banner
nav_fillerAboutBooksJournalism & FilmNews & EventsTravel
Books
Serpent in Paradise
extractnav_line2
gallerynav_line2
articles
Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers
Spinsters Abroad: Victorian Lady Explorers
Mary Kingsley: Imperial Adventuress
Jella: From Lagos to Liverpool - A Woman at Sea in a Man's World

Co-edited by Dea Birkett
Amazonian: The Penguin Book of Women’s New Travel Writing

Serpent in Paradise

Serpent in Paradise

Shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award

I was sitting in the darkened cinema at the Elephant and Castle, central London, watching the film The Bounty, starring Anthony Hopkins as Captain William Bligh and Mel Gibson as mutineer Fletcher Christian. It was drizzling outside; my mood was as dreary. The story of youthful rebellion unfolded before me on the screen. Fletcher Christian led his cast of mutineers against the authoritarian Captain Bligh, casting him over the side of the ship. Ten months later, Christian and his mutinous crew, together with a handful of Tahitian men and, most importantly, women, landed on Pitcairn Island to found a new Utopia.

As the credits for the film rolled, the words came up on screen, ‘ . . . his descendants live on Pitcairn Island to this day.’ When I emerged into the darks street and it was still drizzling, I resolved to leave for Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn has no airstrip, and the only way to reach it is to hitch a lift on a cargo vessel working the route from Panama Canal across the South Pacific. It took two years of planning and persuasion to eventually land on this uttermost end of the earth. And what I found was not a living Paradise, but an outcrop of Hell. Serpent in Paradise is the story of that slow revelation.

Pitcairn is currently in turbulent times, as half the men of the island have been convicted of sexual abuse against children. Mayor Steve Christian has been found guilty of five counts of rape against minors. I knew all these people well, and have written many articles on my experiences on the island and thoughts on the current troubled situation.

Read an extract View the gallery Read the articles

site by pedalo limited Newsletter