Menalee or Minarii) Manarii was one of the three Tahitian men who joined Christian and his fellow mutineers in their quest for an island refuge (two men from Tubuai and one from Raiatea also came along). When Pitcairn was sighted, Manarii and the other two Tahitians Joined Christian in his exploratory shore party.

With the other two men from Tahiti he had to share Mareva. When the two Tubuaians and the man from Raiatea conspired to kill the mutineers at the end of the first year on the island, Manarii participated in killing two of them. On Massacre Day, September 20, 1793, it was he who killed Brown after Teimua had tried to save the gardener’s life by shooting at him with a powder charge only and telling him to pretend to be dead. Brown moved too soon and Manarii clubbed him to death with the butt of his musket.

Soon afterwards, Manarii shot Teimua to death when the latter was accompanying Teraura’s singing on his nose flute. The motive was clearly jealousy. After the murder, Manarii ran to the mountains and joined Quintal and McCoy who were still in hiding, fearing for their lives. Some quarrel arose between them, however, and the two mutineers killed Manarii.

Manarii, like the other Polynesians on the island, left no children.

MANGAREVA The closest inhabited island to Pitcairn. Mangareva is the main island in the Gambier group and is situated at 23 degrees 7 minutes South, 134 degrees 57 minutes West, 306 miles northwest of Pitcairn. Mangareva and three other inhabited islands in the group are enclosed by a barrier reef almost forty miles in circumference.

Mangareva is near the center of the vast Lagoon; the twin-peaked Mount Duff, which rises to 1,447 feet, gives the island a highly distinctive and unforgettable appearance. The main port and settlement is Rikitea on the eastern side of the island.

Mangareva was discovered by Captain James Wilson in the Duff (the ship which brought the first missionaries to Tahiti) on May 23, 1797. The first European to land on the island was Captain Frederick W. Beechey in HMS Blossom on December 29, 1825. There were then 9,000 inhabitants altogether on the four islands comprising the group.

On July 16, 1834, Father Louis Jacques Laval, a priest of the Picpus order, arrive on Mangareva and managed to make himself virtual dictator on the island. He ordered the population to start building churches, one more magnificent than the other. The church in Rikitea, for example, looks like Notre Dame in Paris and is three times larger than the cathedral in Papeete. It seats 1,200 people.

Father Laval did not only use the population in slave labor; he also starved and worked them to death. They were forbidden to fish or to work their gardens: all their time had to be devoted to building these edifices for the glory of the Christian God. As a result, the inhabitants died like flies; it is estimated that over 5,000 perished as a direct result of Father Laval’s fanaticism. When a visitor from Tahiti called this to his attention, he said: “True, they are dead, but they have gone to Heaven more quickly!” The Catholic Church waited until 1871 before it moved Father Laval to Tahiti where he died in 1880. He stands as a symbol for the destruction so many missionaries brought to these lovely islands, where they should have gone to learn instead of to teach.

Mangareva today has only 550 inhabitants and that is counting all four islands in the group. In a sense, the French were continuing the work of Father Laval by conducting their atomic tests on nearby Mururoa atoll. To “protect” the population of Mangareva they built a barn-like structure, so huge that you can hardly see from one end to the other. Into this ugly building the whole population of the four islands was herded – and there they stayed for days – while the French exploded their bombs. Some sprinklers in the roof constituted the alleged protection against radiation.

In 1987, for the first time in history, a Pitcairn longboat made the voyage to Mangareva and back. The boat, christened Tub, was a gift from Great Britain and the most sophisticated craft the Pitcairners had ever had, being equipped with dual propellers and also capable of being sailed.

MARAE (“morai”) A marae is a Polynesian open-air temple.

The men of the Bounty had many occasions to observe ceremonies held at maraes. The missionaries made it a point to destroy all the maraes. Only in the last decades have some of them been restored.

Most of the restored maraes are in the Leeward islands, primarily on Huahine and Raiatea, where the Holy Land of the old Polynesians was located. This important work was conceived and supervised by the eminent archeologist Yosihiko H. Sinoto of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu. It is worth a trip to the Leeward islands just to see the magnificant results of Professor Sinoto’s work.

MAREVA (Malewa) Mareva may or may not have been kidnaped by the mutineers when the Bounty left Tahiti for the last time. On Pitcairn she was shared as a consort by the three Tahitians, Manarii, Teimua, and Niau.

After the Tahitians had been killed, Mareva, together with Tinafanaea, moved into the household of Vahineatua and John Adams. She died sometime between the visit of the Topaz (1808) and the Briton and the Tagus (1814). She left no children.

