Artists views of Pitcairn:
Supply Ship Day

Supply Ship Day
        30 January 1996        20c, 40c, 90c, $1.00, $1.50, $1.80            Mint & CTO        $5.80
                                                                                                            FDC                    $6.30

Technical Details

        Release Date:             30 January 1996
        Tablet Values:            20c, 40c, 90c, $1.00, $1.50, $1.80
        Artist:                         Lesley Harraway
        Printer:                       Joh. Ensched Security Printing, Netherlands
        Process:                     Lithography
        Paper:                        CA Watermark
        Stamp Size:                42.26 x 31.16 mm
        Perforation Gauge:     14¾ x 14
        Pane Format:             50 (2 x 25)
        Mint and CTO:          $5.80
        First Day Cover:        $6.30

Some thirty ships call at Pitcairn Island each year.  Most are tankers or container ships, and stay only an hour or two to break the long journey between Panama and New Zealand or Australia.  A few are cruise ships loaded with passengers eager to spend a day at Pitcairn.  Only three are supply ships paid by the Pitcairn Island Government to carry up to eighty tonnes of cargo at a time from New Zealand to Pitcairn.

The six stamps in this issue are the work of artist Lesley Harraway.  Lesley has captured the chain of events of a Supply Ship Day magnificently, from the early morning view of the Landing featured on the 20c stamp through to the $1.80 stamp of a four wheeler having hauled the last load of the day up the Hill of Difficulty, moving with greater ease and perhaps in a higher gear, past the Edge.

Supply Ship Day is a most significant event, involving everyone on the island.  Five bells rung at the Square, tells everyone that the ship has been sighted and that the longboats are about to be slid into the harbour.  If the weather and seas are calm, as they are on this set, the ship will lie less than a mile off shore while supplies are off loaded and ferried ashore.  In rough weather when raging northerlies send the rollers tumbling into the harbour, the longboats have to journey around to the leeward side of the island to enable off loading to be completed with some degree of safety.  The return trip to Bounty Bay in a longboat laden with timber supplies and drums of fuel can be nerve wracking and, at the least, very wet as heavy seas crash across the bow.

Once tied alongside the Supply Ship, the discharging of cargo from the containers amid-ships into the longboat can be carried out in relative safety.  If sea conditions are unpleasant, the ship will manoeuvre to create a lee for the long boat alongside.  The 90c stamp superbly illustrates this aspect of Supply Ship Day.  Heavy and bulky building supplies and fuel are usually off loaded using the ships aft-deck crane.  The shape of the ship's stern does not allow for the longboat to lie alongside.  Instead the skipper positions the longboat beneath the crane.  Rolling around in a long boat in heaving swells while crates of roofing iron or drums of diesel swing as the ship's crane lowers them into the longboat, can be extremely dangerous.  Often crew members will leap in to the sea to avoid being struck by swinging cargo.

Ashore, people are busy carrying away supplies as they are landed, particularly refrigerated or frozen food stuffs.  Usually, there is time for the Post Office staff to sort through the many bags of mail.  Late into the night, lights stay on while tired eyes read the letters from family and friends in other parts of the world.  Always, another day of public work is required to clear all the supplies from the Landing.

Frequently, the off loading of supplies continues into the night and often the longboat crews are numb with exhaustion as their longboats are winched up into the shed after the last load has come ashore.

Three blasts from the Supply Ship's horns signal it's departure.  By the time people reach their homes the ship is but a twinkling light disappearing over the horizon.

On supply ship day and on the day after, the Co-operative store is a pace of intense activity as the $1.50 stamp in this issue shows.   The Co-operative store was established in 1967 through locally contributed share capital.  An elected committee operates the store and places orders for items through the Pitcairn Islands Administration Office in New Zealand.  The store was modified in 1989 and now has the appearance of a mini supermarket with self service checkouts at the door.

The work associated with Supply Ship Day is unpaid public work.  All men and women between the ages of 16 and 60 are required by law to carry out public work.  This requirement has enabled Pitcairn to sustain a tax-free economy.

Since 1983, Supply Ships to Pitcairn have almost without exception been Blue Star PACE Line (formerly Blueport ACT) vessels.  America Star shown on the 40c and Captain George Rawding is one of these.