Pitcairn Island, the South Pacific isle made famous by the infamous “Mutiny on the Bounty,” is one of only 20 countries in the world still free of the worldwide COVID-19 virus pandemic, but the islanders are paying a frightful economic price to stay that way.
The reason? No ships are allowed to call at the island.
Before the pandemic, cruise ships of nearly a dozen lines were calling at Pitcairn throughout the year. During the calls, hundreds of passengers and crew members aboard the ships would purchase Pitcairn-made crafts and curios, paying for the items with piles of whatever currency is used in the country from which the ship had come.
Because cruise ship sales form such a big portion of the Pitcairn economy, the loss of that income stream has almost totally destroyed the island’s economy.
Since the pandemic struck some months ago, only one ship has been allowed to land at Pitcairn. She is the Silver Supporter, the island’s chartered, supply/passenger vessel. The ship made a call in September 2020, with another scheduled for December of this year..
Only Pitcairners returning to their homeland from abroad, or contracted island support people, are allowed on the ship. And before they can come aboard the ship at its home port in New Zealand, they must undergo a 14-day managed quarantine, and also have a test for the virus no later than day 10 of the quarantine.-
Another big, pandemic-caused loss to the Pitcairn economy is its currently, totally shut down tourism program. Before the pandemic closed it down, Pitcairn’s appeal as a tourist destination was bringing a growing number of people to enjoy stays in islanders’ homes, and to enjoy a wide variety of island activities.
Rental fees from tourists for the home stays, and the purchase of many goods and services while the tourists were on the island, formed a significant and growing part of the Pitcairn economy.
Pitcairners have always had to fight harder than most to overcome difficulties relating to their isolation as perhaps the most remotely inhabited place on earth, but they are not taking the pandemic’s threat to their health and economy laying down. They are vigorously pushing the sale of Pitcairn honey, some of the world’s purest bee nectar by virtue of the island’s isolation.
The honey is packaged in small, colorfully labeled jars, then shipped to customers worldwide, starting their long journey from the island on the supply ship Silver Supporter. The sale of island handicrafts is also helping take up the slack caused by the pandemic.
“For decades people have been forecasting the death, the dishabituation of Pitcairn Island, but we’re still here,” said one of the islanders. “Sure, the pandemic is a threat to our survival, but it isn’t the first threat we’ve had and it probably won’t be the last. We are survivors, and we’ll survive this threat just like we’ve survived all the others!”