I love the idea of remote islands. Particularly those inhabited by Westerners like Ascension Island or Christmas Island. Or Pitcairn Island, a 1.75 square mile island with fewer than 50 people on it. No airstrip, no reliable communcations, not even a place to easily land a boat. But it has a website! Lots of them.

I just finished reading Serpent in Paradise, the narrative of an Englishwoman who went to Pitcairn pursuing her fantasies of island paradise only to find cold loneliness as an outsider in a complex, tiny, isolated society. Everything she describes about the island — the gossip, the newspaper, the work, the language, the religion — all seems so alien. Good book. For a taste, read this short article by the same author.

Pitcairn is in the news a lot now, the result of child rape charges against most of the adult men on the island. Lots of complications: arguments about British sovereignty, arguments about where the trial will be held, and of course the question of what punishment means in such a tiny community. The effect on the island could be horrible, and the prosecuters have their own issues. The islanders were just told they have to hand in their guns for safety.

I'm going to New Zealand in November and am vaguely thinking of visiting Norfolk Island, population 1841. There've been two murders there in the past two years.

  2004-08-13 15:09 Z