Millennium Part 1 - Towards 2000



Millennium Part 1 - Towards 2000

       28 May 1998            20c, 90c, $1.80, $3.00                                Mint and CTO       $5.90
                                                                                                            FDC                     $6.40 

 Technical Details

Release Date:             28 May 1998
Tablet Values:            20c, 90c, $1.80, $3.00
Artist:                         Ernest Nisbet
Printer:                       Southern Colour Print, New Zealand
Process:                     Lithography
Paper:                        CA Spiral Watermark
Stamp Size:                27.94 x 44.45 mm
Perforation Gauge:     14 per 2cm
Pane Size:                  50 stamps in 2 panes each of 25 stamps
Mint and CTO:           $5.90
First Day Cover:         $6.40

This issue, Millennium Part 1 - Towards 2000, is the first of a three part series in which we travel through Pitcairn's European contact history.  The earlier Royal Navy vessels to visit Pitcairn feature in this part while the second part, due for issue in 1999, will feature aspects of Pitcairn's nineteenth century history, including emigration to Norfolk in 1856 and the 1893 visit of HMS Champion, which culminated in the establishment of a parliamentary style system of government for Pitcairn.  The third and final part, due for release in 2000, will show aspects of modern Pitcairn life, including satellite communications and education.

The five naval vessels featured on the Part 1 issue, have significantly contributed to Pitcairn's history.  Mid-shipman Pitcairn aboard HMS Swallow, under the command of Philip Carteret, was the first known European to sight Pitcairn, on 2 July 1767.  Carteret would not however, risk landing, as the seas were running high.  He did mis-report the position of the island however, some five degrees out in latitude and almost three degrees further west in longitude.  HMS Swallow is shown on the 90c stamp in this issue.

The second known Royal Navy vessel to reach Pitcairn was HMS Bounty under the command of Fletcher Christian.  Almost nine months after leading the mutiny against Captain Bligh, Christian  reached Pitcairn on 15 January 1790.  Thus began a chapter in the Pitcairn story, which has still not concluded.  The Bounty, once stripped of many fittings, timbers and stores, was burned to the waterline on 23 January and slipped beneath the waves of Bounty Bay.  Little remains of the ship today, although diving on the site is a popular pastime for Pitcairners and visitors alike.  Over the next two years, an expedition led by Nigel Erskine of the University of Queensland, will survey and chart what remains of the  wreck of the Bounty.  The Bounty features on the 20c stamp of this issue.

Although Pitcairn was next visited by Captain Mayhew Folger of the American sealing ship Topaz in 1808, and a report of its inhabitants written, it was by accident that the next Royal Navy vessels, HMS Briton and HMS Tagus stumbled upon the island on 17 September 1814.  Sir John Staines and Captain Pipon, commanders of these vessels, had neither seen nor heard of Folger's report.  It was the visit of Briton and Tagus which literally put Pitcairn on the map.  Between 1790 and 1817, only four sailing vessels had called at Pitcairn.  Over the following 12 years, some thirty vessels called, of all types - whalers, sealers, East India merchant vessels as well as ships of the Royal Navy, commencing the tradition of trade and barter which is an integral part of the Pitcairn culture.  HMS Briton and HMS Tagus, are depicted on the $1.80 stamp.

HMS Fly shown on the $3.00 stamp of this Millennium Issue, under the command of Captain Elliot, arrived off Pitcairn on 29 October 1838.  This visit has special significance as it was Captain Elliot who, at the request of the Pitcairners, established Pitcairn's first Constitution.  Their request stemmed from the need to have some protection and ordered system to regulate the behaviour of crews of visiting American whaling ships and to ensure that some self-appointed dictator from outside, such as Joshua Hill, who had earlier that year been removed from the island, could never again usurp control of Pitcairn.