A Postcard from the Galapagos – Literally!

Imagine life on an 18th century whaling vessel – I only see misery. Years at sea, chasing whales for their valuable oil, the crew had no means of communication with their loved ones back home.

In these vast, uninhabited seas, Floreana Island was a popular pit stop for fresh water and food (unfortunately, tortoise meat was very popular – so much so that Darwin found no giant tortoises left on the island when he arrived in 1835).

In 1793, a ship’s captain set up a ‘Post Office’. A wooden whiskey barrel would serve as the letterbox – sailors could leave letters there to be hopefully picked up by another passing ship heading towards their homeplace.

The original barrel may have long gone but the honour system still exists at Post Office Bay- visitors drop their postcards in the barrel and go through the cards already there, checking addresses. Traditionally, the postcards should be hand delivered but I suspect that nowadays most are stamped and mailed once the visitor reaches their home country. (The BBC actually ran a story about a couple who visited in 2011 and, over the next three years, delivered 22 messages to people in 17 countries!)

This is a big, big world we live in but – believe it or not – we found a card addressed to a village less than 3 miles from our home!!

(Post Office Bay, Floreana)

22 thoughts on “A Postcard from the Galapagos – Literally!

  1. thats such a great story Marie, and you would hope that everyone was honest enough to deliver all they had picked up. Wonderful way to make friends as well

    1. Ah I hope so Alison…. I was wondering if all the crew way back then would be literate or if there was someone on board writing their letters for them… and how amazing it would have been for their families in England or wherever actually recieving one…

  2. We didn’t visit Floreana on our itinerary – I would really loved to have done so to see this and check the cards there. And leave some! You don’t mention if you did?

    1. We did! Sent one to ourselves and one to Stephen – although he only lives a mile away so I presume one person will deliver both – if it ever happens!

    1. Isn’t it just! Everyone found something – except a girl from Poland. When I say found something, it was maybe the nearest city or state. Ours was exceptional…

  3. I hope you picked up that postcard and delivered it!! That’s such a cool story of those people delivering all those cards. As to life as a whaler…ugh.

    1. Everyone got a great kick out of the little excursion… – we all grabbed a few from the barrel and checked addresses for Toronto, San Diego, etc. Tom himself found the one near our house..

    1. I read somewhere that whaling boats from north America estimated trips to be about 3 years – I suppose it would be longer from Europe – so if a boat was heading home it would be at least a year minimum I’d imagine and then it could be another several months before the letter was actually delivered…

      1. It’s funny to think that what ever you put in your letter would be very out of date by the time it was read, isn’t it. I had heard that some times people would refuse to accept an letter (you had to pay the post man in delivery you see) but would be happy to know that the loved one was still alive.

      2. The news would certainly be out of date but to receive a letter must have been such a precious thing…

Leave a Reply