Post offices around the world can be charming, unique, or simply functional, but few places feature underwater post offices. Swimming and letter writing are some of my favorite pastimes, but not necessarily together! Only a few underwater post offices have survived, but they have their place in history.
Twenty years ago, the small town of Risør, located in the south of Norway, constructed an underwater post office as a novelty for tourists. Established by the local scuba diving club, it was billed as the only dry underwater post office in the world.
Constructed in the form of a diving bell, weighted and anchored to the ocean bottom, the post office was air tight. For eight years, it operated only during the summer months as a tourist attraction. Visitors and locals could drop their letters into a nearby box on the pier, collected by the local postmaster general, processed underwater, then returned to the regular mail.
In 2004, the first year of operation, over five thousand pieces of mail were processed, but by 2011, that number had dwindled to just over 300. In its final year in 2012, 370 pieces of mail were processed before the post office was permanently closed. Had I ever visited Risør, one of those letters or cards might have been from me.
The Sea Floor post office in the Bahamas is attributed as the world’s first underwater post office (1939–1941). It was created to publicize the pioneering underwater efforts of the American photographer John Ernest Williamson (1881–1966). Williamson was a well- known underwater photographer, who contributed to numerous underwater documentaries. Sea Floor underwater covers became a philatelist’s delight, attracting collectors from all over the world, and are of value to collectors today.
The underwater post office in Vanuatu is currently an operating postal service. The Republic of Vanuatu is a collection of 83 islands located in the Southwest Pacific. Its nearest neighbors are Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands.
Established by the Vanuatu Post in 2003, the post office is three meters deep, located off Hideaway Island in a marine sanctuary. This post office sells special waterproof postcards, which are hand canceled with a special stamp rather than ink. Snorkelers and divers are welcome to visit the capsule, where staff will cancel their letters. When closed, there is a postal box where the underwater explorers can deposit the cards.
The Layang-Layang Dive Resort, one of several underwater post offices in Malaysia, is located on Layang-Layang Island, off the north coast of Sabah, Borneo. The resort’s post office, established in 2015, is the world’s deepest underwater post office at 40 meters below sea level.
According to Conde Nast Traveller, “Visitors can share their experiences with family and friends by sending waterproof postcards bearing a special postmark and Malaysia Book of Records logo.” There is a catch, however. Only certified Advanced Scuba Divers are allowed to dive this deep.
One characteristic that all underwater post offices share is that they exist in beautiful places that are worth visiting. Especially if you are a scuba diver.
The idea for this post was contributed by Maxine, who also provided helpful tips for research. Thank you, Max!