Who wants a postcard from Tristan da Cunha?

Tristan da Cunha receives fewer than ten scheduled ship visits each year. Aboard each of those ships is an eagerly-awaited mail delivery. I will be on the island for roughly twenty-six days and will have plenty of time to write postcards. It will feel strange however to know that the first postcard I write will not be on its way any sooner than the last because the next ship that will be taking the mail away will also be the one I board to take me back to Cape Town. I will make frequent use of the island’s pillar box:


found outside the Tristan da Cunha post office:

TdCpost office

Here is a shot from inside the post office:


As when I travelled to North Korea I will again be mailing a postcard to myself. Its mythical journey from Tristan da Cunha to Mississauga will be spoiled in a way, because I will know exactly its route off the island to Cape Town. From then on, however, it’s on its own as the mail is sorted and sent on from South Africa to wherever it goes en route to Canada.

My trip to Tristan is still a long way off as I don’t leave till Labour Day. So why am I writing about mail now?

For myself, a lover of post offices, stamps, mail, and the epistolary arts, I think that there would be no better treat to welcome me on the island than to receive a letter when I arrive. There will be a mail bag aboard the S. A. Agulhas II, the South African research vessel that will bring me to the island. What if there was mail in that bag addressed for me?


There are nine mail deliveries to Tristan this year and the estimated arrival for the next deliveries are 26 March, 30 May, 4 July, sometime in late August and 10 September. I will be aboard the S. A. Agulhas II, which arrives in September. My contact on the island wrote back saying that my request to receive mail was new to her, yet she couldn’t foresee it causing any problems. I am surprised to hear that tourists haven’t done this kind of thing before. Perhaps they have, yet I might have been the first one who was thoughtful enough to ask the authorities about it in advance. Just because my departure for the island isn’t until September is no reassurance that late letter-writers will get their mail to me on time. My contact writes:

“The hardest thing will be ensuring the post arrives around the time that it should, good luck with that.”

Her warning tells me that mail addressed to Tristan da Cunha probably travels a long roundabout way before it finds itself in the proper shipment bag for the next scheduled trip to the island. Just because it might take a week for a letter from Toronto to arrive in South Africa doesn’t mean that you should wait till mid-August to write.

I have received approval that one may write to me c/o:

Craig Rowland
S. A. Agulhas II passenger tourist
Poste Restante
Tristan da Cunha
South Atlantic

I guarantee to send a postcard to anyone who sends me a letter or postcard that I receive on Tristan.


More pillar box photos:



The larger photo above appears to be in a different location from either of the other two shots, but I’ll leave it to those who have actually been there to confirm. I will let you all know myself this autumn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *