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)