The craggy island of Norfolk is located just east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. Its 34.6 square kilometers of land are home to about 1,800 people, descendants of 19th century British colonists. These colonists arrived on Norfolk Island in 1856—but not from Britain. These were the remnants of the Pitcairn Island community, founded by the Bounty mutineers.
Norfolk had been inhabited centuries earlier by Polynesian islanders, but had long been abandoned for reasons unknown. It was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774. This discovery was followed by two unsuccessful British attempts at establishing the island as a penal colony and source of flax, timber, grain and vegetables. Convict mutinies and unrealistic costs led to the abandonment of these endeavors, and the island was deserted. Then in 1855, the Pitcairn islanders, whose original home had become overburdened by their growing numbers, wrote to Queen Victoria in quest of a new home. She offered them Norfolk Island.
Today, Norfolk is an external, self-governing territory of Australia. The economy is based primarily on tourism and some agriculture. Islanders speak both English and a creole language called Norfuk – a blend of 1700s English and Tahitian. The Norfuk language is decreasing in popularity as more tourists travel to the island and more young people leave for work and study reasons; however, there are efforts to keep it alive. In 2005, it was declared a co-official language of the island, along with English.
The Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island pictured in its flag. This strikingly symmetrical evergreen is native to the island and is quite popular in Australia where two related species also grow. Young trees are also grown in pots in the United States and sold to grocery stores at Christmas time.