St Kilda mail washes up in Norway

St Kilda Mail Boat, used for sending mail to the mainland
St Kilda Mail Boat, used for sending mail to the mainland

The contents of a mailboat launched from the National Trust for Scotland’s St Kilda on 29th of July 2011 has been discovered on the Norwegian island of Frøya.

The postcards were found by local farmer Knut Wågø, as he walked his dogs on the beach on January 2.

The cards, which had been placed in a traditional St Kildan mailboat, travelled over 600 miles before reaching land.

St Kilda, which is owned and cared for by the conservation charity, in the UK’s only Dual World Heritage site, designated for both its natural and cultural characteristics.

It is believed that the site was inhabited by humans from prehistoric times until its evacuation in 1930.

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.

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 its on those days we most closely understand the challenges of living in such a wild and westerly location.”