Monday, September 29, 2008

Most Southern in the World #6 - Post Office Ulva Island Stewart Island

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Post Office, Ulva, Stewart Island, the most Southern Post Office in the World, circa 1910

Charles Traill, an Orkney Islander, established a post office on Ulva Island in 1873. Ulva is an island in Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island, New Zealand's third largest island that lies across Foveuax Strait at the bottom of the South Island.

A view from a hill overlooking the Ulva Island post office, circa 1910s. The sender writes "terribly rough trip across [Strait] nearly every one was sick. Thank goodness I wasn't."

One can understand the discomfort of the sea voyage given the size of the tourist schooners plying Foveau Strait at the time. The sea voyage today can still be a rough one -

Schooner drawing in to Half Moon Bay, Stewart Island, circa 1910s

The post office was the first on Stewart Island and was no doubt an amenity that sealers, whalers, fishermen and early settlers appreciated. It also was a popular place for tourists to visit to be able to grab a postcard, mail it, and boast to those back home that they had been to the most southern post office in the world.

The Ulva post office closed in 1923 with a post office continuing operations in Half Moon Bay. Neither could still claim to be the southern most post office today since postal services operate now at places like Scott Base (NZ) and McMurdo station (US) in Antarctica.

The old post office building still remains on Ulva, but the island is now an open wildlife sanctuary. The sanctuary is free of introduced pests such as rats, enabling the re-establishment of native bird species including the Tieke/saddleback, mohua /yellowhead, toutouwai/Stewart Island robin and tītipounamu/rifleman since 2000. More details here.

Mail boat off Ulva Island, Stewart Island, circa 1907.

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