After sailing almost 700 km overnight from Mangareva Island to the west, we had Pitcairn Island in our sights by 0900. Literally a dot of an ancient volcano jutting out of the deep blue Pacific, Pitcairn is just under 5 km² and currently has a population of 47. The island is probably most well-known for serving as a refuge for nine of the H.M.S. Bounty mutineers and several Tahitian cohorts that settled here in 1790. Many of the 47 current residents are direct decedents of the Bounty party. Pitcairn is also fabled for the very difficult and often forbidding harbor and landing at Bounty Bay. Unfortunately for us, that was very much the case today. Rolling swells made disembarkation unmanageable, and a massive breaking swell at the entrance to Bounty Bay acted as a seething barrier of seawater to the harbor; we had to relinquish any hopes of landing at Pitcairn Island. The mayor and harbor master, Simon, described the conditions as “90% impossible on the outside and just awful on the inside of the harbor.” With that information in mind and the decision to cancel the landing, we repositioned the ship to the south side of the island for a better anchorage overnight.
Safely sheltered in Gudgeon Harbor for the night, we intended on remaining on board as the swell was still a bit too large to manage safely loading and unloading the Zodiacs. As the afternoon passed, though, the swell improved, and by 1630 we were alerted to the decision to prepare for a late afternoon Zodiac cruise. We were all thrilled at the opportunity to see this beautiful, wave-battered, volcanic island from the perspective of a Zodiac. We set out for an hour-long cruise along the lovely shore; frigatebirds soared over head, wandering tattlers bobbed along the shore, and the towering volcanic cliffs captivated us all.
Back on board, we gathered in the lounge for our evening recap and daily briefing from expedition leader Lisle Gwynn. Soon after, we enjoyed a lovely meal in the dining room and went to bed with hopes that we could get ashore at Pitcairn Island tomorrow.