When Pitcairn island was settled by the mutineers of the HMAV Bounty in 1790, they hoped it would be one of the last places on earth they would ever be discovered. Their wish came true. Despite a concerted effort by the British, they remained undiscovered for 18 years. Not only was it one of the remotest tropical islands on earth, it had been charted incorrectly by almost 200 miles.
It is a tiny island of 88 acres and less than 50 inhabitants, located approximately half way between Peru and New Zealand. Most are descendants of the original mutineers and their Tahitian wives. With a high, rugged shoreline and poor anchoring near the island (there is a tiny harbor with a breakwater and a boathouse for two longboats used to transfer passengers and cargo) visitors are rare. Its regular connection to the rest of the world is the cargo/mail boat, the MV Claymore II, that visits only once every three months.
Pitcairn is blessed with rich, fertile soil, and tropical climate ideal for the growth of many nectar-producing plants and tropical fruit trees including coconuts, bananas, mangoes, papayas, oranges and grapefruits.
It is a British territory and is subsidized partially by the UK. Its inhabitants exist mainly on fishing, subsistence farming; and income from selling handicrafts, postage stamps and now—honey.
This light amber honey is very smooth with a persistent lightly sweet taste. It has a very fruity aroma and after taste. This particular sample of honey has lasted over a year in this taster’s refrigerator with only slight crystallization at the bottom of the jar. The island is almost completely free of chemicals and pesticides although organic farming is not regulated. Pitcairn’s bees are the Italian honey bees, Apis mellifera ligustica, a particularily gentle bee that has adapted to the continuous nectar flow and favorable summer weather.
The label states, “The rich and intense fruitiness of Pitcairn’s honey is attributed to the nectar from the Mango, Lata, Passion Flower, Guava and Roseapple flowers found in abundance on the lush tropical South Pacific Island…” The website also advises you may wait several months for delivery due to the infrequent pickups to the Island. I had almost forgotten about my order when it arrived over two months later.
In 1998 the UK Government aid agency, the Department for International Development, funded a program for Pitcairn Island which included training for Pitcairn’s bee keepers and an inspection of Pitcairn bees and honey for disease. The effort was successful. Pitcairn now exports honey products to New Zealand and the rest of the world and is working to grow the number of hives to increase production.
Storing the honey—One final note; the first jar of honey I opened was delicious but within 24 hours it had fermented. This is not dangerous but does affect the taste of the honey. This was a sign the water content of the honey was high, which isn’t unusual for tropical honey. Some feel this is actually a good sign that the honey is unadulterated and pure. I opened another and it was fine. It went into the fridge and the other two into the freezer. Over a year later the fridge honey is still delicious. So if you order some Pitcairn honey, store it in the fridge.
References and further reading
Government of Pitcairn Islands & Where to Buy Pitcairn Island Honey
Report on Beekeeping in the South Pacific, written by James Driscoll who helped set up the beekeeping operation on Pitcairn in 1998.
Pitcairn Island Website Links – including resident home pages
Henderson Island (one of the Pitcairn Islands) World Heritage Site
The Great Revolution in Pitcairn – A short satirical story by Mark Twain
Wetland Environment of Pitcairn
Pitcairn Island – Maintained by resident Mike Warren
Pitcairn Island Study Center