Community News

When rebellion reaped reward

Spiritual Matters by Rev Chris Sparks

The history of Norfolk Island is rich. It was first discovered by Captain Cook in 1774 on his second voyage to the Pacific.

As an aside, a tourist on a Norfolk Island tour-bus once asked Max Hobbins, the driver: “Was Captain Cook killed on his first or second voyage?”

Anyway, the island was uninhabited when Queen Victoria, in 1856, gifted it to the descendants of the “Bounty” mutineers because Pitcairn Island, where they’d taken refuge, was no longer able to support the growing community there.

The story is an interesting one! In 1787 the good ship Bounty sailed form England to the South Pacific island of Tahiti. Lieutenant William Bligh was her captain and Fletcher Christian the First Mate. Their task was to collect breadfruit seeds and seedlings to sustain other British colonies in the West Indies.

After a long and difficult voyage, the ship and its crew arrived in Tahiti – and lingered long in that island paradise. Fletcher Christian was a laid-back kind of guy, so he and most of the crew partied hard with the beautiful Tahitian girls – taking full advantage of their time on-shore.

When Captain Bligh announced it was time to up-anchor and set sail for home, there was opposition. Neither Fletcher Christian nor the crew was anxious to leave their idyllic life on Tahiti. Three men who tried to desert were severely flogged. So that convinced the others that they‘d better toe the line.

But resentment simmered, and soon after, on April 28 1789, with their mission accomplished and the ship heading for England, Fletcher Christian and a handful of the crew staged a mutiny.

Captain Bligh, and crew who supported him, was then set adrift in an overloaded lifeboat. Incredibly, they managed to navigate the boat safely over 3,700 miles to Timor – and a passage home!

Meanwhile, the mutineers aboard the Bounty returned to Tahiti, took some of the women and a few local men on board and set sail once more – finally arriving at the tiny island of Pitcairn, where they set up camp.

But trouble had not deserted them. They quickly learned to make their own whiskey which fueled a pattern of violence and drunkenness which, together with disease, decimated the tiny community until the only sailor left alive was Alexander Smith.

Smith began reading the bible the Bounty had carried – and a miracle occurred! He took its message to heart and began sharing the scriptures with those left on the island. The remnant community embraced the teachings and quickly put them into practice. In no time at all, the community began to thrive. The lives of all on that tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean were transformed!

Twenty years later, in 1808, when the crew of the ship ‘Topaz’ landed on the island, they found a peaceful society of joy-filled Christians, living in harmony – free of crime, disease and drunkenness.

Few would disagree that the world in general is in a bit of a mess right now. So many have retreated from the teachings of the Christian scriptures and shunned the biblical injunction to ‘love God and treat others as you would have them treat you’. The time is surely ripe for another move of God to awaken us to the imperative to love – not fight; to pull together – not tear apart; to value what is true, pure and edifying – not immerse ourselves in destructive behaviours. It happened on Pitcairn Island. It needs to happen globally! Today!