MARIA The barque, commanded by Captain Thomas Ebriel, on which Joshua Hill arrived at Pitcairn on October 28, 1832.

MARY ANN The 100-ton brigantine which, commanded by a Captain Wilson, brought the first two families back to Pitcairn from Norfolk after the emigration of the whole population of Pitcairn in 1856.

The Mary Ann left Norfolk on her way to Tahiti on December 2, 1858, and arrived at Pitcairn on January 17, 1859. On board were the families of Moses and Mayhew Young, sixteen in all.

They arrived in the nick of time. Only a few days after their homecoming a French men-of-war approached the island with the purpose of annexing it to France. Seeing the Union Jack hoisted, however, the French changed course and left Pitcairn alone.

The returning families found that several homes had been destroyed in their absence. They found a slate in the schoolroom which explained the mystery. On it were written the names of seamen who had used the island as a refuge after their ship, the American clipper Wild Wave, 1,540 tons, commanded by Captain Josiah Knowles, had foundered on the reef of Oeno atoll seventy-six miles north-west-by-north of Pitcairn. From the planks of the houses and some trees that they felled they had built a boat named John Adams, not to honor the mutineers but the President of the United States. Incredibly they managed to reach Nukuhiva in this craft, over a thousand miles to the north-west.

MAUATUA (Maimiti, “Mainmast,” Isabella) Christian’s consort. We do not know when Mauatua was born, but she claimed to remember Cook’s first arrival in Tahiti (1769), so she must have been at least twenty-three or twenty-four when the Bounty arrived in 1788. There is no evidence that Christian had a serious attachment to her before the mutiny (in fact, it is unlikely), but she did follow him both to Tubuai and later to Pitcairn.

When the loyalists and half of the mutineers had gone ashore on Tahiti on September 22, 1789, Christian left the island the same night. The reason was that Mauatua had found out about a plot among the Tahitians to overpower the nine mutineers and take over the ship (the plot may even have been incited by one or more loyalists, although Morrison does not mention anything about it). If she had not learned about the scheme, or had not told Christian, the Bounty story could have had a very different ending and Pitcairn might not be inhabited today.

Mauatua bore Christian two sons, Thursday October and Charles, before he was murdered on Massacre Day, September 20, 1793, and one daughter, Mary Anne, born after his death.

When Christian died, Mauatua became Edward Young’s consort (actually she shared him with Toofaiti) and bore him three children: Edward, Polly, and Dorothea.

Mauatua survived the disastrous attempt to migrate to Tahiti in 1831, but saw her first-born child, Thursday October, succumb to the diseases then rampant there to which the Pitcairners had no immunity. She herself died on Pitcairn ten years later – September 19, 1841 – of an epidemic brought by a visiting ship. Of the original settlers on the island, she was survived only by Teraura. In her later years, she was known affectionately as “Maimas,” and abbreviation of Mainmast.

MIRO (amae, Tahitian rosewood) E mea poiri rumaruma I te ra’au nui o taua mau marae ra; e o te hau roa I te ra’a o te miro ia, oia te amara.

It was dark and shadowy among the great trees of those marae; and the most sacred of them all was the miro which was the sanctifier.

The miro or Tahitian rosewood (Thespesia populnea) was a sacred tree, as shown in the above old marae chant. The main property of the miro (and of the aito and the tamanu) was that the gods preferred to communicate with the human beings through the rustling of its leaves. It therefore grew on or close to the sites of the maraes. Holding a branch of the miro in his hand, the tahu’a (priest) could communicate more directly with the gods.

Being a very hard and a very beautiful wood, the miro also had its secular uses. But mainly it was used for ornamental purposes because of its striking dark-red color and exquisite grain.

When the missionaries had destroyed the veneration for nature which was an essential part of Tahitian religion, the miro trees were cut down for commercial use without any attempt at preservation. As a result the miro is virtually extinct on Tahiti today.

The miro also used to grow in abundance on Pitcairn and the most beautiful of the artifacts carved on the island are fashioned from this wood. Although the Pitcairners are trying to preserve the few trees they have left and plant new ones, the miro can still be consider virtually extinct on the island. To obtain this wood for their carvings the Pitcairners therefore are forced to go to Henderson Island, 107 miles distant.

MOETUA The name given by Nordhoff and Hall to denote Manarii’s consort. There was no woman called Moetua on Pitcairn; Manarii’s consort was Mareva whom he shared with Teimua and Niau.

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.