A Postal History Gallery of Related Events




Erich von Drygalski

First German Antarctic Expedition

Mail from the first German Antarctic continent expedition, led by Erich von Drygalski. The cover is addressed to Dr. Carl Chun, leader of the 1898-99 German sub-Antarctic expedition aboard VALDIVIA. The GAUSS was en route back to Germany, stopping at Durban, Union of South Africa, 3 June 1903, after becoming the second vessel to winter in the Antarctic.

First use of dated-name marking from any French Antarctic territory site on this first mail from the Kerguelen-group during the First German Antarctic (GAUSS) Expedition 1901-03. This expedition printed card and other first mail dispatches were taken from Kerguelen on 21 December 1901 by North German Lloyd (NDL) vessel TANGLIN. This ship was contracted by the expedition to transport initial group members (who had been brought from Germany aboard another NDL vessel, KARLSRUHE) from Sydney to Kerguelen on 9 November 1901, shown in the straight line cache. The German ship postmark of 10 January 1902 was applied by NDL Australische Hauptlinie vessel FRIEDRICH DE GROSSE, upon receiving TANGLIN mail at Sydney for carraige back to Germany (leaving Sydney 8 days later). The card has a Dusseldorf (destination) receipt stamp of 25 February 1902.

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)

Sent by expedition scientist Dr.Karl Luyken, one of four out of five in Kerguelen group to survive the 1-1/2 year stay

(Wharton BA-4)




Otto Nordenskjöld

Swedish National Expedition



Mail from a crewmember aboard S.Y. ANTARCTIC of the nearly disastrous 1901-03 Swedish Antarctic expedition, while at Buenos Aires, canceled there 10 February 1902 with the expedition ship's oval cachet and receipt backstamp in Stockholm, 7 March 1902, while the expedition was heading south to its winter quarters and eventual sinking.

(Courtesy of George Hall)


The failure of the Swedish National Antarctic Expedition to return after two winters called for a search party. The Argentine naval ship URUGUAY, under the command of Captain Julian Irizar, recovered the party from Snow Hill Island in 1903.

The Swedish expedition ship S.Y. ANTARCTIC was crushed in the Weddell Sea and the entire party was trapped until the Argentine rescue team arrived. (Wharton CD-1a)

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)



  Robert Falcon Scott

British National Antarctic Expedition

Under the command of Captain Robert F. Scott, DISCOVERY sailed from London on July 31, 1901. From postcard publishers E. Wrench, of London, four cards were printed for the "Links of the Empire" collection. For a subscription price of two shillings, each card would be posted at a suitable port of call during the expedition and directed to the subscriber's address. Every card would also carry a cancellation of S.S. DISCOVERY. This is the first of the series (Wharton DA-1), posted on the departure date of DISCOVERY.

(Courtesy of Gary Pierson)


A base camp was established in McMurdo Sound in February 1902 for the British Antarctic Expedition. Subsequently, the ice locked the ship in place for two seasons. With relief ships standing by to evacuate them, the ice released them in February 1904.

Special cards printed for the use of the crew were hand carried to England where they were placed in the mails. (Wharton DC-1)


(Courtesy of George Hall)


When the expedition ship DISCOVERY finally broke free of the ice, a variety of letters were mailed from New Zealand. Special postmarks were not used, although letters from the DISCOVERY carried a mark that looked like a postmark, but did not cancel any stamps. (Wharton DA-4)




  William S. Bruce

Scottish National Antarctic Expedition


A 1903 picture postcard of the SCOTIA in Scotia Bay, South Orkneys. Addressed to Dr. Pirie, the expedition's physician. This expedition led to the establishment of the first Antarctic post office when Bruce's station on Laurie Island was transferred to Argentina.

Another fine example . . .

Argentina established the first Antarctic post office on Laurie Island upon the termination of the work of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition program. A meteorological staff came with fully authorized postal authority. The cancellation indicates the office is in the southernmost district of Argentina. (Wharton EC-1862)

"Memento of taking over the Scottish station on Laurie Island by the Argentine party."

(Courtesy of George Hall)


A simple message from the ship's captain, Thomas Robertson, mentions his ship, S.Y. SCOTIA, on this postcard mailed at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands on 21 February 1904. The vessel, from the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, was en route to Buenos Aires after wintering on Laurie Island in the South Orkney Islands. William S. Bruce and the crew of the SCOTIA became the first to explore the vicinity of the Weddell Sea.


(Courtesy of the Herb & Janice Harvis)


Jean-Baptiste Charcot

First French Antarctic Expedition

Jean-Baptiste Charcot signed FRANÇAIS Antarctic Expedition postcards (Wharton FB-3); canceled EN ROUTE (above) at Ushuaia, Argentina, on 3 January 1904 . . .

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)
. . . and ON RETURN (above) to Buenos Aires, 3 April 1905. This expedition surveyed the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. (Wharton FB-2)

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)


Jean Charcot (signed) led this privately financed French scientific party to Antarctica during 1903-05. The LES FRANÇAIS arrived in Buenos Aires in December 1903 where special postcards were printed (Wharton XLN-37) for use of expedition members. Outgoing mail was dispatched during resupply visits to South American ports.

(Courtesy of George Hall)