When Illustration Friday had the ‘Mail’ theme a few weeks ago, I began to think of all the different ways that people have communicated over vast distances across the ages. I figured that homing pigeons made the cutest image, so here we are.
Actually, I was just curious about how the whole homing pigeon thing worked. Did you whisper directions into the bird’s ear or something?
The truth is always much simpler. Homing pigeons just really like to be, well, home. If you take a pigeon from it’s habitual roost, it will take to wing as soon as you let go and head straight back home again. So if, say, you’re an ancient Greek and you want to relay the winners of the Olympics to your family back home, you take a pigeon on the trail with you to Athens. Once you know who won, you put the message on the pigeon and the pigeon will take care of the rest.
It’s not all ancient history either. There are rafting businesses that use homing pigeons to send USB sticks with their customer rafting photos back to the photo lab, and they have been used repeatedly to show that homing pigeons can send large amounts of data over long distances faster than broadband.
On a separate note, have you ever wondered what we would put on our envelopes if we didn’t have a standardized address system?