3 July 1767: Pitcairn Island is discovered

Pitcairn Island is a lonely lump of rock – stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,500 miles from the nearest continent, and 350 miles from the nearest inhabited place – Mangareva, in French Polynesia.

It has an area of just 18 square miles, it has no airport and just one supply boat, the MV Claymore II, which visits 12 times a year. Otherwise, the only visitors are whoever happens to be passing by.

For a while it was inhabited by Polynesians. But by 1450, they had all upped and left, abandoning the island to the birds until this day in 1767, when the HMS Swallow sailed by, and a 15-year-old midshipman by the name of Robert Pitcairn spotted it.

Pitcairn was duly added to the charts, but in the wrong place – its latitude was right, but the longitude was off by some three degrees, equivalent to over 200 miles.

It remained undisturbed until the mutinous crew of the HMS Bounty, along with their Tahitian companions, turned up in 1789, and settled.

The population flourished, nearing 200 by the mid-19th century. But since then, it has declined. Now, just 46 people live in Adamstown, the capital and only settlement.

The island relies on subsidy from Britain to the tune of around £2.5m a year, which covers the cost of a police officer, a teacher, a doctor and a ‘family and community adviser’; a shipping subsidy; and the cost of the Pitcairn office in Auckland.

But the island is refusing to die. The Pitcairn government has instigated a repopulation plan. To become a Pitcairn Islander you have to bring a skill and NZ$30,000 (around £13,000). For that, you will get a plot of land to build on. Unfortunately, the repopulation plan has small flaw: you can’t bring your children, after a child sex scandal that left a third of the island’s male population in jail.

Also on this day

3 July 1884: Dow Jones launches the world’s first stock index

On 3 July 1884, the world’s first stock index, the Dow Jones Transportation Index, was published by Charles Dow. Read more here.