SI Vault
Gilbert Wheat
November 20, 1961
In November of a year-long voyage through the South Pacific, Author Gilbert Wheat and five others—Co-captain Hank Taft, Crewmen Dick Sargent, Juanito Bugue�o, Jack Smith and Eduard Ingris—left Tahiti aboard the ketch "Blue Sea" Their destination, 1,200 miles to the southeast, was Pitcairn Island, a forbidding mound of rock inhabited by 150 persons, most of them descended from the men who seized and destroyed history's most famous ship, H.M.S. "Bounty." There is no harbor on Pit cairn, no dock, no hotel, not even a store; yet for 170 years this tiny island has supported an independent and—surprisingly—puritanical community. On page 45 Wheat begins the story of his visit with these fascinating people, the true inheritors of the mutiny on the "Bounty."
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November 20, 1961

Legacy Of The Bounty

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"Electricity is a personal matter on Pitcairn," said Floyd. "I put this unit together."

He carefully oiled a few parts and turned it on. A bulb glowed dimly in the ceiling. "It's usually off unless we want lights to read by; or when I operate the transmitter, of course."

Near the generator was a workbench and I asked him about an elegantly carved flying fish, the wings attached to the body with brass screws.

"Most every man is a carver," Floyd said. "It's practically a duty for us to carve in our spare time."

I noticed a second fish, sanded and waxed, ready for its ride out to a steamer in the longboat. The fish were the same as others I had seen on the island. Apparently none of the carvers felt any need for a change in design.

"You might say we're in a rut, but they sell. Maybe if someone made a better shape and it sold better, we would all change. The flying fish were first carved in 1937, and the screws for the wings first used in 1957. It makes them easier to pack. You see, the wings come off, like this, for mailing."

That night I slept soundly in a back bedroom at the Youngs', awakened at dawn by chickens clucking outside the window. Lila's stove was already popping and crackling, and Theo and the children already moving about. It was Saturday, a full religious day for Pitcairn, and Theo was pleased I wanted to attend the morning sermon. My clothing wasn't right. From Theo's ample closet, stocked by years of church contributions, came a pair of white pants, a white shirt, a black necktie and a straw hat. Lila gave me a well-thumbed Bible.

I stood with the Young family in the town square, bounded on one side by the children's Sabbath school and on the other side by the church. At the back of the square the island post office nestled against the palms, and next to it lay the great black anchor of the Bounty. The bronze bell, the regulator of community life, hung quiet in its white rack. Morris Christian, in his Saturday best, waited patiently beneath it, ready to swing the clapper for prayers.

Eduard and Jack came down the path with Herman Schubert and John Christian, Morris rang the bell, and everyone took his seat in church. The parson, like the Schoolmaster Schubert, spends a two-year term on Pitcairn. He delivered a fiery sermon, referring at times to a biblical message printed on a blackboard behind him. He hurled questions at his congregation, addressing the people by name. They came to their feet and gave serious, exact answers. I could imagine sitting in a country church during America's frontier days.

Hank Taft and his group were waiting on Blue Sea when the longboat ferried us out for our duty day aboard. "You won't need anything," we told them, "except a toothbrush. They'll take care of you completely."

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