The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania, and Mutiny in the South Pacific

PublicAffairs. Mar. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781541758575. $30. HIST
On April 28th, 1789, somewhere near the island of Tofua in the south Pacific, Fletcher Christian led a bloodless mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty. Versions of what happened on that fateful night have long taken root in the popular imagination, thanks in no small part to films starring Clark Gable and Marlon Brando. But far less has been told about what came next for the mutineers, who were not seen again until 1808 when American captain Mayhew Folger stumbled upon tiny Pitcairn Island where the mutineers had been laying low from the Royal Navy. With painstaking detail, travel writer Presser tells the incredible story of Pitcairn and the people who have lived there since 1789. The narrative alternates between the history of the mutineers’ violent and chaotic settlement of this “tiny rock” and an account of the month Presser spent living among the 50 or so inhabitants who call it home today. Nearly all Pitcairn Islanders are direct descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian consorts; as Presser learns, they have yet to escape their ancestors’ legacy.
VERDICT Presser does an able job blending Pitcairn Island’s dark present with its darker past. Travel enthusiasts and armchair explorers will find a lot to like here.
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