Kitschy Card from the islands that inspired the theory of evolution.

I arrived home the other night after a longer session in the workshop beating our heads against a machine that almost wants to do the right thing to find, next to the unnecessary advertising hanging on the door handle, a postcard shoved the between the door frame and the door. A cheesy tourist card from the Galapagos, a newsy excited message from my brother and his partner. And then I realise that there is no stamp on the card.

Aha! The last line of the card explains that they have left it in perhaps the oldest nongovernmental postal service anywhere. On the Galapagos, which was a common stopover point for whaling, trading, military and other boats since the late 18th century, a certain Captain Colnett set up a barrel. As sailors came and went, they would leave messages and those who were heading home would take letters addressed to their region with them. As many boats spent more than a year in the Pacific, this was a way for sailors and others on board to get messages home.

As far as I understand it, the “rule” is that every card, letter or packet must be hand delivered. No taking them and then posting them from home to some other city close by. I can imagine that some letters take ages to get to their destinations (how many people from Port Moresby are on the Galapagos every year?) but mine was fast. Something like three weeks! I think that standard mail would be slower most of the time. Then again, Galapagos comes from an old Spanish (??) word (“Galopegos”) for Tortoise, so I suppose the Galapagos postal service must be slow.

Unfortunately I did not get to meet the postal deliverer, it would be interesting to know what they were doing out there in the middle of the Pacific, straddling the equator. But that will remain one of those mysteries.

A few other things I found about the barrel: an article, and some history.