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. There is one minor exception - one of the mailboxes he manages is underwater.

It is located about 160 feet off the coast of Vanuatu. It is an island nation situated 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. Devised by the local postmaster and a resort owner, the post office opened in 2003. 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 and embossed with a special stamp. The post office developed a special metal device that marks each postcard 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. While 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, which 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, including ones in Susami, Japan; Risor, Norway and 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, scuba divers and anyone who can hold their breath long enough to make a transaction. Can’t swim? There’s also a mailbox located on terra firma 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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (7)
  • brendenr-cot
    9/26/2017 - 08:58 a.m.

    A tourists main reason to go somewhere is to experience everything about that certain place. That is why an underwater post office would appeal to tourists. The text states, “Swimming to the post office is a great way to see the local sea life,” he says. “It really is beautiful here.” The evidence from the text shows why an underwater post office would appeal to tourists.

  • calliy-orv
    9/26/2017 - 03:01 p.m.

    this is a very interesting story about like under ground how its basically called a vacation and theirs and post office that people under water can send mail to people that are on land and i find that interesting and i would like to read more of something like this again.i never knew there was a such thing like this i mean i knew that you can scuba dive and swim with dolphins and things like that but this is very cool. im going to put this on my bucket list i would like to try this one day it sounds terrifying but fun.

  • kayleew-lew
    9/29/2017 - 09:43 a.m.

    This is probably the coolest thing I have ever seen. It gives people an opportunity to say they sent someone mail underwater. They also get to look at a lot of sea life.

  • marcusw-lew
    9/29/2017 - 12:09 p.m.

    I think this is a very interesting idea because it makes people want to swim down and see the ocean life, deliver a letter or two and see just how beautiful nature is.

  • bradyg-lew
    9/29/2017 - 12:11 p.m.

    This story was very interesting, I never knew that there was an under water post card office until now! It was really cool and got me thinking how they kept there post cards/stamps dry.

  • kalobp-lew
    9/29/2017 - 12:18 p.m.

    Wow who ever would think they would put an under water post office they must have made tons of money,but my question is is why did they put it so deep under water?

  • lillyb-lew
    9/29/2017 - 12:47 p.m.

    I think that this is a good idea beacause it gives every one who visits the sight a great memory. I also think that more tourists will want to visit the atraction and will make them want to stay longer.

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