Fourth installment of the stamp series dedicated to iconic steamships in New Caledonia, this 110 XPF stamp issue, designed by Jean-Jacques Mahuteau, shows Polynésie, a station ship which sailed the Australia - New Caledonia - New Hebrides route from 1954 to 1975.
Built at the Dubigeon shipyards in Nantes, Polynésie was a small passenger-cargo liner with a length of 104.5 m and a beam of 15 m, fitted with a 6-cylinder two-stroke engine; she left Marseille en route for Noumea on 13 June 1954. Averaging a speed of 15 knots, Polynésie had a freight capacity of 4,165 m3 and cabin accommodation for 36 passengers. She sailed the regular 21-day route between Sydney, Noumea and Port Vila.
Passengers particularly enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere which reigned on board thanks to the ship’s 9 French Navy staff members, 37 crew members and 63 stevedores, some of whom had played in a small island orchestra. And the cook was delighted to cook and serve up fish caught by passengers during the crossing. The attractively illustrated stamp sheet shows some of the job specialisms on board the ship.
Polynésie sailed her regular route without incident until August 1972. In 1973, she was caught up in a boycott against French nuclear testing at Mururoa which led to her being immobilised in Australia for five months. In July 1975, Polynésie came to the aid of Vaucluse, stranded in Boulari channel, and in December of the same year she was sold in Singapore and rechristened Golden Glory.
The former station ship ended her career at a ship breaking yard in Taiwan in 1979. This new stamp issue, date-stamp, first day cover and accompanying illustrated sheet breathe fresh life into wistful memories of the brave ship Polynésie.