Born to run

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  • Published 20140129
  • ISBN: 9781922182241
  • Extent: 300 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE LOINCLOTH-CLAD figure who stood on the deck of the frigate HMS Tagus clearly impressed its skipper. ‘(He was) about twenty-five years of age, a tall fine young man about six feet high, with dark black hair, and a countenance extremely open and interesting,’ Captain Philip Pipon RN wrote.

Pipon was the second caller to Pitcairn Island after it had been outed as the Bounty mutineers’ bolthole in 1807, nearly twenty years after the mutiny. Following the early years of murder and mishap on the isolated molehill of volcanic rock, by the time of Pipon’s arrival most of its small population was made up of a second, blended generation, the offspring of the naval miscreants and their Tahitian sweethearts. The youth described by Pipon was Thursday October Christian, son of mutineer-in-chief Fletcher Christian and his wife Mauatua. Pipon’s admiring tone was echoed by many of the island’s other fascinated early tourists. The young Pitcairn Islanders’ size – at six feet, Thursday October Christian would have towered over the nineteenth century Jack Tars – and physical dexterity were a source of wonder. These earliest Euronesians took to ‘Davey’ (their name for the sea) from their canoes, swimming like eels around visiting ships, and hared up and down riggings when they came on board. For sport, they had invented their own hazardous form of surfing, which they called ‘sliding’. Using three-foot-long boards, they would leap from rocks on to passing waves, ride them and pull out moments before the surging water broke over rocks, sandy beaches being non-existent on Pitcairn.

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About the author

John Saker

John Saker was born in Wellington in 1955 and educated at Victoria University of Wellington and Carroll College (USA).He was New Zealand's first professional...

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