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Dead medium: Tongan Tin Can Mail
From: From: Layton)

"When copra traders set up operations on the island (Niuafo'ou) near the turn of the century, a method of communications became necessary. At one time passing steamers would seal incoming mail for the island in ship's 40-pound biscuit tins which were then thrown overboard to native swimmers.

"The swimmers had maneuvered a mile or more through the turgid surf, towing the outgoing mail that had been carefully soldered in tins. The swimmers and ship would exchange mail containers and each would be on their way.

From this unique method of mail delivery, the island became known as Tin Can Island and the letters carried thus are called Tin Can Mail.

"The swimming mail lasted until 1931 when a shark killed a swimmer. From then on, mail was brought in by outrigger canoe..."

(((Suzanna Layton remarks: The page goes on to chronicle particular heroes of the service, and has pictures and a link to the Tonga and Tin Can Mail Study Circle (, which was formed in *1980*. Well worth an idiosyncratic visit.)))

 Dr Suzanna Layton Lecturer Print Journalism School of Film, Media and Culture Studies Griffith University Nathan, Q 4111 Australia Ph 61-7-3875-7077 Fx 61-7-3875-7730 E W

(((bruces remarks: in a further astonishing twist, the Kingdom of Tonga now makes a commercial business of selling Internet domain names. There is now an automatic registration site on the Web, Tongan Network Information Center ( based in a server in the Tongan consulate in San Francisco. TONIC sells Tongan domain name registrations for a hundred dollars each, and is managed by former virtual reality entrepreneur Eric Gullichsen, a notable pioneer of modern dead media.)))