Whale mail is the new snail mail at the world's first underwater post office You have to swim to reach the world's first underwater post office in Vanuatu. (Courtesy Vanuatu Post/Dave Lonsdale/Flickr)
Whale mail is the new snail mail at the world's first underwater post office
Lexile

Vira Timbaci’s post office job is similar to that of many postal workers around the world. But, there is one minor difference. One of the mailboxes he manages is underwater.

It is located about 160 feet off the coast of Vanuatu. It is an island nation located about 1,000 miles east of northern Australia. The mailbox and converted fiberglass water tank are submerged ten feet beneath the surface of Mele Bay. It is a body of water that feeds into the South Pacific Ocean. It post office opened in 2003. It was devised by the local postmaster and a resort owner. It is the world’s first underwater post office. It makes it possible for vacationers to send postcards back home from under the sea.  

“Every week hundreds of postcards are dropped off at the underwater post office,” Timbaci tells Smithsonian.com. “The number goes up when cruise ships come into port.”

It’s Timbaci’s job to ensure that the postcards are collected on time at 3 p.m. each day. He is the postal manager. Postcards are made of waterproof plastic. They are embossed with a special stamp. The post office developed a special metal device that marks each postcard. It does this without using ink. Ink would smear on contact.

Visitors know that the post office is open for business when a flag is flown at the surface. Timbaci sometimes straps on scuba gear and mans the post office himself. He often taps one of the dive masters at the nearby Hideaway Island Resort and Marine Sanctuary to help out. At one time, the local postal service trained its postal clerks to scuba dive.  But over time this additional specialized training became difficult to maintain. That is why the dive masters now pitch in.

“Swimming to the post office is a great way to see the local sea life,” he says. “It really is beautiful here.”

In the years since its opening, there have been several copycat underwater mailboxes that have opened. This includes ones in Susami, Japan and Risor, Norway. There is also one in Pulau Layang-Layang, Malaysia. It is the world's deepest located more than 130 feet underwater. But the one at Vanuatu will go down in history as being the first of its kind.

The Vanuatu underwater post office is open to snorkelers and scuba divers. It is open to anyone who can hold their breath long enough to make a transaction. Can’t swim? There’s also a mailbox located on land at the resort that will mail the waterproof postcards.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why would an underwater post office appeal to tourists?
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COMMENTS (39)
  • holdenj-orv
    9/25/2017 - 02:50 p.m.

    This seems Legit.

  • kirshaunm-orv
    9/25/2017 - 09:41 p.m.

    I think an underwater post office would appeal to tourist because it's unique and there's nothing like it. This would be super fun to visit if I knew how to swim!

  • Ayannac-dal
    9/26/2017 - 10:53 a.m.

    I wonder if the underwater post office is for the fish to communicate with other fish or fish family members?

  • jamariw-orv
    9/26/2017 - 01:12 p.m.

    an underwater post office would appeal to tourists because instead of leaving the water they could send letters back home to their family.

  • levit-orv
    9/26/2017 - 04:35 p.m.

    A underwater post office would appeal to tourists because when they are under the water in the fiber glass tank they can send messages to the out side world back to home with out leaving the underwater tank. do u think it is cool.

  • brycew-orv
    9/27/2017 - 02:50 p.m.

    I think that the underwater post office is so cool! That way you can keep your friends and family updated of their stay under the sea.

  • RaeAnns-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:45 a.m.

    I think it is a really cool that there is an underwater post office.

  • Lilyh-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:49 a.m.

    Because it sounds like a neat way to send mail.

  • Mitchils-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:53 a.m.

    that is really cool but dangerous

  • Sebastianr-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:56 a.m.

    they might think can we live underwater. They'll think how much money does the gear and mail cost. How'd they get the money, why does it have to be underwater. Do people live in underwater houses. It seems cool to me how they can do it under water for fourteen years doing the same thing.

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