Through the years since the first
definitive issue of Pitcairn stamps was released in 1940, the philately of Pitcairn
Island has enjoyed a much-sought-after status among stamp collectors throughout
Byrd Antarctica Expedition 1939-41
The expeditions of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd to Antarctica are well known, but many may not know there was a direct connection to Pitcairn Island as well. World War II was three months old. Ships with goods to sustain Pitcairn were not calling because of the perceived danger or the need to be elsewhere. So when the US Motor Ship North Star, headed to Antarctica, stopped at Pitcairn for much-needed water on 13-14 December 1939, it was a welcome sight as the ship also had much-needed supplies it was willing to share.
Part of the sustenance bound for the Bay of Whales was beached at Bounty Bay - 4,000 pounds each of flour and sugar, 10 gallons of lubricating oil. The North Star later replenished its stores in New Zealand.
While some expedition members toiled conveying the larder, and others tended to the islanders' medical and communications equipment needs, three senior expedition members prepared to document the visitation in postal history. Richard B. Black; MD Alfred B. Geyer and expedition recorder Roger Hawthorne are credited with designing an intricate pictorial cachet which was reproduced by mimeograph. Several proofs were made on the left side of un-imprinted government letter-size envelopes, one of which was "approved" for production by Admiral Byrd.
The North Star was also carrying an important piece of equipment to be tested in Antarctica. The "Snow Cruiser" (built at the Pullman Company at a cost of $150,000) was doomed to be an eventual failure, but at this point, it was being heavily promoted. In fact, the Amour Institute, which developed the “Snow Cruiser,” partnered with the Fidelity Stamp Company to produce philatelic covers commemorating its use in the Antarctic. So, in fact, there were two different philatelic covers commemorating the North Star visit to Pitcairn.
The "Snow Cruiser" cover is known to have been cancelled on the island as well as the North Star cachet. Personnel associated with the Armour Institute used that envelope for posting at Pitcairn rather than the North Star cachet. There were 794 North Star created on the mimeograph. Each North Star member received 10 cacheted envelopes. There were 77 USASE personnel present, and that would account for almost all of the covers. Several were also retained for "official"" use, being addressed to senior officers.
Not many postage stamps were available at the Pitcairn post office for franking the more than 550 envelopes cancelled there on December 14. The postage shortfall resulted in Postmaster Richard Edgar Christian initialing the cancellation to certify their prepayment. Some North Star covers were carried on for posting at Rapa Island on December 17. Thus the expedition, which left on December 14, was responsible for two of the most desirable Pitcairn covers. Today both covers sell for hundreds of US dollars, and while they are scarce (especially the “Snot Cruiser” covers), there are many varieties, signatures, postings, etc. being studied by specialists.
Technical details: The designer of the stamps is Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand. The printer of the stamps is Southern Color Print, Dunedin, New Zealand. The printing process used for the stamps is Offset Litho. The stamp size is 36.0 mm x 38.59 mm - 4 stamps in strip with central tab. The perforation gauge for the stamps is 14.44 x 14.51. The stamp denominations are, $1.00; $1.80; $2.00 and $2.80. The paper on which the stamps are printed is 104gsm oblong watermarked stamp paper. The period of sale for the stamps is December 11, 2014, for period of two years. Acknowledgements: This issue was made possible through the help of the following individuals and organizations: Dr. Everett Parker, Laura Kissel, The Ohio State University Archives - Richard E. Byrd, image # 7369_9; Barbara Boal, American Philatelist; Boston Public Library and Bob Breyer. Image in central tab shows Byrd chatting with Pitcairn's oldest resident at the time, Charles Young.
Pitcairn Stamp Issues
(Click small stamp
images to see larger views.)
Below is a listing of all Pitcairn stamps issued since 1940 when Pitcairn Island began issuing its own stamps