You Won’t Believe These Crazy Underwater Mailboxes
When was the last time you received a postcard? With the explosion in mobile phones, email, text message, Facebook, and a thousand other forms of communication, does anyone even send postcards anymore?
Scott Adams, who created the comic Dilbert, said, “I get mail; therefore I am.” We assume that Scott wasn’t including postcards in this statement. Believe it or not, postcards aren’t dead. The United States Post Office shipped 770 billion postcards in 2014.
But even beyond that, postcards (and other pieces of mail) are finding new life in the most unlikely of places: underwater mailboxes.
The idea of mailboxes in weird places isn’t new. Since 1944, the post office located on a British base in Antarctica processes about 70,000 pieces of mail every year. A postal box on the island chain of Vanuatu is perched near the rim of a live volcano.
But underwater mailboxes have one very unique thing going for them: THEY’RE UNDERWATER! You literally have to don scuba gear to get to these postboxes, and outgoing mail can only be collected while wearing scuba gear. These most certainly aren’t your standard residential mailboxes or mounted mailboxes.
So, where are these mailboxes?
Let’s go on a brief, whirlwind tour of the underwater mailboxes of the world.
#1 – Hideaway Island, Vanuatu
Yes, this is the same Vanuatu that boasts the mailbox perched atop a live volcano. Apparently when you live in an exotic location, your mailboxes must also be situated in exotic locations. Located in 3 meters of water, this was the first established official underwater mailbox.
Photo via Hideaway
Hideaway Island staff will then retrieve the postcards and ensure they are delivered promptly.
While maybe not as easy to access as a good ol’ fashioned wall mount mailbox, it’s hard to imagine anything more pleasant than a swim through balmy coral waters. Instead of a leisurely walk out to the mailbox, you take a leisurely swim, passing sea turtles and gorgeous pieces of coral.
With Vanuatu websites boasting of their pristine coral reefs, it would appear that the main purpose of the mailbox is simply to get people in the water.
#2 – Susami Bay, Japan
Sitting in 33 feet of water, this underwater mailbox held the record as the deepest underwater mailbox for some time. Susami is a small fishing town of approximately 5,000 people, and the mailbox was originally created in 1999 as a way of promoting the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. Before the mailbox, Susami had no special items of interest to attract pilgrims. The then-postmaster, Toshihiko Matsumoto, put forth the idea of the underwater mailbox.
Photo via the FactSite
Every year, the mailbox receives between 1,000-1,500 pieces of mail, and 32,000 pieces of mail have been posted in the underwater mailbox since its creation.
Because seawater is so corrosive, two cast-iron mailboxes must be alternated every six months.
#3 – Pulau Layang-Layang, Malaysia
At the incredible depth of 131 feet, the underwater mailbox in Pulau Layang-Lang is easily the deepest in the world, far surpassing the previous world record of 33 feet. Installed on July 25, 2015, it will be in the Guinness Book of World Records once it has been approved and verified.
Photo via Free MalaysiaToday
A high altitude and low altitude mailbox – there’s something for everyone!
Postcards sent from the underwater mailbox are waterproof, have a special postmark, and are stamped with the Malaysia Book of Records logo, all of which make the postcards a souvenir for the recipients.
Two postmen, Victorley Marden, 25, and Ritchie Lester Lee, 35, were tasked with collecting the mail from the underwater mailbox.
#4 – Risor, Norway
If warm, balmy Caribbean waters aren’t your thing, you may want to take a plunge into the icy waters off the coast of Risor, Norway. Risor is a small town on the beautiful Southern coast of Norway, surrounded by many small lakes and hills.
The underwater mailbox is actually more than a mailbox – it’s a fully functioning post office. And more than that, it’s the only dry underwater post office in the world. The post office only operates during the summer months, when the climate is warmer and tourist season is at its peak.
Photo via karainsverige
The post office is constructed from a diving bell, which is how it actually remains dry while underwater. It sits at a depth of 13 feet up against a pier.
Although the underwater post office was initially a rousing success, dwindling numbers of letters and increasing costs led to its temporary closure in 2011. However, local businesses and the tourism board pitched in to keep it open.
Other Crazy Mailbox/Post Office Locations
Mailboxes can be found in all sorts of strange locations, not just underwater. The world’s highest post office is at the North Everest Base Camp, in Tibet, China. Sitting at 17,090 feet, only a few select individuals gain access to it.
The world’s only floating post office is in the state of Michigan, aboard the floating vessel J.W. Westcott II. The post office has been in operation for 125 years, and delivers mail to ships on Lake Michigan.
In the brush on the Galapagos Islands, you can find one of the oddest post offices in existence, consisting of only barrels, crates, and boxes filled with postcards. Visitors dig through the postcards, looking for any with addresses near them. If they find one, they then deliver it themselves.
If you’re a mailbox enthusiast, you may want to consider adding one of these locations onto your bucket list. After all, it’s not everyday you get to send a postcard from a depth of 133 feet or a height of 17,090 feet. If anything, these mailboxes prove that humans will always find a way to communicate, whether we’re at the bottom of the sea, on the lip of a volcano, or at the top of Mount Everest.
In 2001, the United States Postal Service released a statement saying:
We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.
While we certainly appreciate this sentiment, we do wonder: would Mount Everest stop them from delivering the mail?