A Postal History Gallery of Related Events


Joint Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition

The JOINT NORWEGIAN-BRITISH-SWEDISH ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION was a fourteen-man international scientific team that was based on the continent for a two year scientific program. In February 1950, the expedition's base MAUDHEIM was established at 71° 03'S, 10° 55'W on Quarisen, Dronning Maud Land. Significant meteorological, geophysical, seismic and glaciological programs were initiated. The area explored and researched included land claimed by Nazi Germany in 1939, as well as Norway during earlier visits.

In 1949 the Norwegian post office provided registered covers for collectors from the base as a means to offset expenses. No other mail was accepted. Mail was received in Oslo in May 1952.


Argentine Stations

Stations at Melchior (right) and Deception Islands (above) received postal status, although the first regular mail was delayed until 1951 due to a ship wreck. Service has been seasonal since that date.


A special flight to Deception Island marked the seasonal opening of the Argentine base in 1952. Two naval Catalina seaplanes, under Commander E. Iradlagoitia, carried an unknown amount of mail from the island on the return flight, while the activity continued to increase British protests.



(Covers courtesy of George Hall)



       BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Feb. 8 [Reuters] ---The air ministry tonight announced two navy sea planes, part of an Argentine south bound sea and air task force, landed on disputed Deception Island in the Antarctic's South Shetland group. Argentina and Britain claim the tiny island.
        The announcement added that air mail communications with the Antarctic have been established. The planes left here Jan. 30 and landed at Port Foster, Deception's harbor.
        Earlier this week Britain protested the firing of warning shots Feb. 1 over the heads of a British landing party at Hope Bay, Graham Land, another Antarctic territory. Argentina later told Britain the order to shoot was an error. The next day, the 1,580 ton British frigate Burghead Bay arrived at Hope Bay.



French Antarctica

Bearing one of the last usages of the "Terre Adelie / Antarctique" style cancellation, this 18 January 1952 crew mail has a middle usage period of the Madagascar overprinted stamp, expedition straight-line cachet and return address of a Norwegian crewmember aboard TOTTAN, the relief ship used to evacuate personnel from several sites then being manned by French Antarctic researchers.

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)



Chile and the Philatelic Propaganda Campaign

Chile entered the Philatelic Propaganda Campaign in November 1940 with a decree claiming portions of the Antarctic and using a postage stamp to define the claim. A naval base was established in the South Shetlands, and Graham Land was renamed O'Higgins Land in their claim.


The Little America Harbor Floated Away as the Ross Ice Shelf Split . . .

U.S. Navy Antarctic Expedition

The visit of the USS ATKA in 1955 discovered that because of a major break in the Ross Ice Shelf, most of the area on which earlier United States camps were placed had dropped into the ocean and sailed northward.

The USS ATKA was searching for a suitable base for scientific studies during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. The loss was great since all the supplies left by previous expeditions were lost. Helicopters from the ship were assigned to search for and identify suitable alternative camp sites.

This official mail from the Weather Bureau representative is canceled at USS ATKA's on-board post office 6 February 1955 on a penalty envelope of the Department of Commerce with the expedition's ship cachet as it was heading back to the United States after its successful mission in Antarctic waters.

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)



Establishment of Shackleton Base

Cdr. Prof. Rainer Goldsmith, MD, led the precursor group. They arrived in the Weddell Sea by ship on Jan. 30, 1956. The unloading onto the pack ice lasted 8 days. By the time the ship left for home, the group had only been able to transport half the material to firm land when a terrible storm, lasting several days, started to blow away the ice and the rest of the equipment (gasoline for the "snow cat", building material, etc.). Due to this disaster, the Goldsmith party had to spend the icy winter of 1956 in the unheated "snow cat" until the main Fuchs group arrived (Jan. 27, 1957). Prof. Goldsmith had official permission to establish a post office. Enclosed in this "first day" cover is a letter from him addressed to a potteries manufacturer ...

"Having late note of the quality of your ceramic wear and the way that it stands up to very cold climates, I would be most obliged if you would manufacture and deliver for this expedition mugs 1/2 pint suitably decorated and inscribed to whit..."

(Courtesy of Gary Pierson)



Operation Deepfreeze


STAGE I : 1955-56

Operation Deepfreeze was planned in two stages. Deepfreeze I, in 1955-56 was designed to build an airfield at McMurdo Sound. Another base was to be built near Little America in the Bay of Whales. Seven ships and 1800 men participated in the first year.

Two Neptune and two Skymaster aircraft flew from New Zealand to an airstrip on sea ice in McMurdo Sound on December 19, 1955. Subsequently, nine long-range exploratory flights were made to various points on the continent, including the South Pole and southern extremity of the Weddell Sea..

STAGE II: 1956-57

Deepfreeze II, in 1956-57, was intended to build a permanent station at the South Pole along with establishment of three other IGY stations...Byrd station in Marie Byrd Land, Wilkes station in Vincennes Bay / Windmill Islands and Ellsworth station on the Filchner Ice Shelf. Covers, such as this one, exist in enormous quantities. Covers serviced at the Pole Station during Deepfreeze II rank as the most prolific Antarctic cover in existence.

Of the number of ships comprising Operation Deepfreeze I, which was the beginning of officially continuing US Antarctic Research Expeditions, the one with the most elusive mail is YOG 34. It and another yard oiler were towed to Antarctica to be used to fuel arriving aircraft flying in from New Zealand. Its officer-in-charge, Lt. Blades, USN, carved a marking for use on his temporary crew's mail that was canceled at other shipboard post offices (in this case, the supply vessel USS WYANDOT). The address on this mail indicates that it is one of the pieces Admiral Byrd had prepared for his own personal postal documentation.

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)



Admiral Byrd's Snow Cruiser, from the US ANTARCTIC SERVICE EXPEDITION 1939-41, was found at Little America during DFIII.

SEP 4, 1957 ARMY AF Postal Service APO 942 (Greenland) and NOV 15, 1957 Little America cancellations tie US franking on this Wilkins flown cover from the North Pole to the South Pole. Dates have been filled in with flights of 3 different aircraft, including to and from Hawaii. Signed, Hubert Wilkins.


Trans-Antarctic Expedition


"This cover is signed by the parties that crossed the Antarctic continent at the South Pole Station, including now "Sir Fuchs". One was made and given to each of us that wintered-over and assisted at the South Pole (midway point in the crossing). A total of 18 covers exist. Some of the signers later climbed Mt. Everest"

(Courtesy of Gary Pierson)