A Postal History Gallery of Related Events


Transfer to Canada of the Arctic Islands


The Government of Canada declared its interest in including the Arctic Islands within the Dominion on October 10, 1874. It was considered a necessity due to the increasing entry of American explorers and whalers. But it was not passed until November 4, 1879, and with some reluctance noted, it declared ". . . all British territories or possessions in North America, not already included within the Dominion of Canada, and all Islands adjacent to any such territories or possessions shall forever (except Newfoundland and it's dependencies) be annexed to the Dominion." The British Government approved the order on July 31 and it took effect October 9, 1880. On October 20, 1895, the Government of Canada by another order-in-council constituted the provisional districts of Ungava, Franklin, MacKenzie and Yukon.

Under the command of Captain J.E. Bernier in 1904, the CGS ARCTIC patrolled whaler activity in Hudsons Bay and established a divisional police headquarters at Churchill. They wintered at Cape Fullerton and continued the patrol the following year until ARCTIC was ordered home for repairs in September.



First Canadian Hudsons Bay Expedition

A post card to Dr. Robert Bell in 1885 recalls the problems faced after setting up a study station at Ashe Point in Hudsons Bay. A recheck of the station the following spring found Ashe had contracted scurvy and required immediate medical attention. The card thanks Bell for his help.

"October, 1885 ... I have changed my address to 28 St. Amble Street, so that if you come down to Quebec this winter look me up then -- Still sore and stiff, but enjoying myself -- not raw potato however ..."

W.S. Ashe



Second Canadian Hudsons Bay Expedition

During preparations to put the expedition in the field, the Minister of Marine and Fisheries wrote to recommend that Dr. Robert Bell invite J.W. Tyrrell to join the crew of the ALERT. Tyrrell was selected and became a leader of several later study groups.


Jackson-Harmsworth Arctic Expedition

To Study Franz Josef Land for a Route to the North Pole . . .




One of the few known pieces of mail (with letter dated 8 April 1895) from the British Jackson-Harmsworth North Polar exploring expedition at Cape Flora, Franz Josef Land (that would save and return Nansen from his perilous North Pole trek attempt), bearing the expedition ship's S.Y. WINDWARD vignette as well as the expedition's location hand stamp. Uncanceled, it probably was returned on a British ship, being courtesy delivered (common practice at that time) by a ship's officer.


(Correspondence courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)


The Jackson Harmsworth Expedition conducted studies during 1894-97 and were preparing a dash to the pole when Nansen met them on his own return from an attempt over the pack ice. On his advice they suspended the plan.

A private label was used on outgoing mail carried by the annual supply ship. It was deposited at the first English port.



How Can the North Polar Region be Crossed ?


A solution devised by Fridtjof Nansen to cross the previously unnavigable polar icefields was tested in the design of the FRAM, a boat of immense strength and unusual form. The bow and stern were pointed, while the sides were sloped so the ice floes would not crush, but slip under the ship and lift her.

The design worked perfectly so that an ice party, consisting of Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen, separated for almost a year, were able to return to Norway in 1896 only a week apart. The entire party was considered national heroes in their homeland.



Otto Sverdrup has Taken the FRAM North

The card commemorates the return of the FRAM from the Nansen trip of 1896 and the writer added news of the new venture under Sverdrup who defined the northern boundary of Greenland during 1898-99. The FRAM, designed to resist ice pressures, was an excellent scientific vessel.


Canadian Geological Survey

The Geological Survey of Canada sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. DIANA in July, 1897, with Dr. Robert Bell leading this fourth expedition to the Arctic Islands. Mail from his wife who was visiting in Germany arrived late and was forwarded to the ship at Newfoundland. The expedition work began at Ashe Inlet in Baffin Bay and collected data on Arctic geology and flora.

The square boxed Halifax cancellation served as the forwarding mark.



To Float Over the Pole


Salamond Andree and two companions attempted to fly a balloon from Spitzbergen to the North Pole in 1897. Their fate was unknown for thirty five years until their remains were found on a small island within 300 miles of the starting point. They had perished attempting to return on foot.
Mail was not carried on the flight, but letters were posted from the base camp by the balloonists and visitors.


The Duke of Abruzzi Brought Italy Into the Polar Quest

The expedition placed their vessel at a high latitude and made an attempt to reach the North Pole by dog team during 1899.

Mail is not known from the party during the field period, but commemorative cards issued on their return were very popular.

(Exhibition pieces courtesy of George Hall)