Centuries ago whaling ships would take to the seas and whalers would spend years at a time hunting, as the ships would not return to port until their barrels were full of whale oil. These whalers had no way of communicating with their families and loved ones until they came up with a unique solution.
The Galápagos islands were a natural stopping point for the whaling ships, where the whalers would collect food (usually giant tortoises). In the 18th century, a man named Hathaway, who is thought to have been a whaler, erected a wooden barrel (some say it was originally a box) in a bay on Floreana Island to be used as the post office for whalers. The whalers would leave their letters and collect others addresses to their home port to deliver when they returned. Some of the letters took years to arrive but the system was the only way for the whalers to send messages home. The spot became known as Post Office Bay.
Captain James Colnett is often mistakenly credited for installing the post office, however the first written account of its existence states that there was a black sign over it with the words ‘Hathaway’s Postoffice’ painted on.
The post office still stands today and every year thousands of tourists leave postcards and take others, addressed to their home town, to hand deliver when they return.