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Pitcairn Islands Study Center

News - February 20, 2014

Contact Study Center:

PHONE: 707-965-6244
TEXT:   707-229-1340

Contact Herb Ford:
PHONE: 559-592-0980 or

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  [California Study Center]


PITCAIRN ISLANDS STUDY CENTER, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California USA.

Herbert Ford, 559-592-0980, 559-732-0313.


                        ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., February 20, 2014—Talk about a slow boat to China, mail to isolated Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific Ocean seems to be running a close second these days..

                        In a report (on February 19, 2014) to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center here, Pitcairner Kari Boye Young says that a letter mailed to her from the Study Center on July 7, 2013, has just now been delivered.

                        "The old sailing ships back in the 1800s delivered mail to Pitcairn faster than that," said Mrs. Young.

                        Mail from anywhere in the world addressed to Pitcairn Island is sent to New Zealand, and from there is carried by ship to Pitcairn which has no airport. Ship delivery of mail from New Zealand is at best irregular.

                        But such slow mail service has not always been the lot of the Pitcairn people. In the 1920s, Postmaster Gerald DeLeo Bliss at Cristobal, Panama, devised a plan to reduce the half year-or-more mail delivery time to Pitcairn to a few weeks or less.

                        Bliss approached the captain of every ship entering the Panama Canal from the Atlantic, asking if their Pacific Ocean sailing route would take them anywhere near Pitcairn. If the answer was "Yes," Bliss asked if the captain to drop mail he was holding for Pitcairn off at the island. Many agreed to do so, and mail delivery time to Pitcairn was reduced from six or more months to two or three weeks.

                        Bliss also notified postmasters throughout the world that he would forward all mail he received for Pitcairn on by way of his requests of canal-transiting ship captains. Soon Bliss's post office became "the" quick way to get mail to Pitcairn.

                        In the 1930s after Postmaster Bliss was no longer active, a growing number of passenger and commercial ship captains voluntarily delivered mail to Pitcairn, and took out-going island mail on to the ship's next next port of call for dispatch.

                        Shortly after World War II a build-up of Pacific Ocean commercial shipping continued the delivery and pick-up of Pitcairn mails. Today, however, due to a change in Pacific shipping lanes, ships pass the Pitcairn area at a considerably distance from the island than previously. Also, the number of ships plying Pacific waters near Pitcairn have been reduced to a mere trickle of their numbers in earlier years.