Almost 100 years after Sir Douglas Mawson tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a Post Office at Cape Denison, his wish has been fulfilled. On 20 December 2010 the first letters emblazoned with a Cape Denison postmarker were stamped at Mawson’s Huts in Commonwealth Bay. The new Post Office is the seventh Post Office in the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT).
Mawson’s request to the Australian Postmaster General in 1911 to provide special postage stamps for use during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition was declined, despite him designing a special stamp for the purpose. The first Post Office in the AAT wasn’t established until 1947 at Heard Island. A second opened at Macquarie Island the following year. On the Antarctic continent the third Post Office was established at Mawson station in 1954, followed by Davis station in 1957. The fifth Post Office opened in 1959 at Wilkes, following the handover of the station from the USA to Australia. The sixth was opened at Casey station in 1969.
The Doctor for the Mawson’s Huts Foundation team this year, David Tingay, was appointed the first Post Agent for Cape Denison. He said the team was kept busy franking more than 1500 postal items.‘We received 550 regular mail requests, 500 from stamp collectors and about 500 souvenir postal items. There was a huge interest from the people off the tourist ships over summer. We “Antarcticised” the post box, cutting a hole in the top and setting it up outside on the ice. We also had to weigh it down with rocks to stop it from blowing away,’ Dr Tingay said.
Two pictorial postmarkers featuring the Huts, a map of the AAT and a group of Adélie penguins, were designed for the Cape Denison Post Office. One was the First Day of Issue postmarkers, which was only used on the inaugural day, and the other an ‘everyday’ postmarker which will be used on future expeditions.
Corporate Communications, Australian Antarctic Division