PITCAIRN ISLAND SHIP COVERS

The Pitcairn Islands Post Office issued an attractive souvenir sheet of stamps on the 8th January, 2003 giving homage to the ships of the Blue Star line which had served as one of the main methods of communication for the isolated island. The sheet was timed to co-incide with the withdrawal of the Blue Star Line service. The sheet shows 4 of the vessels involved waiting off Pitcairn Island in a montage view .

America Star called for the last time, southbound sailing from Houston, Texas to Auckland, New Zealand on 8 January 2003, the date upon which the sheetlet was issued.

The Pitcairn Island Post Office arranged to have a limited number of 200 covers cacheted on the day with the "America Star" official ship's cachet and subsequently also arranged 200 First Day Covers to have each of the three other ships cachets applied.

PitcairnAmericanStarcvr.jpg (59416 bytes)

PITCAIRNSHIP1.  2003 (Jan 8th) FDC Blue Star ships sheet with "America Star" ship cachet.  Price US$8

PitcairnMelbStarcvr.jpg (60717 bytes)

PITCAIRNSHIP2.  2003 (Jan 8th) FDC Blue Star ships sheet with "Melbourne Star" ship cachet.  Price US$8

PitcairnQslandStarcvr.jpg (61755 bytes)

PITCAIRNSHIP3.  2003 (Jan 8th) FDC Blue Star ships sheet with "Queensland Star" ship cachet.  Price US$8

PitcairnSydneyStarcvr.jpg (62323 bytes)

PITCAIRNSHIP4.  2003 (Jan 8th) FDC Blue Star ships sheet with "Sydney Star" ship cachet.  Price US$8

MORE SHIPPING DETAILS

The four ships: Melbourne Star, America Star, Sydney Star and Queensland Star regularly stopped at Pitcairn up to 20 times each year, bringing supplies and carrying passengers and mail to and from the island. Originally, these vessels, launched more than 30 years ago were part of the ACT fleet. Melbourne Star was originally named ACT III, America Star was ACT IV, Sydney Star was ACT V and Queensland Star was ACT VI.

When the ships were converted from steam turbine in the mid-80s, a reduced crew capacity allowed for part of one deck to be converted for passenger accommodation. Many passengers   completed the 72 day round voyage from Philadelphia, through Panama to New Zealand and on to Australia before returning via New Zealand and Panama to the East Coast of the United States. Pitcairn lies conveniently on the Great Circle Route, just eight days steaming from New Zealand and many of those taking the full round-trip have stopped for an hour or two, some for up to a day, at Pitcairn, while the ship off-loaded passengers, mail and supplies.

Normally, only three of the many calls the vessels made each year, were as official supply ships to the island. On these occasions, the ships carried up to four 20 foot containers; two closed general containers amid-ships and two open-top containers above the aft deck. Stores from the two containers amid-ships were man-handled to the rail and lowered using an air-assisted hand winch, over the side into the longboat tied below. Supplies in the containers aft were lifted and lowered over the side using the ship’s stores crane into the longboats positioned carefully beneath the descending load. It was an extremely hazardous operation, requiring skill and expertise acquired by Pitcairners from their early teens. It  took normally between 6 and 10 hours to discharge supplies, depending upon the sea conditions on the day.

All four of these ships were   withdrawn from service in 2003 and were subsequently broken up in Shanghai, China.


Return to Shades Stamp Shop front page