Going the extra mile: the world’s hardest-to-reach post deliveries

As tough jobs go, you may not think being a postman or woman compares with the likes of being an SAS soldier, Arctic explorer or North Sea gas rig worker.

But not all post delivery locations are as easy reach as Postman Pat’s quaint village of Greendale. And some drivers have far bigger challenges than the occasional unfriendly dog.

In fact, cars can’t be used to deliver mail to many of the most remote places in the world, such as the Canadian Arctic or Tristan Da Cunha, a tiny island nearly 3,000 miles off the coast of South Africa.

We reveal five of the world’s hardest-to-reach delivery locations, and the lengths postal staff go to in order to deliver to them.

Alert, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

02 World's toughest post deliveries

Inside the Arctic Circle and just 500 miles from the North Pole, this remote outpost is believed to be the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited place.

Although it has no indigenous population (they are the Inuits, who live 500 miles further south), it’s home to the staff of a Canadian military base and the Environment Canada weather station.

Situated at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, Alert is surrounded on one side by rugged hills and valleys. The land and sea are carpeted in snow and ice for at least 10 months of every year, and in some years the ice doesn’t melt at all.

So mail and other provisions are delivered by Hercules cargo plane once a week, weather permitting. The flight time from Canada’s northernmost cities is around eight hours, and hazards along the way include blizzards and temperatures of -50 degrees centigrade.

Bardsey Island, off the coast of West Wales

World's toughest post deliveries

For more than 40 years Ernest Evans, 68, has gone the extra mile (or five) once a week to deliver mail to the eight inhabitants of Bardsey Island.

The tiny community consists of a farming family, a couple who run a bird observatory and the warden of the Bardsey Island Trust.

Ernest, who is also a lobster fisherman, plans his post runs at least two days ahead, sailing when the weather and tide are best. The mail is stored in waterproof postbags.

Ernest took over from his father, John Evans, who did the same journey from Porth Meudwy beach near Aberdaron to Enlli for 15 years.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

World's toughest post deliveries

Getting to Ittoqqortoormiit can be an adventure in itself. To reach it you have to cross Northeast Greenland, the world’s largest and most northerly national park, which is home to polar bears, musk oxen, walruses and seals.

While this remote settlement is reasonably accessible by sea for the brief summer months, the only viable form of transport for nine months of the year is a helicopter from the airport 24 miles away.

Although Ittoqqortoormiit was only founded in 1925 by settlers from Denmark, today it’s home to 450 people, so there’s a significant amount of mail to transport.

Supai Village, Arizona, USA

World's toughest post deliveries

A standard post delivery van is no use for getting mail to this village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get post, food, supplies and furniture down the eight-mile path to it is the traditional way – by mule train.

Every day, the mule train transports an average of 1,800kg of goods to the 200-strong Havasupai Indian tribe, who live in Supai.

It takes at least a week for deliveries to reach Supai from the main post depot in city of Bullhead, Arizona, so any mail order purchases need to be planned well ahead.

Tristan Da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean

World's toughest post deliveries

Not surprisingly, delivering post to the world’s most remote island is the most lengthy task of all.

It takes a fishing boat six days to sail the 2,800 miles there from Cape Town, and with only one boat doing the journey every three weeks, residents need to allow up to a month for items to be delivered.

And that’s an improvement on the situation 10 years’ ago. Until August 2005, the island didn’t have a postcode, so most companies refused to accept orders from residents – and with a capital called Edinburgh, post often went astray.

The island’s 270 residents still have to plan ahead, though, so Christmas presents don’t arrive at Easter.