OBJECTIVES Only 193 people from Pitcairn Island, all descended from 9 'Bounty' mutineers and 12 Tahitian women, moved to the uninhabited Norfolk Island in 1856. Our objective was to assess the population of Norfolk Island, several thousand km off the eastern coast of Australia, as a genetic isolate of potential use for cardiovascular disease (CVD) gene mapping. METHODS A total of 602 participants, approximately two thirds of the island's present adult population, were characterized for a panel of CVD risk factors. Statistical power and heritability were calculated. RESULTS Norfolk Islander's possess an increased prevalence of hypertension, obesity and multiple CVD risk factors when compared to outbred Caucasian populations. 64% of the study participants were descendents of the island's original founder population. Triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressures all had heritabilities above 0.2. CONCLUSIONS The Norfolk Island population is a potentially useful genetic isolate for gene mapping studies aimed at identifying CVD risk factor quantitative trait loci (QTL).