Henderson Island - Latitude 24.22 S - Longitude 128.19 W





Captain Philip Carteret discovers Pitcairn's Island

Captain Philip Carteret, English navigator, who had sailed as lieutenant in John Byron's voyage round the world (1764--6), commanded H.M.S. Swallow during a voyage around the world 1766-1769. Carteret sailed as second-in-command to Capt. Samuel Wallis in H.M.S. Dolphin - Wallis is notable for his discovery of Tahiti. Carteret became separated from Wallis in the Straits of Magellan and continued his voyage alone.

After many weeks at sea without sighting land Carteret wrote in his journal. ...I promised the(m) [his crew] a reward of a bottle of Brandy, for whoever should first discover land...

This honour fell on 15 year old Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, who was the first to sight the Island that now bears his family name.

It is so high that we saw it at a distance of more than fifteen leagues, and it having been discovered by a young gentleman, son to Major Pitcairn of the marines, we called it PITCAIRN'S ISLAND wrote Carteret on 2 July of 1767 in his journal. (*See Note below)

Captain Carteret was however, unable to land because of the surf which at this season broke upon it with great violence.

This entry in Baptisms 1751 & 1752 in the parish register of Burntisland, Fife registers the birth and baptismen of Robert Pitcairn:

Tuesday 12th May 1752
John Pitcairn Liutenant of Marines & Elizabeth Dalrymple a s n Robert W James M'gill surveyor & William Douglas sailor.
B 6th May.

Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, son of Major John Pitcairn of the Marines, was from Edinburgh and had joined the H.M.S. Swallow on 18 July 1766, from the H.M.S. Emerald. He was No. 47 in the muster-book of H.M.S. Swallow. The next ship he joined was H.M.S. Aurora.

H.M.S. Aurora was a 5th Rate (32 gun) 682 tons vessel built at Chatham Dockyard, and launched January 13, 1766. Commanded by Captain Thomas Lee the AURORA sailed from the Cape of Good Hope on 29th December,1769 carrying three supervisors for the East India Company, Henry Vansittart, Luke Scrafton and John Ford, to India where they were due to 'make enquiries into abuses.' "No positive news of either the ship or the crew were ever received again; it was presumed that the ship was overwhelmed in the Indian Ocean by either storm or fire." When H.M.S. Aurora was lost at sea, Midshipman Robert Pitcairn died - 17 years old.

* Note: The above quote regarding the discovery of Pitcairn Island is from Hawkesworth's edition of Carteret's Journals - the reference to MAJOR Pitcairn was added later by Hawkesworth who wasn't worried about adding his own, explanatory, remarks to the body of other's work. John Pitcairn was a Captain at the time of the discovery.



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