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St Kilda mail washes up on Norway

13 January 2012

The contents of a mailboat launched from St Kilda on 29 July 2011 have been discovered on the Norwegian island of Frøya.

Mailboat ound on the Norwegian island of Frøya

The postcards were found by local farmer Knut Wågø, as he walked his dogs on the beach on 2 January 2012. The cards, which had been placed in a traditional St Kildan mailboat, travelled over 600 miles before reaching land.

The mailboat is launched!Photo (Angus Campbell, Kilda Cruises): Preparing to launch the mailboat.

A St Kilda mailboat is a wooden 'boat', containing a letter, usually sealed in a cocoa tin or plastic box. Traditionally, a sheep's bladder was used as a float, but it is now a fishing float. The first mailboat was sent out as a distress signal in time of famine by John Sands, a journalist, who was stranded on St Kilda during winter of 1876.

Mailboats are now sent by St Kilda work parties as part of the ritual of visiting St Kilda. They are carried by the Gulf Stream and usually reach land in Scotland or Scandinavia.

Mailboat designed by Work Party II (2011)Mailboat released and floating out to sea.Photos (Rachel Channa Kremer): Another example of a mailboat crafted by members of a Work Party in 2011.

St Kilda Property Manager Susan Bain said:
“Launching mail boats is a cultural tradition which we keep alive on St Kilda. It reminds us of the remoteness and the difficulties that the islanders faced in communicating with the mainland. Nowadays, things are a little different and we have phones and high-speed internet on the island which makes it a bit easier to keep in touch. Despite these advances though, we are still at the mercy of the weather and it is on those days we most closely understand the challenges of living in such a wild and westerly location.”

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