History of Postal Material from Wilkes Antarctica

Prior to Australia (ANARE) taking over Wilkes from the USAP, there was no official post office at Wilkes and all post was via ships mail in the Vincennes Bay area. The first cancellation of mail at the Australian post office was on the 1st of February 1959. On completion of Repstat (Replacement Station, to be named Casey) the Wilkes post office closed, the last post being the 8th of February 1969.

The Vincennes Bay area (named for Wilkes' flagship), on the Knox Coast, Wilkes Land, was surprisingly short of visitors until very recently. Wilkes originally reported sighting land in the area, but this land was later sailed over by Ross. The area was not visited again until 1947 when the massive Operation Highjump made a major aerial mapping a large parts of Antarctica. This was the first visit and landing in the area. The area was again visited in 1948 when the smaller Operation Windmill went back to survey ground points to locate the aerial photography. The area was not visited again until the next wave of international interest in Antarctica triggered by the IGY and IPY. There is ships mail from both Operations Highjump and Windmill, though I have not seen any that are specifically cancelled in the Vincennes Bay area.

In 1957 the United States Navy established an IGY station on Clark Peninsula called Wilkes. Until an official post office was opened by ANARE all mail from Wilkes was ships mail. Numerous ships, including USN and ANARE, visited the area prior to February 1959. After the opening of the post office on 1st February 1959 all further opening of the post office are associated with ship visits. Milner lists a number of cancellation dates associated with ship visit which I have not seen examples of.

Cancellation Dates

Pre 1960 Ships Mail
1 Feb 1959 Opening Australian Post Office first use of APM1320
13 Feb 1960 Post Office Open first use of APM1400
10 Jan 1961 Post Office open - Pentathol postcard cancelled
10 Jan 1962 Post Office Open first use of APM1620
18 Jan 1963 Post Office open
15 Jan 1964 Post Office open - Nella Dan
18 Jan 1965 Post Office open
18 Jan 1966 Post Office open - Nella Dan
28 Jan 1966 Post Office open - Thala Dan & Nella Dan
9 Feb 1967 Post Office Open first use of APM2310
22 Jan 1968 Post Office open - M.S. Nella Dan
8 Feb 1969 Post Office Open, Opening of Repstat, last Wilkes post - 9,252 items

Post office dates can be compared to ship arrival and departure dates.

Wilkes Cancels

Milner identifies 3 cancels for Wilkes, which are also listed in "Postmarks of the AAT", along with the post-Milner APM2310. Martin Walker identifies what he calls a Milner E1c variant in the massive Pentothal post of 10 Jan 1961. This variant is seen again in at least 1 year. Thus in total Wilkes used at least 5 cancels in the life of the post office.

Please note that subsequent uses are limited to examples in my personal collection, and I'm sure other uses will be added in the future.

APM1320 or Milner E1a

First used: 1 Feb 1959
Subsequent uses: 10 Jan 1961, 18 Jan 1963
Notes: First Wilkes cancel.

APM1400 or Milner E1b

First used: 13 Feb 1960
Subsequent uses: 15 Jan 1964

APM1620 or Milner E1c

First used: 10 Jan 1961
Subsequent uses: 10 Jan 1962, 18 Jan 1966, 22 Jan 1968
Notes: "Postmarks of the AAT" lists the first use as 10 Jan 1962. However Martin Walker identifies it being used on the Pentothal posting in 61, which is the source of the example shown below. Note the very good alignment of the apex of the "A" in AUST and ANARE.

Milner E1c variant

First used: 10 Jan 1961
Subsequent uses: 28 Jan 1966
Notes: Martin Walker identifies this cancel as being used on the Pentothal posting in 61. It is not listed by Milner or "Postmarks of the AAT". Walker calls it a variant on Milner E1c (APM1620), probably because of the period after "TERR". However it is also easily identified by the first "A" in ANARE aligning with the "U" in AUST.

APM2310 or Milner E2

First used: 9 Feb 1967
Subsequent uses: 8 Feb 1969
Notes: Used for First Day of Issue of AAT 8-17, and AAT 18.

Wilkes Registered Mail Labels

Two registered mail labels were used at Wilkes, identified by Milner as ER1 and ER2. Examples of ER2 to come in the future.

Registered Mail Label Milner ER1

Use dates: 1 Feb 1959, 13 Feb 1960, 10 Jan 1961, 10 Jan 1962, 9 Feb 1967

Registered Mail Label Milner ER2

Identified by the wording "WILKES, AUST." instead of "WILKES".

Wilkes Cachets

Some of these cachets have been listed by other authors, in which case the identification given is listed.

"Opening of Wilkes Post Office" only used for the official opening of the post office on the 1st Feb 1959.

Milner EC1

"Opening of Repstat" only used for the opening of Casey, and last cancel at the Wilkes post office on 8th Feb 1969.

Small Wilkes cachets.

Ship visit related cachets.

Milner SM7

Miscellaneous cachets.

Postal Volumes

Partial list of post volumes from Philatelic Bulletins.

1961-625841Philatelic Bulletin No. 52
1962-631130Philatelic Bulletin No. 61
1964-652134Philatelic Bulletin No. 67
1965-66628Philatelic Bulletin No. 73
1966-6773004300Philatelic Bulletin No. 85
1969-70136837Philatelic Bulletin No. 121

Stamp Issues

First day of issue of AAT stamps at Wilkes

AAT No.Date
11 Feb 1959
2-513 Feb 1960
6-710 Jan 1962
8-179 Feb 1967
188 Feb 1969


Postal History of the Australian Antarctic 1911-1965
by Roy M. Milner
Published by the Polar Historical Society of Great Britain, 1975

Postmarks of the Australian Antarctic Territory 1911-2004
by Colleen A. Woolley and Janet S. Eury
Published by DC Desktoppers, 2004

Personal collection of Darryn Schneider

Personal collection of Scott Smith

Pentathol postcard cancelled

Operation Highjump and Operation Windmill at

The American Society of Polar Philatelists

Commonwealth Stamp Catalogue Australia
Published by Stanley Gibbons Limited, 3rd edition 2005

Schneider family web pages at
Antarctica | Family History | Science
Shop Photos | Atmospheric Optics | Plasma Physics
DAS Bookbinding

Copyright © Darryn Schneider for all content and images unless otherwise noted