Pacific paradise was once a hell on Earth

A century and a half ago, criminals in Australia would beg to be hanged rather than sent to Norfolk Island. “The worst prison in the British Empire” was a place where brutal discipline led to the death of many convicts.¬†Escape was unlikely. From Norfolk, it was an 800 kilometer voyage north to New Caledonia, 1100km south to New Zealand, and almost 1700km west to the coast of Australia.

Despite its isolation, Norfolk has attracted some remarkable migrants. In 1856, after humanitarians in Australia succeeded in having the penal colony closed, 194 new settlers moved onto the island. They were descendants of the men who seized HMS Bounty in one of history’s most famous mutinies.

Today, about one third of Norfolk’s 1600 inhabitants trace their ancestry to nine of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives.¬†

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