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Under Pacific Skies

In her book “Big Fence”, Rhiannon Adam captures the fragility and the troubled history of Pitcairn Island, Britain’s last Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean.

Pitcairn Island measures two by one mile in the Southern Pacific ocean and is inhabited by about 50 people. In 1979 it became home to a group of fugitives, after the most famous mutiny in history took place on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty. In 2004, the island came back in the news because of an investigation on sexual abuse that had occurred for years in plain sight.

In almost every home on Pitcairn island you will find at least one Bounty model. These are made by the homeowners themselves, or gifted to one another – often at Christmas.

Pawl Warren is one of the “good guys”. It was in 1999, that a party at Pawl’s house provided the catalyst for the trials that would change Pitcairn forever, when a 15 year-old-girl in attendance claimed to have been raped by 23-year-old Ricky Quinn – a visiting off-islander – who had also been at the party.

This found photograph shows a Pitcairn family during Bounty Day celebrations. Bounty Day is celebrated on the 23rd of January each year, marking the occasion of the burning of the Bounty at Pitcairn Island.

Sitting high above the Landing at Bounty Bay, Christian’s Cave is the perfect place to watch for passing ships.

Cushana, aged six. Cushana was the only child living on Pitcairn Island during my stay. Her elder siblings had all left for boarding school in Palmerston North. Cushana has a "safe adult" list, and is instructed to associate only with those included. At no time is she allowed to wander unaccompanied, and she is never left alone with island men.

Initially inspired by the book “The Mutiny on The Bounty”, Rhiannon Adam traveled to Pitcairn in 2015 and got stuck on the island for three months, due to the quarterly shipping schedule. During this time she worked with people from the community, initially weary of journalists, to unveil the dangers inherent to exoticization and reflect on the collective culpability for women’s oppression.

Christian’s Cave is named after the mutineer Fletcher Christian himself, and it is said that this was his preferred lookout spot. Day after day, Christian would sit in this yawning triangle in the cliff face as his madness set in, scanning the horizon for approaching vessels.

Olive refuses to believe in the conclusions of the trial for sexual abuse, and supported the men through their "ordeal." She found herself cast to the very centre of the trial process when almost every male member of her family was implicated and later convicted: her father, brother, husband and two sons.

Kevin is a born Pitcairn islander, but he spent many years in New Zealand’s Air Force, from which he is now retired. In his early 60s, he made the decision to move back to Pitcairn to try to set up a wine-making business in order to bring an alternative funding and population stream into the island.

Steve Christian’s fishing rod leans against an empty chair in Bounty Bay. Despite Pitcairn being an island, this is one of the few places where the water was within easy reach. The seas were usually teeming with fish, and Steve sometimes hauled five out at a time on a single line.

The book “Big Fence” is published by Blow Up Press and available at the price of £‎95.

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