Paraphrasing Henry Neville’s 1668 book, ‘The Isle of Pines’, swinging sex, free love and unadulterated naughtiness was rife on an island in the South Pacific around 400 hundred years before the first two of these terms were coined by Californian hippies in the 1960s. And, perhaps even more amazingly, it was the famously inhibited and prudish English that brought these things to the Isle of Pines. I invented the third term.
Neville relates how George Pine and four women became castaways on the island when their ship was wrecked offshore in 1569. In 1667, Jeremiah Hanzen, a crewman from a Dutch ship driven onto the island, heard from ‘Prince’ William Pine, George’s grandson, how George had repeatedly impregnated the four women amassing a total of 47 children and 518 grand and great-grandchildren.
Neville tells Hanzen’s story and goes on to tell us that with little else to occupy themselves the islanders ‘fell into whoredoms, incests and adulteries’.
While Neville, as a ‘tribute’ to George Pine, amusingly entitled his book ‘The Isle of Pines’ it is highly unlikely that his fictional island, off Australia, was based on the Isle of Pines we know today.
How the New Caledonian Isle of Pines we know today, 90 kms to the south of New Caledonia’s main island, got its name is somewhat less titillating.
During his second voyage to New Zealand in 1774, Captain Cook visited New Caledonia. Jacques Brosse, in his book, Great Voyages of Exploration, 1983, wrote:
“To the south of New Caledonia, he discovered a small island remarkable for its high conifers, which were so crowded together that from a distance they looked like basalt columns. The species belonged to the genus Araucaria, then unknown. These Auracaria columnaris, which measured as high as 70 meters, looked like giant pines, and Cook therefore called the place the Isle of Pines.”
While Neville’s book, despite running to over thirty editions in six languages during the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, has now been relegated to “a scurrilous piece of Restoration pornography or a minor addition to the tradition of seventeenth-century utopian writing” (Adam R Beach, 2000), I am amazed that a book, based on a fictional South Pacific island, was entitled The Isle of Pines in 1668 and that just over one hundred years later Captain Cook would, for totally different reasons christen an island in the same region, the Isle of Pines. I wonder if Captain Cook had read Neville’s book and he had, in fact, dual reasons for naming the island as he did. Naughty Captain Cook!
While there is absolutely no plausible evidence to suggest that to-day’s Isle of Pines was ever like that described by Neville, if it were I do wonder if perhaps it could account for the fact that Protestant missionaries were either eaten or run off the island when they arrived in 1841. If the islanders were indeed having it so good they would not have been enamoured by the arrival of those who would deny them their pleasurable and indulgent ways.
By 1848 the islanders did cautiously welcome French Catholic missionaries, perhaps because they were supported by the French military which went on to annex the island for France in 1853.
Shortly after this and until 1912 the island was a French penal colony, a place to transport France’s undesirables in the same way as Britain was using Australia as a dumping place for its unwanted.
Roll on another 100 years plus, to 2016, and the Isle of Pines is now frequented by tourists seeking paradise in the South Pacific. They are understandably attracted by some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches, reefs and warm clear turquoise waters to be found anywhere in the world.
In addition to being drop dead gorgeous, and the islanders being a friendly bunch, this is an unhurried place in a hurried world – so hard to find nowadays – where the locals live by the saying, “A quoi bon le compter, il ne s’arrêtera jamais” (“Why measure the time, it will never end”).
I trust my reviews in this blog will entice one or more of my readers to, some day, visit the Ile des Pins (to give it its French name) or otherwise make for a good read for those who cannot do so.
This blog entry is the first of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Getting to the Ile des Pins and Getting Around.