Bicentenary Sheetlet 3

Bicentenary Sheetlet 3: Settlement of Pitcairn
            15 January 1990         6 x 40c                                                   Mint and CTO        $2.40
                                                                                                             FDC                       $2.90

Technical Details

        Release Date:                    15 January 1990
        Tablet Values:                   6 x 40c
        Artist:                                Clive Abbott
        Printer:                              The House of Questa Limited
        Process:                            Lithography
        Paper:                               CA Watermark
        Stamp Size:                       28.45 x 42.58 mm
        Perforation Gauge:            14 per 2 cm
        Pane Format:                    Sheetlet 110 x 152 mm of six stamps with brief descriptive text
        Mint and CTO:                 $2.40
        First Day Cover:               $2.90

Bicentenary Sheetlet No 3 commemorates the arrival of nine Bounty mutineers with six Tahitian men, twelve Tahitian women and a ten month old infant at Pitcairn on 15 January 1790.  One phase in the Bounty story was ending and another about to begin.

There are many accounts of the movements of the Bounty as those aboard sought refuge from the consequences of mutiny; those of you who are students of Pitcairn's history will be familiar with them.

We rely here on Frank Clune (Journey to Pitcairn,  Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1966), who draws on the journal of James Morrison, boatswain's mate on the Bounty, for his information.

A month to the day after the mutiny the vessel reached Tubuai in the Austral group but crew members were prevented from landing by the unfriendly reception accorded them by the inhabitants.  After three days of conflict, Bounty headed for a familiar anchorage at Matavai Bay in Tahiti, the collection point for the breadfruit which had been the purpose of the voyage from England in the first place.

Here, in the space of ten days, a quantity of livestock was taken on board- 460 hogs, 50 goats, a quantity of fowls, and a few dogs and cats.  One wonders how much space was left on the vessel's 90 foot deck!

There followed a second attempt to settle on Tubuai.  A landing was made on 23 June - the local inhabitants now more cautious having experienced the destructive power of a four pound cannon loaded with buckshot which had been fired among them as the mutineers made their escape less than a month earlier.

In the ensuing weeks a fort one hundred yards square was built and a genuine attempt to settle was made.  The natives arrived offering provisions in an apparent peace offering but this proved no more than a ploy as they had weapons hidden in the surrounding bush to await a favourable chance to attack.

Eventually, because of dissension among the mutineers, a decision was made to return to Tahiti and Bounty departed Tubuai on 17 September, arriving at its destination five days later.

During the course of the day of 22 September, food, ammunition, arms and wine were divided by lot among the twenty five remaining crew members aboard Bounty.  It was decided that sixteen men should land and live ashore with their share of the goods and supplies.  When this had been accomplished, a number of Tahitians, men and women, clambered aboard the Bounty.  The remaining mutineers let it be known they proposed, after a stay of a day or two, to sail in search of an uninhabited island where they could live "without seeing the face of another European" apart from their own shipmates.

That night, without further announcement, Bounty sailed from Matavai Bay.

For two months the vessel combed the Cooks, Tonga and eastern islands of Fiji searching without avail for a suitably isolated hideaway and it was almost in desperation they recalled Carteret's account of the discovery of Pitcairn's Island.  Sailing eastward the mutineers eventually had the good fortune to stumble on the island; good fortune it was because Carteret recorded Pitcairn's position three degrees out of its true longitude - a considerable error and one which would have been of little help to anyone looking for it.

The six stamps in the sheetlet together with explanatory notes in the gutter illustrate the discovery, landing and settlement of Pitcairn:

Having landed some of their compatriots in Tahiti the nine remaining mutineers and nineteen Polynesians set sail in search of a remote uninhabited refuge.
On 15 January 1790 'Bounty' reached Pitcairn Island which exceeded the mutineers' highest hopes; it proved an admirable hideaway.  Stripped of her fittings 'Bounty' was burned eight days later and the new inhabitants went about settling their new island home.