Visiting Post-office Bay

By: Eric Castro

One of the unusually attractive Galapagos visitor sites, due to its historic content, is Post Office Bay, Floreana Island. A beautiful olivine beach (similar to Punta Cormorant) welcomes us, next to a dense salt-bush forest. Few meters inland we find a series of marine objects, including boats names, and most important a wooden barrel that holds postcards and notes from the most diverse origins. History tells us that by the end of the 1700's some sailor nailed a wooden box to a tree, and called it "Hathaway's Post Office". However, it is the British Captain James Colnett, who spreads the word and talks about a mailing system where packages and letters can be left there and get picked up by a passing ship in route to such destination.

Soon Post-Office Bay became a mandatory stop to all sailors in Galapagos waters. In this vast and remote Pacific Ocean, it was the only official way to communicate with relatives, friends and governments.

The system worked under a very simple concept: anyone could leave mail at the barrel, and a passing ship will collect it and hand-deliver it later. At the time, the islands were well visited by ships navigating the world's oceans, and chances of getting your mail around continents was actually quite likely to occur. You could also receive your mail here too; if a ship brought mail, it will drop it at the barrel, and the recipient will collect it later. This was indeed a useful service, free of cost, and gave everyone a chance to communicate while in Pacific waters. As far as we know, Post Office Bay, is the earliest mailing system still existing in the East Tropical Pacific.

During the war of 1812-1813 between the United States and England, Post Office Bay played a key role in these countries fate. The US Captain David Porter of the USS Essex, managed to capture over 30 British brigantines and frigate ships in Galapagos waters alone. Since the islands' waters were common location for the British fleet (for whaling purposes), Porter read the mail at Post Office and figured out the possible locations of the wanted ships. Sadly, all these sailors did not know the war had ended about six months ago. Thus, this war is also known as the "War of Miscommunications".

Today, our visitors continue with the tradition (but don't read someone else's mail!), and take the postcards that match the country, state, city, even the same street. There are times that this system may be better than many regular postal services. Post Office Bay also holds some unique wildlife sites, all with rewarding landscapes to observe. For instance, La LoberÃ?a, has a large colony of sea lions, next to islets that still display the unique cacti of Floreana Island. Also, along the shoreline marine iguanas, rays, sea turtles and even sharks can be spotted. Farther out, some smaller rocks show small colonies of Galapagos Penguins. A site called the Baroness' Observatory show a breath-taking view of La LoberÃ?a and the inland features of Floreana Island.

For more information about Galapagos Cruises & Tours visit:

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