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Letter posted in Galapagos whalers' barrel returns to UK quicker than its sender

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 01, 2013

Sarah Parker delivering the postcard to Bill and Jean Ashburner

Sarah Parker delivering the postcard to Bill and Jean Ashburner

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A postcard from the Galapagos Islands has been hand delivered to Lincolnshire couple Bill and Jean Ashburner – using the same method of mail as whale hunters in the 18th century.

The whalers used to put their post into a wooden barrel on the islands, which was then collected and delivered by other seafarers travelling to the same destination.

The barrel is still there and still used today by visitors to the Galapagos.

And marine biologist Jon Ashburner used it to send a postcard to his parents when he was on a break last month from his work with the British Antarctic Survey.

No stamps are used on any of the post put into the barrel and it can often remain there for years before it is discovered by someone heading to the right part of the world.

The postcard

But Jon's postcard was only in the barrel for five days before it was found among more than 300 items by teacher Sarah Parker, 31, who is daughter of Lincolnshire county councillor Rob Parker and his wife Sue.

She decided to deliver it in person when she visited her parents in Lincoln's Carline Road a few weeks later – and has now made the trip to Bill and Jean's home in Silver Street, Minting, near Wragby.

Sarah, who works as an English teacher in Kathmandu, Nepal, was visiting the Galapagos Islands for a sailing holiday with her long distance boyfriend Michael, who works in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

She said: "Before I went to the Galapagos I actually read a book about the islands which described how the postbox barrel system works.

"I thought it was brilliant how it's been used for hundreds of years to communicate with the outside world.

"So I was pleased to be able to deliver Jon's postcard to his parents before he actually got home to Lincolnshire."

Mr and Mrs Ashburner said they were astounded that the postcard had made it home before Jon, 27, who is expected to return from his long-term assignment in South America on Saturday.

Jon said: "It is a wonderful coincidence that Sarah came across my card in Post Office Bay. I wasn't sure if it would even make it to the UK, let alone beat me home!

"And I hope I have similar luck with the other cards I sent – but one is destined for my previous workplace in South Georgia."

The postbox

Jean Ashburner said: "Jon and his girlfriend Kate have both been working for the British Antarctic Survey on Bird Island, which means we haven't seen him for two years.

"He was calling off on the islands as part of the holiday of a lifetime and he's just the type of person to use the postbox."

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