Results of Inbreeding on Norfolk Island

Results of Inbreeding on Norfolk Island

Science  Magazine
Volume 65, Number 1693 (1927-06-10)
page x
DOI: 10.1126/science.65.1693.0x-s

Providing the original stock is sound, inbreeding among human beings results in no deterioration, physical or mental. Nor does mixture of widely differing races produce an inferior type.  Such are the conclusions of Dr. Harry L. Shapiro, ethnologist of the American Museum of Natural History, from a recent study of the inhabitants of Norfolk Island, a small island north of New Zealand.  They are the Tahitian-English half-castes whose history dates back  the mutiny of the crew of the ship Bounty in 1789.  At pesent there are more than 600 of these islanders and they are the descendants of twelve Tahitian women and nine Englishmen, part of the mutinous crew.

In 1789 the crew of the Bounty, a vessel sailing in the southern Pacific, mutinied, casting the captain adrift in a small boat and making for Tahiti. Here nine of the crew, fearing capture, sailed to Pitcairn, a small uninhabited island east of Tahiti. They took with them twelve Tahitian women and nine Tahitian men.  On Pitcairn the women were divided among the Englishmen as wives.  The Tahitian men were allowed no women. This lead to jealousy and the Tahitian men where killed, leaving no descendants.  The Tahitian women and the Englishmen all of them sound stock established a  line of half-castes.  They were completely isolated and they multiplied rapidly.

By 1856 the population was to great for the small space of Pitcairn. More that 150 moved to Norfolk Island which was at that time uninhabited. To-day there is a population of 600 on Norfolk Island and 175 on Pitcairn, all descendants of the original Tahitians and English.  It is of the Norfolk Islanders that Dr. Shapiro has made a study.

Dr. Shapiro has found these islanders to be of sound physique, taller than the average English and Tahitians, and of good mentality.  There is only one feeble-minded person, he said, on Norfolk Island.  Their education has of necessity been rudimentary for generations, but they are now provided with teachers by the Australian Government under the jurisdiction of which they come.  And the teachers are getting excellent results.

Thus, according to Dr. Shapiro, the Norfolk Islanders prove that, when the stock is sound to begin with, intensive in-breeding makes for no decrease in stamina.  Likewise, race mixture, in his opinion, brings go deterioration.

The idea that the half-caste is inferior, he maintained, comes largely from the fact that pure races have always look down on the half-caste. In Norfolk Island, he said, the half-caste has a chance to show his worth, for there is no discrimination against him, as the entire population is half-caste.  And Norfolk Island, he pointed out, is one of the only places in thw world with no stigma is attached to half-castes.

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