Notes from the Past

Tin-Can Mail

Method of conveying mail between ship and shore by means of a buoyant, sealed canister, cast into the sea and retrieved by swimmers or canoes.  The most famous example was the Tin-Can Mail of operated for many years at Niuafo'ou, a remote island of the Tonga group where there was no suitable quay for a ship to come alongside.  It appears to have been started about 1890, but did not become well known until the 1930s.  Philatelic mail, bearing special cachets indicating its dispatch by the Tin Can, became so large that the natives found difficulty in handling it.  The swimmers conveyed outward mail to the ship as well as collecting the inward mail.  The system came to an end in 1946 when the population was evacuated following a volcanic eruption.  Some of the islanders returned in 1958, and the Tin-Can Mail was revived on one occasion in 1962.  Another Tin-Can Mail formerly operated on the Cocos Islands.  See also St. Kilda.
- R. J. Sutton 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony
The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia
Published 1966
 Posted January 30, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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