History of Antarctic Exploration

Some examples from the heroic age of Antarctic postal history:

The first official letter from Antarctica recognized in the study of the Antarctic region

Captain Charles Jonathan Winship writes to his father (manuscript) from Potter Cove, the South Shetlands on 21 February 1821 that he arrived at O’Cain Harbor (named after his ship) earlier to begin sealing.

Double-weight rated (12-1/2c x 2 = 25c) for the distance between 80 and 150 miles (1816-45). Either a retuning tender did not submit for a SHIP fee or it was delivered by a US Navy vessel that was not authorized the SHIP fee.

There will also be material from the French polar explorer Dumont d’Urville who helped to confirm the discovery of the Antarctic continent.

One of two known letters from d´Urville Antarctic expedition.

Dumont d’Urville with two ships (Astrolabe and Zélée) went to Antarctica twice during a three-year scientific voyage to the South Pacific (1837-38, 1839-40).

1838-42 “Wilkes Antarctic Expedition” (USA)

Expedition Commander Charles F. Wilkes writes a folded letter to his wife in Washington, DC (February 20, 1842). He announces that a long scientific study in the Pacific will follow after exploring Antarctica and announces that he will return to the United states soon.

The only known letter from this expedition from Charles F. Wilkes

Englishman James Weddell – research and seal expedition in Antarctica (1822-24).

In February 1823 he reached 74 degrees South. It was the furthest south ever and today this sea is named after him.

After returning Weddell wrote his expeditionary story to the London publisher of “Edinburgh” (written manuscript of 18 August 1826).

1839-43 “British (Ross) Antarctic Expedition”

This is the earliest known concessionary letter from the Falkland Islands and one of the earliest known letters from Antarctic exploratory expeditions (the only preserved letter sent from Ross’s expedition).

Letter sent by seaman Richard Wall from the command ship H. M. Erebus to England (unpaid) at the concessionary seaman’s rate of 1d. At that time no post office yet on the Falklands.

1897-99 “Belgian Antarctic Expedition” – the first scientific expedition in Antarctica

All correspondence from the Belgian Antarctic Expedition is very rare and until recently unavailable.

Of course, two famous competitors on their way to the South Pole must not be missing.

1910-12 “Norwegian (Fram) Antarctic Expedition” (Roald Amundsen)

”Fram-Expeditionen” printed envelope sent by expedition leader Roald Amundsen to his brother Gustav at Kristiania. “Sent by R. Amundsen from the South Pole journey”, sent from Buenos Aires on 22 April 1911.

This is one of only three known pieces of official stationery from the expedition and the only known example of the expedition envelope sent by Amundsen from Antarctica to have travelled to Antarctica and have been sent by Amundsen on the return voyage from Antarctica.

1910-13 British (Terra Nova) Antarctic Expedition

Captain Scott canceled this cover at Cape Evans, 9 February 1911, with the expedition post office’s postmark and used special expedition postage stamp (overprinted by NZ) .

It was one of the first two dates of expedition mail.