Where would we be, had it not been for the great explorers of yesteryears!
History is filled with many explorers who set sail to new places in the process, discovering unknown lands and places. In today’s time of modern technology and communication, it is sometimes hard to believe things that happened in the past. But, yes, there was a time when going from one place to the other and returning back was considered a very adventurous task. These journeys and explorations also lead to some new traditions and customs being created. The post box is one such thing.
Read along to find more trivia on the first unofficial post box.
The Portuguese and the Post Box Tree in Mossel Bay, South Africa
Bartolomeu Dias was one of the greatest Portuguese navigator and explorer who led the first European expedition to round the Cape of Good Hope (1488), in the process opening the sea route to Asia via the Atlantic and Indian oceans. He is considered to be the greatest of the Portuguese pioneers who explored the Atlantic during the 15th century.
The story goes that, a few ships which went on an expedition, off the coast of South Africa, during the 1500’s couldn’t manage to stay afloat in a storm. Only one of the ships managed to stay afloat. This ship found shelter in a bay and rode out the storm. The captain of the ship, Pêro de Ataíde, left a letter under a tree in Mossel Bay. He left behind an account of what had happened, detailing the loss of the ships and the fleet. The letter also contained information about the troubles in the eastern seas. The captain put the letter in an old shoe and hung the shoe from a tree, very close to the shore.
In those days it was customary for passing ships to stop on the bay to take on food and fresh water. A year later, when another Portuguese navigator, João da Nova, put in at the very same bay, found the letter in the shoe. João da Nova established a small colony/settlement in this very same place before he left. The people of this colony soon began to use the shoe as a post box. Slowly, even other explorers who stopped by the bay on their way to India began to put letters in the shoe.
This was probably the world’s first unofficial post box! The shoe was used for several years as a post box. The tree on which the shoe was hung, the Milkwood tree, still stands in the town of Mossel Bay in South Africa. This tree is said to be over 600 years old and has been declared a national monument. A post box was also set up under it.
This post box is unlike the other regular post boxes that you see. It is in the shape of a boot/shoe. The letters posted here are franked with a commemorative stamp. The post office tree is one of the town’s biggest tourist attractions.
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