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The history of Norfolk Island and of Pitcairn Island is closely entwined with the ancestors of the present day Norfolk Islanders comprising largely the mutineers from H.M.S. Bounty; who, in 1789, cast William Bligh adrift in a small boat. Discovered by Captain Cook during his second voyage in 1774, Norfolk Island was initially used as a penal colony.


The first penal colony was established on Norfolk Island on 6th March, 1788; just five weeks after the arrival of the first fleet at Botany Bay. The penal colony was established under Commandant Lieutenant Philip Gidley King R. N. who thus founded the second British settlement in the Pacific.

An early engraving of the Norfolk Island penal colony.

The second penal settlement was established in 1825 and both settlements became known mainly for the deplorable and humane harsh treatment of prisoners. The oldest grave in the cemetery bears witness to those earliest years of untold horror and abject misery.

The majority of the convicts were evacuated to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and by 1814 the penal settlement has closed and Norfolk Island lay abandoned and tranquil for the next eleven years.

The island was then used to provide a new home for the Pitcairn community. The majority of the convicts were evacuated by 1885; the few who, with a storekeeper, remained to assist the free settlers on arrival were later shipped to Hobart. Peace and tranquillity had returned to this green and pleasant isle by the time the Pitcairners arrived on the 8th June, 1856. The Pitcairners embarked on the Morayshire on the 3rd May, 1856 and landed on Norfolk Island on the 8th June, 1856.

In 1859, a grant of 20 hectares of land was made to the head of each family on Norfolk Island. In 1866 saw the beginning of the Melanesian Mission on Norfolk Island. St. Barnaba's College accepted some 200 students from all parts of Melanesia. In 1871, a medical officer arrived on Norfolk Island with the Melanesian Mission subsiding his salary. In 1880, building of the Patteson Memorial Chapel was completed.

In 1896, the system of giving free grants of land to members of the community on marriage was abolished and in 1902, the cable station opened at Anson Bay. It was an important link in the Pacific cable system and provided work and local trade for the Norfolk Island community.

In 1903, the Norfolk Island council of elders was replaced by an executive council consisting of six members: four members nominated by the governor and two elected by all males over twenty-five years of age. In 1914, the Norfolk Island Act, accepting the island as a territory of Australia came into being on the 1st July and in 1927, the Norfolk Island hospital was founded and in 1943, the Pine Road was destroyed in order to make way for the airstrip.


The ANZCAN Cable Station at Anson Bay was opened in 1893.

It forms a link which includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji.

The first cable station which operated for sixty years was opened in 1902.


Situated some 1,500 kilometres in Sydney and 1,060 kilometres from Auckland, Norfolk Island is not conformed to the accepted pattern, or idea, of a Pacific Island. Tourism plays a major part in the island's economy with frequent air services bringing a steady flow of visitors and supplies.

The names of the Bounty mutineers, Adams, Buffett, Christian, Evans, McCoy, Nobbs and Quintal, still form the nucleus of the Norfolk Island community today. These are the "Islanders" as distinct from the later settlers or "Mainlanders" as they are called. A proud, religious and friendly people, generous and hospitable, they all speak English in addition to their own tongue which is a mixture of West County England dialect and Tahitian.

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