Niuafo'ou is a tiny island
in the Tonga group (south of Samoa). When Europeans settled there to
engage in the copra trade a unique method of exchanging mail was
devised. Passing steamships sealed mail for the island in ship's
40-pound biscuit tins and threw them overboard to native swimmers. The
swimmers also brought outgoing mail to the ships in the same
containers soldered shut to keep the seawater out. The island soon
took the name “Tin Can Island” from its unusual method of mail
delivery. The tin can mail stopped in 1931 when a swimmer was killed
by a shark.
In 1983 a set of four stamps was issued that used the
same design as the first 16 stamps issued by Niuafo'ou showing a map
of the island. Only one stamp is shown.