Atlas Quest: International Letterboxing Is Alive!

However, it serves a special purpose. is not a website—it’s an e-mail address. Let me explain.

The History

Once upon a time, there was, and it was good. Later, I pondered how this site could be improved, and I hit on the idea of being able to forward AQ mail to real e-mail addresses. To make a long story longer, in AQ’s early history, e-mail was especially unreliable and could not be depended upon. At all. Absolutely terrible. The website was hosted on a shared server with a shared IP address and other accounts on the server were often identified as sources of spam. While AQ never sent spam, it was often considered guilty by association. Thus, e-mail simply did not work.

As a result, AQ mail was born. It did require members to log into the site, but it was also reliable. This was good.

Atlas Quest since grew up and moved on to green pastures where it now has a unique IP address and is no longer associated with those evil spammers. E-mail became much more dependable, and perhaps people would like AQ mail forwarded to their e-mail addresses again?

Another Catch

If only it were so easy.... One nice thing about AQ mail is that you could hide your real e-mail address from other letterboxers while still being able to communicate with them. Additionally, since spammers rarely make the effort to create an account on Atlas Quest to send spam, AQ mail became a remarkably spam-free location. Oh, sometimes someone does send spam, but after over two years, I can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened. AND—because the mail was hosted on Atlas Quest—once the spam was identified, it could be deleted before many people even realized it was sent!

Forwarding AQ mail to a member’s real e-mail address would require that people could "reply-to" the person who sent the message. It would expose that person’s real e-mail address. Or would it....? is Born

What if every user on Atlas Quest had a unique e-mail address tied to Atlas Quest. Something like Except wouldn’t work especially well—I use a lot of those e-mail addresses, and if someone signed up with a trailname of an e-mail address I actually used, they’d start getting my e-mail! I needed a new domain name, and seemed as good as any and better than most.

Easy to remember? Check. All e-mail addresses were available for use? Check.

Now Atlas Quest can assign each account on Atlas Quest a unique e-mail address in the form If a trail name has spaces, just remove the spaces since e-mail addresses aren’t supposed to include spaces, so my e-mail address would be

Now AQ can forward AQ mail, and it’ll allow you to reply to the sender through this e-mail address. Here’s the interesting part, though: That e-mail address is actually just a portal into the AQ mail system.

Let’s say you reply to a message from me, so you send off a response to Atlas Quest, every five to ten minutes, checks all e-mails to It figures out which member on Atlas Quest the e-mail is meant for by who the recipient of the e-mail is, but is also figures out who the e-mail was sent from. Since you replied from your real e-mail address, AQ can look up which member has that e-mail address and, obviously, that member must be who the e-mail is from. Your original e-mail address gets stripped out of the message, and if the message needs to be forwarded to the recipient, your address is substituted for your real e-mail address.

Confused yet? It’s quite a complicated process. Basically, the e-mail you sent still goes to Atlas Quest, then AQ strips out your private e-mail address and replaces it with your public one.

Things You Need To Know

It’s quite an effective method, but there are limitations you should know about before you depend on the e-mail address.

And there you have it: Everything you need to know about and probably more than that. And, alas, that’s all this website is about. I had the domain already, and was using it as an e-mail portal into AQ mail, so what better place to explain it all than on this page? =)

— Green Tortuga

Letterboxing Stats for Green Tortuga