Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva

By: Kelly McClymonds


Since the Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva islands all relied heavily on each other, when deforestation and the lack of resources on Mangareva ceased so did the trade and communication between the three islands, causing them to all collapse.

Background Information

The Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean in Southeast Polynesia. Each island was missing essential resources for everyday life, forcing them to trade and rely on each other. The islands were settled around 800 AD, but fell around 1450AD. The islands were later discovered around 1750-1800 by the the crew of Bounty and the Europeans.

Deforestation and Lack of Resources

Mangareva had both the largest population and also the most abundance of resources of all the islands. Henderson and Pitcairn relied on Mangareva for agriculture, fish, trees, and fresh water. However, Mangareva relied on the stone resources from the other two islands to use as tools. Trading became very important between these three islands. The population began to grow on the three islands and more and more resources were needed. Mangareva began to deforest the hills on the interior of the island in order to plant gardens and farm for their growing population. Mangareva's population was too large and demanding for their resources to handle. Deforestation became a large issue for the island of Mangareva because canoes could not be built without trees. Canoes were needed for trade between islands and fishing in their reefs. The few trees that were on Henderson and Pitcairn were not large enough or strong enough to be used as canoes. The two islands stopped coming to Mangareva due to no transportation and no resources. Deforestation also caused soil erosion that impacted their gardens and food. Erosion made farming for Mangareva's large population hard. Rain carried topsoil down the steep slopes and the forests became replaced with fields. The erosion also removed much of the area available for gardening and crops. Extinction of plants and animals became an issue on Mangareva as well. In fact, 5 out of 9 kinds of birds became extinct due to the deforestation on the island. Mangareva was killing its resources that made trade key to life for Henderson and Pitcairn. Mangareva was running out of enough resources to support itself, Henderson island, and Pitcairn island and had no transportation to continue trade becoming trapped.

Trade Ceased

Although Henderson and Pitcairn relied heavily on trade, when Mangareva began to run low on essential resources, they stopped trading and communicating. Trade had been key for life due to the trade of crops, animals, fresh water, stone, and craftspeople. Mangareva acted as a hub between Pitcairn and Henderson and the larger island of Polynesia. At around 1100-1300 AD Mangareva peaked and reached its highest population. Unfortunately, when Mangareva cut down most of their forests, they were left with no more trees to create canoes. They could not travel to the other islands anymore. Pitcairn also deforested their land, becoming trapped with out their needed resources. Henderson was left remote with no imports of any type and too small of trees to create canoes. The trade stopped at 1500AD. Henderson and Pitcairn islanders survived for several generations after trade stopped, acting out of desperation of resources. For example, without stone they turned to shells and clams for tools. Fighting broke out over the few resources left on islands; islanders even resorted to cannibalism to survive. Mangareva society undertook a period of civil war and hunger. The old orderly political system based on hereditary chiefs vanished and warriors took over. Mangareva survived longer than Pitcairn and Henderson due to it's large generation and few resources left. Since all three islands destroyed their resources in an act to feed and expand their population, each island collapsed after years of desperation and hunger.

Works Cited

Works Cited:

1. Diamond, Jared M. "Chapter 3 The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Islands." Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. N. pag. Print.

2. Dunford, Betty, and Reilly Ridgell. "PART TWO: THE ISLANDS: Unit Six: Polynesia: CHAPTER 31: Pitcairn." Pacific Neighbors. 157-159. US: Bess Press, Inc., 1996. History Reference Center. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.

3. "History of Pitcairn Island." Pitcairn Islands Study Center. Pacific Union College, 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

This article is very recent, it was last published in 2011. This article is reliable because it is from a college website supported with real evidence from primary sources. Furthermore, the website has a list of resources from where they got their information from for the article. It also shows the authors and emails to contact with them. Lastly the purpose was to explain the history of the Pitcairn islands and how they collapsed. The article is unbiased and displays all correct information. There are also no adds on the website.

4. Tyson, Peter. "The Fate of Easter Island." NOVA. N.p., 20 Apr. 2004. Web. 05 Mar. 2014.

This is a reliable source because it is from a professional website with correct and proven facts. Nova uses real evidence and facts. The author is also listed just below the title with the publish date. Lastly, the authors purpose was to inform me of the fall of Easter Island and its relationship the island had with Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva.