Pitcairn Island is a remote outpost of the British Empire in the far South Pacific Ocean made famous by the mutiny of HRM Bounty in 1789. The Pitcairn Island Council submitted its flag design to Queen Elizabeth II, who approved it in April 1984. The official flag was first unfurled in May 1984 during a visit by the late Governor Sir Richard Stratton.
The flag prominently displays Pitcairn Island’s coat of arms, which was approved by Royal Warrant in 1969. The Union Jack is represented in the upper left corner, or hoist, while the island’s royal symbol is emblazoned on a blue background.
The Pitcairn Island flag’s coat of arms represents the island’s fascinating history as the settlement of the mutineers of the Bounty. A shield is depicted that features the Bible and an anchor from HMS Bounty. The anchor symbolizes the maritime history of the island, while the Bible represents the Christian religion that the mutineers established on the unsettled, rocky island. The shield is equally divided between the colors green and blue, which symbolize the green island jutting up from the vast blue sea.
Above the shield is a helmet surrounded by a wheelbarrow that holds a flowering bloom of miro, a local plant. The wheelbarrow represents the agriculture that the mutineers relied on to survive the harsh elements of the remote island.
Census figures from 2015 show there are 48 permanent residents of the island, who are all directly descended from Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions, such as Fletcher Christian, Edward Young and John Adams. The mutineers chose Pitcairn Island to escape prosecution because they knew the island was mislabeled on maritime maps and they were unlikely to be discovered there. The mutineers’ location was discovered by American sailors in 1808 and reported to Great Britain in 1810. Preoccupied with war with France, Great Britain decided against taking any immediate action again the mutineers, many of whom had died of natural causes or had been murdered by their Polynesian companions.
When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, ships regularly visited the island to deliver much needed supplies to the residents. The nearest country to Pitcairn Island is New Zealand, which is nearly 3,500 miles to the west. Many of Pitcairn Island’s residents leave their isolated island home in search of better opportunities, but many eventually return to the island they know and love.