Sunday, August 26, 2012

Household and General Living conditions

What currency is used on Pitcairn Island?

Mostly the New Zealand dollar is used.  However American dollars are also common. At the general store most of us book up our groceries on an account which we pay at the end of the month.  In New Zealand we always carried cash around in a wallet.  Here we seldom do.    

Do you have hot water in your house?

A few houses have a solar hot water system.  The school teacher’s house is one of these and this supplies hot water to the bathroom but not the kitchen. The solar hot water panels are extremely efficient and there is usually hot water even after three days of no sun. All houses have a system of boiling the water in a copper drum in a shed out the back.  It has a fire underneath it. Islanders refer to ‘burning the copper’ which means heating the water. It is not difficult to find firewood. Early in the morning there is the smell of wood smoke in the air.  It does not linger long in the ocean breezes and is quite pleasant. Our house has a bath in it but we seldom use it.  Most of the time the daily temperatures are too hot to sit in a hot bath.  Also we are always careful to conserve our precious water in our tank and we tend to use a lot less in the shower.

What is a ‘duncan’?

A ‘duncan’ is a long drop toilet. All government houses have indoor flush toilets.  Many islanders have flush toilets too.  Because water can be a problem in times of drought, many houses have retained their traditional long drop toilet and use it when flushing is not a good option as it uses too much water.  Around the island there are long drop duncans at all the strategic places.  They are kept clean and are maintained nicely with toilet paper. Most have a system of collecting water into a plastic drum and a tap for washing hands.  Soap is provided.  Some of the duncans have two seats so if you wanted you could chat with a friends at the same time!  Personally I don’t have any friends that are that close!


Do cell phones work on Pitcairn Island?

No, cell phones do not work on Pitcairn. When we go out we carry the two way radio with us.  This works in a similar way to a cell phone and all public messages get sent out on this.  All households are linked by radio.  Yachts that come to the island make contact via this radio system as well.  If you want your conversations to be totally private it is best to use the telephone.


Can you watch TV?

There are two channels available.  One channel from Tahiti in French Polynesia, which is all in French.  We enjoyed the Olympics on this channel even if we could not understand what they were saying. The other channel is FOX news which tends to be all political stuff about President Obana at present. 

Is there any kind of general video/DVD library on the island?

The library needs a good overhaul.  There is plenty of good modern reading material.  but it desperately needs its own room and system for relaxed browsing.  Maybe if the proposal for the Community Centre at the dis-used prison goes ahead there will be a new library. DVDs are popular and many people take them out. You write your name in an exercise book and cross it off when you return it.  Donations of DVDs are always welcome but hey must be compatible with NZ systems.


When the electricity goes off at 10.00pm do you have the use of a lantern of any sort? I guess you have to start watching a movie early if you want to see the end of it?

Most houses have an alternative 12 volt battery system for lighting after 10 pm so no we do not use lanterns. Yes we do need to calculate how long a movie will play and start watching at a time that allows it to finish before the 10 pm power goes off.  


Are your emails out totally private?   Is there an island server?  

Yes our emails are private. There are several servers - in NZ. Hawaii and England I think. The satellite link is locked in a shed and the Mayor is the IT person and currently has to be supervised by the Gov Rep or policeman.

Is it correct that phone calls from Auckland to Pitcairn are like a local call?  

Yes we are on the Auckland Exchange.  Toll calls are very reasonable but internet is very expensive.  Our monthly bill is usually in the hundreds of dollars.

Is the telephone system dependent on there being power? i.e. can you ring New Zealand when the power is off?

No the telephone system is not dependent on the power being on.  You can ring any time. Telephones work though the Auckland exchange.  To ring NZ number you dial 00649........... Calls cost 15 cents per minute. When an incoming call comes in you can tell if it is a toll call as it has two rings close together.  One ring means a local Pticairn call.


Do the water tanks at the houses ever get cleaned out?

I have not seen or heard of this.  It would be a good idea from time to time to do this.


Do you lock the doors of your house?

It is not necessary to lock the doors of your house here.  We tend to though, as our cat has the knack of jumping up and opening the door by herself! She’s a smart cat but then she does not close it behind herself and the mosquitoes can then get in.  When cruise ships call we are also advised to lock our homes as it is not unusual for curious wandering souls to walk right in and make themselves at home in your house when you are not there! Cheeky but true.


  1. If we would like to send DVD's for Library use, where would we send them to. I have an address, but no ZIP CODE?? Can you help with anyone reading the Blog and would like to help with this??

    1. Dear Ellen,
      Can you email me directly on
      I would like to communicate with you directly and say a big thank you for the card making pack you sent.
      regards from

  2. The postal address for anyone sending small parcels or goods to Pitcairn Island is as follows:

    Name of person or title e.g. school teacher
    Pitcairn Island
    The Pitcairn Islands Office
    Private Box 105 696
    Auckland 1143

    The physical address of the office is:
    The Pitcairn Islands Office
    Level 17, IAG House
    151 Queen Street
    Auckland 1010