Millions of tonnes of goods are shipped all around the world by land, air, and sea every week. The stuff that is transported ranges from products such as iPhones and cars to major infrastructure. Over the years, we’ve seen some very unusual items shipped by post halfway around the world.
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Here is a fun list of some of the most unusual things that have ever been shipped – some of them might surprise you!
Having just come out of the biggest pandemic in the last 100 years, we all know how dangerous viruses and bacteria can be.
Back in the old days, however, if scientists needed to share samples of diseases with other researchers and doctors, the only way to do that was to post them out through the standard mail. As late as the 19th century, dangerous strains of diphtheria, scarlet fever and smallpox were put in envelopes and delivered by unsuspecting mail men and women.
It may astound you to learn that people have even been shipped in boxes to various destinations. In 1920 a couple in Ohio posted their 8-month-old child to the grandparents. That started a trend as soon as everyone began to realise that it was cheaper than buying a train ticket. Fortunately, common sense finally prevailed, and the practice was quickly outlawed by the postal service.
Before that in 1849, an escaped slave in Virginia called Henry Brown mailed himself to the free state of Pennsylvania. In 1964, Australian Olympic javelin thrower Reg Spiers found himself stranded in England and without the money to get home. He travelled for 3 days in a box before reaching Perth where he eventually hitch-hiked home.
- Titanic Artifacts
While people and diseases are unusual, we’ve also seen some amazing artefacts sent via freight around the world. Transporting a 3,000-tonne section of the Titanic’s hull by sea is a big logistics nightmare. It was made worse by the fact that the consignment got stranded in Greece and was held up by the customs inspectors before finally making its way to the Atlanta Museum in time for the opening of the exhibition.
- The James Webb Space Telescope
If you love everything about the universe around us, you will have heard of the James Webb Space Telescope and seen some of its amazing images. Before the telescope was launched into space, however, it had to be transported from NASA, through the Panama Canal to a launch site in French Guiana.
- A Dining Table Belonging to Van Gough
Not everything that is transported by land, sea or air is quite so unusual. One of the most expensive single items to be couriered from one country to another was Van Gough’s table he used to sit at when visiting the Auberge Ravoux Hotel in France. It was transported to nearby Switzerland when an exhibition of the artist’s works and life was being opened at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois.
- Human Organs
Finally, lifesaving organs for transplant are carried on air freight almost every day. It’s estimated that there were nearly 130,000 transportations of this kind around the world in 2020, everything from heats and kidneys to eyeballs.