The informal post office in the middle of the ocean

Way back in the days of no fiber optic internet, bountiful pirates and completely unregulated whaling, sailors had a rough time communicating to their betrothed back home. Once a shiphand had set out, there was no telling when he'd get back to his missus, let alone tell her via snail mail if the wedding was still on or not. Okay, maybe my example is a little specific, I'm sure that parents and friends were concerned too, but you get the point. And besides, can you imagine being that poor girl at the docks?

Messages in a bottle are famously unreliable and are usually returned to sender if they don't get waterlogged along the way. Lucky for the skipper and his crew, some enterprising sailors set up a post office on Floreana island, way off the coast of Ecuador, to mitigate heartbreak, amongst other things. Crews would stop on the island for refueling, eating up the island's supply of giant tortoises to the point of extinction and would leave their letters in a little barrel on the island's north shore. This informal little post office operates entirely on goodwill. Sailors (and now tourists) heading inland would take the letters and bring them ashore, where they'd then be sent on their way to the author's intended. It sounds easy, but this process would occasionally take years. It involved no stamps, money or federal employees. Just kindness, cardinal directions, a sextant, salt water and probably a lot of whale oil. Incidentally, this is also how you make a perfect creme brulee.

The most amazing part of this historical tale is that the system is still working! Every year, thousands of Galapagos visitors drop off letters and postcards in Post Office Bay. Other visitors headed close to an addressee will pick up the letters and take them home.

Occasionally, those who pick up the letters simply put a stamp on them and mail them, but traditionally, if you pick up a letter addressed to someone who lives near your home, you're supposed to hand-deliver it and tell the tale of how it got there!