Friday, April 4, 2008

Who am I?

More importantly than who am I, what are the clever references in my blog name? Alph is not my real name, it is rather the sacred river in Xanadu, as described by Coleridge in his poem 'Kubla Kahn.' I really really wanted to sign off as Xanadu, but it's just too porny. I had a little debate with myself about the feminist implications of reclaiming porny names, but I gave up and named myself Alph which seems chipper and easy to remember.

As for Pitcairn Island, its strange and exciting tale which comes in two chapters.
Chapter the first: Mutiny on the Bounty. So until someone told me the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty relatively recently, I had heard the phrase, but had no idea what it referred to (paper towels, I might have guessed). The Bounty, it turns out, was a ship, a ship commissioned by the British Navy to sail to Tahiti, buy potted breadfruit plants, and ship said breadfruit to the West Indies. The Bounty, retrofitted to maximize breadfruit storage capacity, left England in 1789 and arrived and Tahiti a short (and uneventful) 10 months later. After 5 months ashore, many crew members had developed a taste for Tahiti and Tahitian women, and had to be forced to return to the ship for the next leg of its journey. This next journey was never completed because on April 28th 1788, Spencer Christian and a band of men led a mutiny, in which they forced Captain Bligh at bayonet-point, and 17 loyal crew-members into a little lifeboat, and left them to fend for themselves in the middle of the Pacific (don't worry, most of them made it make to England OK). The Bounty went straight for Tahiti, and either invited or kidnapped 17 Tahitians onboard to join them. The mutineers sailed off, and found the uninhabited Pitcairn Island, unloaded all of the provisions, and burned the ship so it could not be found. The sailors and Tahitians remained on that island, and had no contact with the outside world until 1808.

Chapter the Second: The Pitcairn Island Trials
The descendants of those mutineers and the Tahitians they kidnapped are still alive, 47 strong on the lovely island of Pitcairn. What sort of society do kidnappers create, when given the opportunity to start from new? Apparently one in which rape and sexual assault, including child rape, are common.

In 1999 eight (brave, brave) women came forward with these allegations, directed against more than half of the adults men on the island, which sparked a five year debate over whether Pitcairn Island is subject to British law, where the men would be tried (no jail on Pitcairn Island) and how the island would continue to function with almost a fifth of its members locked up. The answers, it turned out were; not really, New Zealand, and let them out if they are needed for something important (like to help row the islands' ferries out to ships, which can only dock more than a mile offshore). Don't beleive me?

SO in what way is this the Pitcairn Island of Blogs? This remains to be seen, possibly though, the label is ironic, which I hope isn't too lame. I want to give a shout out to the women who brought the men to trial - if this was a book, maybe I'd dedicate this to you.