Niuafo'ou is Tonga's northernmost island, 574 km from Nuku'alofa and equidistant from Savai'i (Samoa), Taveuni (Fiji), and Vava'u.
Despite the airstrip that opened in 1983, Niuafo'ou remains one of the most remote islands in the world. The supply ship calls about once a month, but there's no wharf on the island. Landings take place at Futu on the west side of the island.
For many years Niuafo'ou received its mail in kerosene tins wrapped in oilcloth thrown overboard from a passing freighter to waiting swimmers or canoeists, giving Tin Can Island its other name. In bad weather, rockets were used to shoot the mail from ship to shore. Early trader Walter George Quensell doubled as postmaster and brought fame to Niuafo'ou by stamping the mail with colorful postmarks. Special Niuafo'ou postage stamps, first issued in 1983, are prized by collectors.
Niuafo'ou (NFO) is theoretically accessible fortnightly on the Real Tonga flights from Vava'u. In practice the plane has a 50-50 chance of landing, as Niuafo'ou's airstrip is placed in such a way that dangerously strong winds whip across it. When that happens, the plane has to fly all the way back to Vava'u, and the people on the island see their long-awaited cargo go back where it came from for two weeks.
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