How to voyage to the Pitcairn Islands to visit HMS Bounty

The Silent World: A Story of Passion and Discovery

As Captain of M/Y Silentworld and other vessels, I have seen the wonders of Oceania first-hand, and have cruised around this special region for nearly 30 years. My role as Captain includes being a part of the not-for-profit Silentworld Foundation and supporting their endeavours to discover the mysteries and secrets of our maritime heritage. As we think of our watery ancestry, did we all have a pirate or buccaneer (or two) in our family history?

The team annually undertakes an expedition that highlights the unique history of the South Pacific region and raises awareness for the stories that each expedition discovers. Combining my passion for the sea, exploration and maritime archaeology, my job is to enable a working platform for the team to conduct their research while making sure we don’t find the same fate as the vessels we are hoping to find.

I believe the stories we uncover and the people who share them can challenge each other and our beliefs to hopefully make us more tolerant and understanding.

For more than 10 years, the Foundation has embarked on an annual trip in search of ships of historical significance, using Silentworld as the expedition base. Yes, this is a search for history and it is the people who live these extraordinary lives who are showcased by the discoveries.

Logistics for a voyage across the Pacific

On a recent expedition, we travelled to Pitcairn Island, to the east of French Polynesia to dive on the wreck of HMS Bounty and meet some of the descendants of the infamous crew. Today, descendants of Fletcher Christian and his crew still live on Pitcairn Island and it was their stories we were blessed to hear.

On the expedition, we got to dive on Bounty and witness some of what was left behind. It is a remarkable place and Pitcairn Island is one of the remotest islands on the earth.

Getting to this remote location we had to plan our visit to Pitcairn Island and the voyage of discovery while staying in various Island nations along the way. We really do live in an island paradise, although the stretches of ocean in between the nations can be unforgiving at times. The stretches in between each of our Island neighbours as they stretch to the east is approximately 2,000 nautical miles. Thus, having to be in the open ocean for a week at a time can offer some challenges. Travelling to the east against the trade winds definitely has its pitfalls.

After navigating the nearly 4,000 nautical miles from Sydney to Papeete (French Polynesia) and then further to the east we understood with our planning that in most instances there is no safe anchorage and no shelter, and it can create regular challenges.

There are always things we have to consider and plan for while completing such an adventure including, fuel, water, spares, crew, visas, customs, medical supplies and aid, managing fatigue, reliable communications, maintenance and weather. After being able to manage all of these possible challenges (3 weeks of ocean crossings) we arrived in French Polynesia to plan the last leg of our voyage.

French Polynesia to Pitcairn

We planned the last leg of our trip from Papeete to Pitcairn Island via Gambier Islands. It was in Gambier Islands where the research team joined us for the final 30 hours to Pitcairn Island.

We planned to arrive at dawn and watch the sunrise over Pitcairn Island and the resting place of Bounty. From the bridge of Silentworld, the entire crew and research team were anxious with anticipation to witness Pitcairn Island coming over the horizon. On the first sighting as the sun rose over Pitcairn Island the crew and team in unison looked towards the horizon and whispered “Is that it?” It wasn’t quite as big as we were expecting……

After anchoring in Bounty Bay we cleared customs which among other events was a unique experience being stamped in by the customs officer ‘Brenda Christian’.

During our time on Pitcairn Island, the Foundation team members stayed with seventh and eighth-generation descendants of the mutineers, who generously shared stories about the famous Christian family, while the crew on Silentworld manned the support vessel in Bounty Bay and enjoyed just being in the same location as Bounty had been a few hundred years previously.

Although there is little remaining of Bounty now this was a rare opportunity to dive on the wreck and imprint into our memories what was the life of the men and woman who sailed aboard the ship.

After departing the Pitcairn Islands, we ventured for eight hours to Oeno Island, where there was no safe anchorage but we remained for the night before returning to the Gambier Islands.

With such harsh conditions, the people of Pitcairn Island rarely visit the neighbouring islands due to the crossing being too dangerous and not enough young men. We said goodbye hoping that we would return and we are looking forward to future expeditions with the Silentworld Foundation and the discovery of stories of our ancestors.